The American Fiesta Legacy
It’s funny that America’s favorite ceramic dinnerware is called Fiesta, and this china definitely isn’t made in China.
Fiesta’s creator, the Homer Laughlin China Company, has been around since two brothers started it
1871, and it’s been winning awards for its quality kitchenware ever since.
It wasn’t until 1936 that the company launched Fiesta, an instant hit with consumers–mostly middle class housewives–who loved the prospect of changing up their traditional white chinaware with bright colors they could mix and match into their very own kitchen schemes.
What wasn’t to love? In true Art Deco style, the smooth, symmetrical pieces set such a beautiful stage for the food they presented, a table-bound omnivore might have been hesitant to destroy the scene.
But when one finally gives into their admonishing stomach and devours the artful edible standing in stark contrast with its display, an eye-to-taste-bud connection may just sear their synapses with the best steak they’ve ever had. And that’s an association that sticks.
For almost four decades, Homer Laughlin pumped out as much Fiestaware as their facilities could make–and for some reason–they retired the line in 1972.
Enter: a new phase of collector frenzy.
Pitchers, bowls, plates, gravy dishes, cups, mugs and salt shakers all became even more prized possessions in their rarity, and people grabbed up every piece of the dinnerware they could find. They scoured antique shops, estate sales, and eventually eBay, to augment the treasured stockpiles that revived some of their youthful mealtime nostalgia.
Fiesta joined the iconic rank of collectibles such as vintage glass bottles, classic artwork and beanie babies. Ok, maybe the dinnerware is more functional than beanie babies, but with a comparable fervor that hasn’t slowed or gone out of fashion.
Either way, Homer Laughlin took notice of all the hype. In 1986, to the elation of enthusiasts and chagrin of competitors, they reintroduced Fiesta on its 50th birthday with a new line of colors, as to not diminish the unique collective quality of its predecessors.
Much like the dinnerware’s durability, its fan club has done anything but wane. Their steadfast anticipation of the next year’s release of a new color is only overtaken by the prospect of finding an old set somewhere in the rough. And according to many collectors, plenty of vintage pieces still lie forgotten in their basement and storage unit imprisonments, waiting for the chance to be discovered and shine again.
Besides numerous annual collector rallies and trading conventions, the Fiestaware influence is ubiquitous in pop culture as well, making appearances in shows such as Breaking Bad, the Walking Dead and Home Improvement. It has even inspired its own Broadway production.
The excitement with each year’s release of a new, limited edition color could be comparable to the buzz behind a major sport’s draft, a testament that the widespread infatuation with Fiesta not only goes well beyond your normal dishware- it comments on the human experience surrounding it too.
The best part about Fiesta?
All pieces are, and have always been, crafted by American potters and manufactured in the USA.
Now, there’s something patriotic homemakers can get behind. Not that Fiesta fans needed a reason.