Back in 2006 I wrote an article “Did You Know Homer Laughlin Makes Ornaments?” for the quarterly magazine “The Dish”. (Vol 9 No.2 pg 8-11).
Below is that article with some of the pictures that were published. I have also included additional pictures as my limits on space is not as constrained. The article will give you some history on the evolution of the Fiesta® ornament, as well as some interesting facts about some of the early designs.
I have other fun facts about additional ornaments. When I have time, I’ll be adding that information to this page. So stay tuned ……
“You would not believe the number of times we heard at the HLCCA Conference 2006, “Homer Laughlin makes ornaments?” In fact, since 1996 when the first idea of an ornament being added to the Fiesta® line was discussed, there have been 80-plus ornament designs either made by or licensed by the Homer Laughlin China Company.
When HLC first started designing the ornament, Johathan Parry (former HLC Art Director) designed round, ball-type ornaments. They measured 3-3/8 inches in diameter & incorporated the familiar Fiesta® rings embossed on the sides and around the circumferences. He even included the Fiesta® incised stamp on the bottom of the ornaments. As he designed the molds for these ornaments, he realized that this design would not be able to be put into production. Can you imagine what would happen to your Christmas tree branches if you hung just one of these weighty ornaments on it?
How the Ornaments Evolved
The first “plate” ornament prototypes were very flat, had lots of rings, and a ridge around the edge. The reverse side had a dry foot ring around the outer edge.
The next attempts more closely resembled the actual Fiesta® dinner plate: slightly curved with the concentric rings in the center of the ornament and around the edge. The reverse sides also evolved into a design resembling the back side of a Fiesta® dinner plate, including the dry foot.
HLC then experimented with a simple loop style which resembled an ornament wire hook. This design was problematic, as the thin-style loop which broke quite often during production. (note: the notch at the bottom of the ornament on in the left photo.)
HLC next tried a slightly-filled-in loop with a fairly large hole,
Ornaments Go Into Production
Fiesta’s® first officially-produced ornament was the Holly & Ribbon design. This decaled ornament was released in March, 1997, and was available through the HLC Retail Factory Outlet in Newell, WV. This Holly & Riboon design has since been produced every year to date.
Dancing Lady Ornaments
HLC also designed a Dancing Lady ornament in 1997. This design was used every year from 1997 to 2000. From what we’ve been able to research, HLC did not produce this design from 2001 thru 2003. In 2004, HLC brought back the Dancing Lady ornament, but changed her dress to a solid skirt instead of a pattern. The size of the Dancing Lady increased with this change. This style was produced in 2004 and 2005.
Betty Crocker Ornaments
The Betty Crocker division of General Mills wanted to sell an ornament through their direct mail catalog. HLC designed a few prototypes …
and the Christmas Tree design was chosen for 1997. (below picture – far right ornament) Five other designs were sold through Betty Crocker; however the 2003 tree was also sold at HLC’s Retail Factory Outlet. (below picture – top center ornament)
May Company Ornaments
The Homer Laughlin China Co. designed a stylized Christmas Tree in 1998 for the May Company. On the back of the ornament it reads, “Made expressly for the May Company by the Homer Laughlin China Company.”
First Fire Heather
HLC used an ornament to introduce their newest color at the International Housewares Show in Chicago in March, 2006. These ornaments were actually produced during the first full-scale test firing of heather. They were distributed to key customers who had meeting appointments at the Chicago show, the New York Spring Tabletop Show in April, 2006, and to all the attendees of the 2006 HLCCA Conference’s Saturday night banquet. There were only 350 pieces produced.
HLC Retail Factory Outlet Exclusives
Over the years, the Homer Laughlin Retail Factory Outlet has introduced five exclusive ornaments: in 2002 – Silver Bells, 2003 – Cowboy, Cowgirl, and 2004 – Button Snowman. Note on the Button Snowman the different Fiesta-colored buttons.
In 2003 a ribbon tree was designed on a shamrock ornament for the Retail Factory Outlet.
This same design was also prototyped on scarlet. As of this writing, neither of these designs has been put into production.
On the reverse side of both of these ornaments there is an HLC sticker. This sticker is placed on a prototype by the art department and given an “H” number. The “H” number is the design number used until the customer approves the design to go into production. When that step occurs, a “BC” number is then assigned for that specific design.
Plum Crazy and Just Dishes
2003 was the year that “Plum Crazy” was introduced. (Shown in the below pictures [left & center] is the prototype of the first rendition of the Plum Crazy ornament. The final rendition [left] changed to “Genuine Fiesta®”.)
PlumFiesta, now known as Just Dishes Dinnerware, added two more exclusive ornaments to HLC’s records. These ornaments had a very low production count compared to the other ornament orders.
The wording on the shamrock & scarlet ornaments had to change as “Plum Crazy” did not look right on those colors, so the phrase changed to, “I’m Crazy Over Genuine Fiesta®”.
In 2004 Amazon.com had an ornament made from their exclusive Cardinal pattern. The 2005 ornament was their Chickadee pattern and for 2006 Amazon.com has elected to again use the Cardinal design.
East Liverpool Tri-State Pottery Festival
The East Liverpool Tri-State Pottery Festival ornament was made in 2004. There were 18 dozen produced. These were given to the pottery festival committee members. These ornaments have not been, nor will they be, sold to the general public. Two ornaments were donated for a benefit auction to sell on eBay. They sold for about $50 each.
Newell Bridge 100th Anniversary Celebration
Joe Wells III wanted to celebrate the Newell Bridge’s 100th Anniversary by giving a free ornament to everyone who crossed the bridge on July 4, 2005. (The bridge is owned by HLC.) As an added bonus, he had the ornament produced on the not-yet- released color of peacock. This was the largest quantity of one design produced in an ornament. 20,000 ornaments were made and about 19,000 were handed out by HLC security guards between 5:30 AM and midnight that day.
2006 is Fiesta’s 70th anniversary and to celebrate, HLC introduced two ornaments. HLC revised the Dancing Lady ornament a little and added “70th Anniversary” across the top. This design was produced on scarlet and peacock. The yearly Dancing Lady ornament was not produced in peacock in 2006 due to this anniversary issue.
HLC also produced an exclusive 70th anniversary ornament depicting a lighthouse scene on a sunflower ornament. This was another low-production ornament and is only available through Just Dishes Dinnerware. (Note: The lighthouse is designed with Fiesta® pieces. Can you tell what pieces & where?)
Ms. Bea Ornament
In 1999, Judi Noble (HLC Art Director) designed a cute cartoon-style ornament, the Ms. Bea ornament. This ornament was given out as part of the Ms. Bea website membership packet. A certificate was included in the ornament box. It stated, “I am a GENUINE Ms. Bea Ornament. I was not designed to be a ‘Collectors Item.’ I was inspired and designed to BEA fun. I am supposed to bring you happiness and remind you of the many friends you’ve made on line. I am clueless to my worth. I am one of 12 dozen ornaments (plus a couple dozen of overrun pieces.) Ms. Bea had a very hard time getting us made. We were among the very LAST chartreuse pieces available. She bought all of us without judging us. She said to us, ‘You are all PERFECT IN EVERY WAY, there is no such thing as a FLAW.’ If you find me imperfect in any way, please try to love me anyway. If I have this certificate it means that I am GENUINE and that I once BEAlonged to Ms. BEA. Therefore I am PERFECT! If you are unhappy with me for any reason please return me to Ms. Bea. Ms. Bea will refund your $ and find me a new home. If you will keep and take care of me, I promise I will add Glamour to your tree forever or as long as we both shall live.”
On the reverse side of the ornament it states, “Thank you for letting me add Glamour to your tree. Love Ms. Bea.” These are very sought-after and sell for fairly high prices on eBay.
Embossed Ornaments (Pitchers)
Then there are the elusive embossed ornaments. These ornaments have been the hardest to research. To date there are nine known different colored embossed ornaments; periwinkle, pearl gray, persimmon, cinnabar, cobalt, juniper, white, yellow and turquoise. Jonathan Parry designed these ornaments sometime in 1996. You can see in the photo how the pitcher is embossed on the top of a regular dish shaped ornament.
When visiting the HLC Retail Factory Outlet in Newell, WV, you can occasionally find blank (undecorated) ornaments. These are sold at the outlet as they could not be used for decaling due to a production flaw. There have been thirteen different colors used to produce ornaments: white, cinnabar, cobalt, persimmon, sunflower, plum, shamrock, scarlet, peacock, heather, yellow, chartreuse, and juniper. There are rumors that in addition to those thirteen colors, there are also black, seamist, rose, periwinkle, lilac, turquoise, and sapphire blank ornaments. Update: There are blanks in every color glaze in the post 86 glazes known to exist including raspberry.
Creative Imagination, Inc. was licensed by HLC to produce miniature resin ornaments styled after Fiesta dinnerware. They measured 2 3/4″ h x 2 5/8″ w x 2″ d. There were four different colors: yellow, green (seamist), blue (cobalt) and red (persimmon) in five different Fiesta shapes: cup and saucer set, vintage carafe, sauceboat with small oval platter, pitcher, and vintage covered casserole.
Seasons of Cannon Falls produced a yellow miniature ceramic look-a-like of a vintage Fiesta pitcher. It measures 2-5/8″ h x 2-1/2″ w x 1-3/8″ d. These were produced without the consent of The Homer Laughlin China Company. Needless to say, Seasons of Cannon Falls was forced by HLC to take these cute little look-a-like ornaments off the market.
Kathy Lynne Collectibles has produced five different ornaments. These were mainly used as a little add-on to gift baskets that she made and are extremely limited.
We have had a lot of fun collecting these ornaments over the years. We hope we’ve been able to share a little of what we’ve learned with you. Watch next year’s winter issue of “The Dish” for an update on any additional ornaments and information about them.”