Collecting Wall Pockets
By Paula Kirwan
Wall pockets have been around for a long time. Early on these vessels were used for holding candles, matches, sewing notions and other household items, being functional rather than ornamental.
But eventually practicality gave way to beauty, and in the 1920s through the 1960s companies including Weller, Roseville, McCoy, Fenton, Hull, Lefton and Noritake produced decorative wall pockets in a large variety of designs, shapes and colors. Pieces from these and other well-known manufacturers are usually marked with company names, initials or symbols, and they are typically pricier than unmarked wall pockets.
Wall pockets that are unmarked or simply have their country of origin on the back – such as “Germany” or “Czechoslovakia” or “Japan” – are valued because of their interesting and whimsical designs rather than because of who made them.
Although ceramics usually come to mind when thinking of wall pockets, they are also made from other materials. Fostoria, Imperial and McKee made beautiful glass wall pockets, and others were made from copper, tin, chalkware and plastic.
The variety of shapes and motifs is almost limitless. There are flowers (photo left, Booth T-288), ships, rolling pins, teapots, faces, figures, animals (see cow wall pocket, photo bottom left, Booth 118), birds, fruit, vegetables (photo below right, Booth T-278) , mermaids, household objects, musical instruments and fairy tale characters, just to name a few. Some are embellished with raised designs or decorated with interested finishes. Companies such as Weller, Roseville and Rookwood often made wall pockets to match other lines and patterns they produced.
The popularity of wall pockets declined after their heyday in the 1950s and 60s. Then, in the 1990s, collectors rediscovered their beauty and uniqueness, and they have since become highly sought-after collectibles. Collectors often specialize by searching for particular manufacturers, such as McCoy or Noritake, or certain motifs, designs or shapes.
As an example of a collection choice, Noritake often made blanks of their trumpet shaped wall pockets and had their artists paint a variety of scenic designs or flowers on them. Other times, many artists painted the same designs, but since they were done by hand, each one was slightly different, reflecting the artist’s own interpretation of the pattern.
There are many interesting ways to decorate with wall pockets. They are particularly attractive when grouped together as a focal point and displayed on a wall in place of pictures. Some collectors group specific shapes like flowers or birds together, while others choose pieces that reflect a room’s activities.
For instance, in a child’s room, there might be nursery rhyme figures; in a kitchen, fruits and vegetables; or in a bathroom, fish, mermaids or seashells. Others displays wall pockets with hues and finishes that match the color scheme of their homes. As a Noritake collector, my display simply shows off all the lovely Noritake wall pockets I have found over the years. Almost any look is possible, as there are shapes, styles and motifs for every taste, so there are a lot of choices for making your own design statement.
Although some wall pockets are now priced at several hundred dollars and higher, there are still interesting pieces that can be found for under $25, so this is an affordable collectible that won’t break the bank. And collectors will find many choices at GasLamp and GasLamp Too.