Hickory, North Carolina
The following information is from a presentation to the Wisconsin Pottery Association in 1999. On April 4, 2000, Lynn Moody Igoe, the daughter of H Leslie & Frances Moody wrote to the Wisconsin Pottery Association with notes & comments regarding the presentation. The numbered footnotes throughout refer to these notes that appear at the bottom of this page.
hyalyn Porcelain Company
Presented by Christine & Jamie Boone
The Artists Behind hyalyn
H. Leslie Moody and Frances Moody
Leslie Moody was a native of Zanesville, Ohio. During his high school and college years, he found summer employment at many of the potteries in that area. He majored in architecture for 2 years at Ohio State University (1), then, in 1931, he helped set up the equipment for the newly-established Department of Ceramic Art. He studied under Arthur E. Baggs (2), who was hired away from Cowan Pottery to develop a course at OSU in all phases of art pottery production. He researched glazes as part of his degree, and kept all of his notes on his studies on glazes (3). He received a Bachelor of Fine Art in Ceramic Arts from Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
Frances also attended Ohio State and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and then, in 1929, a Masters Degree in Sculpture.
After college, in their early 20’s (4), they moved to Dallas, TX. Leslie began working at Love Field Pottery – a small pottery that produced large gray crocks and jars used in grocery stores. But this was during the depression, business was slow, and Leslie soon had no job. He told his boss he would like to try selling the crocks, so Leslie and Frances spent the next year traveling all over Texas, staying in “tourist courts”, and selling the crocks – mostly to people who were making “home-brew” (5).
After a year, they returned to Columbus, and Leslie got a job at Ohio State in the Ceramic Art Department, and Frances began teaching classes in sculpture to children.
Early in 1934, Vernon Stockdale of Abingdon Pottery came to OSU looking for someone to manage a new artware division. They set off for Abingdon IL – where sanitary ware was currently produced – for Leslie’s interview. Raymond Bidwell was also interested in the development of the artistic side of the artware division, and interviewed Frances the same day. Leslie was hired as one of the managers of the Abingdon Artware Division that held its Grand Opening in August 1934. The main designer was Eric Hertslet, and Frances was, as she says, “sort of a non-commissioned participant” whenever they wanted something modeled.
Eric Hertslet died in the early months of production, and Frances Moody became the designer of many of the most prized pieces of Abingdon artware. She was an accomplished sculptress, or modeler, and sculpted many of the pieces in plaster to create a model from which the production molds were made. She designed all six of the 1934-38 Abingdon sculptured female figures. Many of her designs were based on projects she had done at OSU – the Kneeling Nude (6), a “mystery lady” she had called “Night”, and the chess set (7). Besides several of the cookie jars, her designs also included the Horsehead and Seagull bookends, the Daisy line, the Peacock, the Pouter Pigeon, and the donkey and elephant lines made for the 1940 election year.
Leslie was interested in the design of the pieces, and did design the Abingdon Fern Leaf pattern – a very popular line to collectors today. He was even more interested in the glazes.
The Moodys spent 8 years at Abingdon. In 1941, business was booming, and they thought it was a good time for them to pursue the dream of owning their own pottery.
Our personal interest in hyalyn
Similarity with Abingdon pieces:
Over the last 20 years, we have spent lots of hours looking at many kinds of pottery in our search for Abingdon. With basically no Abingdon reference material until last year, we relied on the little knowledge we had of design and color similarities, and the general weight and feel of the piece. When we were searching for Abingdon, I continued to pick up pieces that had the “Abingdon look” but weren’t Abingdon. Most of the time, I found the “hyalyn” mark on these pieces, and after a while, I started buying hyalyn occasionally. We thought maybe successful pieces were copied by other potteries and then, as we became more knowledgeable, learned that the artist designers were often involved with several potteries and that their artistic concepts and ideas would then be reflected in different makers. We bought hyalyn for several years before we realized that there was a connection between Abingdon and hyalyn – the Moodys.
While the Abingdon artware division was closed in 1950 and many of their molds were sold to other potteries, we have found no record that hyalyn bought any of their molds.
The Moodys went to Hickory NC (8) with dreams of setting up a large pottery with a large production capacity. However, due to the war, government regulations did not allow startup of any new manufacturing processes that would use fuel oil. Instead, they worked in the local schools (9) until Leslie was offered a management job at San Jose Pottery in San Antonio, Texas (10). They remained there until the end of the war (11) and then, in 1946, returned to NC to set up their pottery.
With his knowledge of architecture, Leslie designed the building to house the pottery, while they both tried to decide what to call their dream. Looking through art and pottery books, they finally stumbled on a word in the dictionary – h-y-a-l-i-n-e – “a translucent glass-like substance”. They felt this described their future pottery and its glazes.
They did, however, change the spelling slightly – to “h-y-a-l-y-n” – and named their venture “hyalyn porcelain company.”(12)
Porcelain is defined as “ a clear, translucent ware with a body that is nonporous, nonabsorbent, or vitrified”. According to this definition, hyalyn may not truly be porcelain. They may have used “porcelain” to refer more to its fine quality as opposed to heavier earthernware pottery. (13)
Both Abingdon and hyalyn are described as vitreous, non-porous and non-absorbent ware containing silica fired at a higher temperature than earthenware. hyalyn was fired at an even higher temperature than Abingdon – at 2,700 degrees. This was probably done in a tunnel kiln in which ware is fired by being carried through on flat cars, or in later years, a conveyor that moves very slowly (14). This resulted in an extremely hard, white body, and basically a very sturdy pottery resistant to damage or crazing.
Production of pottery at the hyalyn plant began in 1946. Bud Crumbaker, who had worked in the Artware Inspection department at Abingdon for Leslie Moody, joined them in Hickory as their first employee. He lived upstairs in an apartment in their house and helped with the building of the plant. He continued there as Plant Superintendent until 1954.
There were basically two operations under one roof: art pottery and lamp bases.
Since both Leslie and Frances had studied ceramics professionally, the body and glazes of their pottery may have been more “professional” than some potteries who had home-grown artists. Both Leslie and Frances, through education and experience at several potteries, had this understanding (15).
The Moodys were the main hyalyn designers, but employed other full-time designers including Herb Cohen, who is still active in the industry today (16). As with most potteries, there were several other major ceramic artists involved at one time or another – In the early 1960’s, Georges Briard was commissioned to design modern shapes for a bisque porcelain line produced in white and earthtone colors (17).
A woman named Esta Huttner owned the Peerless Art Company in Brooklyn and had perfected a method of applying the raised gold decoration for Briard glassware. With her expertise, hyalyn was able to incorporate the raised gold onto their porcelain. The hyalyn designs, called “Midas” epitomized Briard’s sophisticated yet whimsical abstractions. These pieces are probably the most popular hyalyn collector pieces today, although it is rumored that the Briard pieces were actually designed by a black artist (18).
George Irving, later of Raymor, found the Briard hyalyn porcelain vases quite easily adapted to a line of lamp bases at Lightolier of Secaucus, NJ. Eva Ziesel – the designer of Red Wing Town and Country as well as ceramic pieces for other potteries – designed pieces for hyalyn.
General hyalyn information
How was hyalyn marketed and where was it sold?
We really have no information on the distribution of their wares, but will speculate. Since they had been with 3 other potteries before starting hyalyn, they probably knew the ins and outs of the various gift and artware shows, the department stores, and the florist trade. While the higher-end items were probably handled by department stores, the lower-priced vases and pots were probably sold directly to the florists. And someone had to carry all of those ashtrays! While there is certainly more hyalyn to be found in the southeast, we have picked it up all over the country, so we believe that they had a nationwide distribution network (19).
1. Styles and shapes ran the gamut – classical, oriental, Scandanavian influence, and very modern. There are the usual vases, pots, and console sets with candleholders, as well as cookie jars, chess sets (20), figurines, some animals, bookends, wall pockets, and lots of ashtrays –with a wide range of sizes in each.
2. A variety of glazes – high gloss, matte, semi-matte, and textured – were used over the years. The glazes cover the pieces consistently and are rarely spotty or bubbled. The smooth feel of the matte glaze is a good identifier for hyalyn. In this respect, it is very similar to Catalina/Gladding McBean, Trenton, or Rookwood production ware. Due to the high quality of the glaze, these pieces are much less susceptible to chipping and wear.
3. The quality of the hyalyn pieces is very consistent. The mold is usually very crisp.
4. Decals were used, we believe – probably in the late 60’s or early 70’s – about the time that decals were also popular at McCoy and other potteries (21).
5. Cold paint applied over the glaze for decorative purposes after the final firing was not, to our knowledge, used at hyalyn (22).
6. Most pieces are marked:
– Raised letters in mold, often in oval
– Many pieces with cork bottoms
– Most are all lower case letters
– Hyalyn – we believe the capital “H” was used in the first molds, and then revised to the small case spelling originally intended by the Moodys (23).
– Like many potteries, stickers were often used rather than in-mold marks, so pieces may be found with no identification (24).
The hyalyn pottery was owned and managed by the Moodys from 1946 until 1973 (25). Leslie passed away that year (26), and the building was sold. It housed several pottery companies, including Vanguard and possibly California Art Studio since that time, with pottery production continuing there until 1997 (27).
A lampshade company called Hyalyn is still in business in Greensboro today and may have produced the shades for the hyalyn lamp bases.
Frances Moody passed away on June 16th, 2000
Sample pieces and prices: We have paid $0.50 to $40, mostly in the $5 range. The difference between an “accumulator” and a “collector” is that the collector has knowledge about what they have. I believe that hyalyn is quietly being accumulated by “pottery people” just because of its beauty, and when more information is available, it will become even more popular.
(these are external sites & will open another window)
A collection of hyalyn ashtrays
It’s an interesting site of a couple that collects 50’s era items.
hyalyn isn’t capitalized.
On April 4, 2000, Lynn Moody Igoe, the daughter of H Leslie & Frances Moody wrote the following notes & comments about the presentation.
- I thought he started out in architecture at Carnegie Tech but broke his wrist that first year, then looked at the depression and thought architecture wasn’t a wise move; pots broke! So I think he went to OSU intending to study pottery.
- Prof Baggs also worked at Marblehead, an important art pottery.
- I think I have the notes–I know I would have known what they were when I saw them and would certainly not have thrown them out when we were clearing out the house in Hickory.
- My mother was 27, my father was 24.
- My father was an incredible salesperson, as is my daughter who surely inherited his genius for selling; I had never heard the home brew angle!
- I grew up with this figure which mama would drape with a scarf at Christmas and place a tiny baby Jesus in her arms; much later in my career as an African-American art specialist, I found an image of this sculpture in the collection of Prof. James Vernon Herring, founder of the Howard University Art Department in Washington, D.C. I could not believe my discovery but picked up the work and pointed to my mother’s initials on the base–a mold of the sculpture had been left at Ohio State and someone had made a copy which made its way to Herring; I have photographic documentation of this.
- Does anybody have a full chess set? I’m not sure that we do and we’d love to have one.
- Sorry, but we went to Greensboro NC, where we stayed with friends who had been our next door neighbors in Abingdon–he had been head of Blue Bell in Abingdon; she was Mary Cannon of the Cannon Mills family in NC; he was Ed Morris who later became CEO of Blue Bell in Greensboro.
- I am unaware of this–we moved from Abingdon to Greensboro and two months later to San Antonio.
- This is kind of a hoot because San Jose was a bunch of Mexican women who turned out pretty crude stuff including plates with sgraffito designs, and figures of “gremlins” that hindered the war effort. Daddy then went to the very prestigious Rookwood Pottery in 1943; my notion was that Rookwood had been taken over by some Catholic priests (you must realize that this is just what a 6-year-old kid was hearing at the dinner table) and I think we knew Rookwood was on it’s way out; I enjoyed my trips up the incline and the great ambiance of Cincinnati).
- Daddy came to Hickory in the fall of 1945 and persuaded a group of people used to producing socks and furniture that a pottery was a good idea–again his incredible salesmanship; my mother was meanwhile recovering from major surgery so we were at my grandmother’s in Columbus from the end of August until we moved to Hickory just after New Year’s in 1946.
- (12) This also caused a lot of trouble locally because highland/hyland and similar names were in use by other local firms to indicate hickory’s status at the foot of the mountains; but you are totally correct, that our name was uniquely determined.
- One of daddy’s aims in coming to North Carolina was to use North Carolina clays and also to enjoy the non-union environment; he experimented with an all North Carolina clay base and it just didn’t work, so he had to import Georgia and maybe Michigan clays; if you can get a hold of Bud Drumbaker, he may know.
- Definitely a tunnel kiln; I can see it fired up in my mind; always the same kiln; Daddy had a little toaster that the bread went through like a tunnel kiln that he used to use for lectures! We used to use it for toast!.
- My mother studied sculpture at OSU but I don’t know that she ever studied “ceramics”–what she did for Abingdon and hyalyn was based on her knowledge of sculpture which didn’t involve any knowledge of glazes, firing, etc. Daddy was certainly a glaze man. he love glazes!
- Produces pottery in Blowing Rock, NC.
- Also gold on white or avocado–I have some of each; gorgeous!.
- That is something my mother has told me but despite my career in African-American art documentation, I have never found out more about it.
- I know my dad went to a lot of trade shows; I know the florist trade was a big factor; as I’ve said, he was a salesman! The lamp trade came on very early though I don’t really know where it came from. But I remember daddy having lamp customers very soon after hyalyn opened because I know where we lived and that one of him gave us a 1948 Dumont TV as a reward for good delivery – imagine that in the almost rural North Carolina where we got week old “canned” programs from WTB in Charlotte which only operated maybe from 7–11 p.m. daily!!
- I’m not aware of a hyalyn one.
- I have a pretty long range of the catalogs so that would be easy to check; I even designed a decal!.
- There was something that I remember being referred to as a cold glaze, very late in hyalyn’s history, but I’m not sure if this is what you mean.
- I think daddy found the hyalyn to be very attractive in the typeface he selected.
- The stickers I remember were a gold hyalyn on a dark brown oval.
- It was actually a stock-owned company so my parents did not really own hyalyn; daddy was always the general manager, and since the local board members knew little (albeit nothing) about pottery production, I think he was in command of many of the production decisions.
- Nov. 16, 1973
- None of whose production we hope will ever be considered Hyalyn Porcelain; the product under other hands declined incredibly. We were sorry that they name continued in any fashion.