Facebook is not just a site for posting inane happenings from your daily life, it is also a place where you can make friends (just like I have on the Planet), get news updates, advertise your business, sign petitions and just about anything else you want to do.  In trying to grow my own business, I have met many new people on FB that have become friends and the daughter in law of Fred Kaye is one of those people.  We met when she “Liked” my business page.  I do try to acknowledge everyone that likes my page and I also try to respond to most comments.  I think it is probably old age {sigh} but I am sure that is how we started talking.  She told me at one point about her father in law who was a well known and popular ceramics artist in California in the 40’s through the 60’s.  I guess I could have made some inane comments to acknowledge the info but instead, I turned it into informational posts on my business page.

I love making my jewelry but I can only go so far with posting “girly” things on my business page.  I know I should do more of the fluff but I am much more into historical information and helping people to expand their horizons.  Anyway, I have done some posts highlighting some ceramics pieces and also a bit of history that involved Pulp Fiction but wanted to do a more in-depth piece, for which FB is not conducive.  This will be that piece.

I mentioned the Pulp Fiction thing and might as well start there.  In the movie, Bruce Willis is driving down the road and is blaming his girlfriend for forgetting to grab his father’s watch from an apartment they were in just previously.  The scene shows him going back to the apartment, going in with a key and without knocking and he goes back to a bedroom and grabs the watch from a Kangaroo ceramic bowl sitting on the dresser.  That Kangaroo bowl was one of Fred Kaye’s creations.  So not only are we now friends but we also share something – one of my favorite movies and her father in law’s artistic creation in that movie.  I am posting a link below to the scene so you can watch for yourself.  But, keep an eye open, the Kangaroo is there and gone in the scene pretty fast.  The scene is in the you tube below.  Anyway to get to Mr. Kaye’ biography, here goes.

Early Years

Fredric William Kannamacher (Kaye) (1905-1977) grew up in a 2-story wood house among the muddy streets of central Dallas. His parents were German immigrants from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, where for generations, the family trade had been tapestry making. His father, Reverend William Kannamacher, a Lutheran minister and a skilled carver and pencil sketcher, enjoyed satirizing prideful Prussian military officers with outlandish cartoons. He lost his life to pneumonia when Fred was 8 years old. Fred was forced to leave elementary school to take odd jobs in order to help support his mother and younger siblings. In his teens, he found work at the Dallas Morning News, where he envisioned someday being a political cartoonist. As a fatherless young man, Fred found camaraderie within the Boy Scouts, where he was mentored by John Shelby “Dad Wisdom,” land donor and founder of Boy Scout Camp Wisdom (now Camp Wisdom / Billy Sowell Scout Camp) outside Dallas. With his long hair and grizzled beard, Dad Wisdom was an inspiring and benevolent father figure for Fred and other excited youths at the Camp, where he shared his vast knowledge of local plants and animals, Indian lore, woodcraft and many other topics.

Fred camped and explored, often by himself, along Indian trails and the banks of the Dallas’ Trinity River where he came to know and appreciate the region’s abundant animal and plant life. His outdoor experiences left lasting memories, which would influence his professional life later as an adult, where he would merge his artistic talent with his affinity with nature. Fred’s extraordinary creative gift revealed itself early in life. With crude tools, he fashioned a menagerie of fantastic creatures from gnarled roots, driftwood, river-worn stones, and other flotsam encountered on his explorations. Those shown here are but a small portion of his imaginative creations.  You can find many other creations on Etsy, eBay and other sites where people are selling artwork.

Professional Life

Fred had a gregarious nature and an enormous thirst for knowledge, and made friends and sought new experiences wherever he went.  In his twenties he married Faye Coleman of Tyler, Texas. His artistic gift was noticed by many who urged him to seek work in the booming West Coast ceramics giftware industry. Little is known about his later years in Dallas through his transition to Southern California. Before leaving Dallas, he changed his last name to Kaye, as it was less cumbersome to pronounce and spell than his given name, Kannamacher. In Southern California, Fred was hired to craft ceramic pieces at Brad Keeler Artwares, an inventive and well established ceramics giftware manufacturer. Under the masterful direction of Mr. Keeler, he turned out many popular pieces: Flamingoes, swans, deer, serving dishes, and many other appealing objects d’ art. His works usually had animal themes. Fred worked at Brad Keeler Artwares until Mr. Keeler passed away in 1952. In 1953 he went to work at a startup ceramics giftware firm in Montrose, California, owned by Bob and Jeanette Ortman. His figurines can be widely seen on display shelves in homes today. Fred always worked in plaster of Paris, carving a “block” (prototype) for the clay slip method of production. The Ortmans later moved to Ohio, leaving Fred to freelance for several well known local giftware manufacturers, including Treasurecraft, Gladding MacBean, and Maddux of California.

Cemar was founded by Cliff J. Malone and Paul Cauldwell, two former employees of the well-established (J.A.) Bauer Pottery. Cemar Pottery, like Bauer, was based in Los Angeles, California. Cemar’s products include giftware, tableware, and garden pottery. Many of Cemar’s designs were created by potter Fred Kaye. Many items feature vegetable or fruit designs, or animal designs. Cemar products were produced in many novelty forms, including pineapple-shaped dinnerware. Items were priced at a somewhat higher-end for casual china, selling at around $7.50 for a place setting in 1952. Cemar was bought by Bauer Pottery in the mid-1950s. Bauer reused a number of the molds formerly used by Cemar. Cemar’s best recognized line with Tiki collectors is its Trade Winds Lanai Ware series that features pieces in yellow and green, often utilizing real bamboo handles for pitchers, mugs, and serving pieces.


As Fred moved into his retirement years, his enthusiasm for portraying wildlife was undiminished. He turned to fulfilling a cherished desire of crafting a life work that was, at last, his very own. His collection reflected appreciation for all kinds of creatures – even animals that were generally unknown and unloved by the general public such as the badger, California horned lizard, and sculpin (a marine fish). His effort lasted nearly a decade, culminating in a collection of North American wildlife presented in the bas-relief mode. While carving his 65th animal sculpture with many yet to do, he passed away at his home in Glen Avon, California.


1457067_263491900466065_1981393383_nSo you can make a living as an artist if you pursue your goals.  I remember, back in the 50’s early 60’s everyone had that black panther on top of their televisions or their stereo consoles.  When we were in old town San Diego, we wandered through a few pottery yards and bought a couple of real nice pieces.  A water jug and a small dolphin for the garden.  Those two pieces have been with us for years.  I know that whenever I see someone with that potter’s wheel, I always think, that looks easy, but I know it is not as easy as it seems.  There is a lot more to it than just sitting down and starting to spin the wheel.  Fred Kaye ceramics are for sale on a lot of sites as collector’s items now.  What a great thing to leave as a legacy, something that lasts through the years and makes our world a bit better place.  Here’s to you, Fred Kaye, you made many lives a bit brighter with your talent.

Thanks to Tom and Carla Kaye for sharing their knowledge of their father/father in law’s work  I have included copies of his work.  Tom Kaye is also working on a website to honor his father and is currently cataloging all the pieces his father left him.  The Rooster Cookie Jar really hit me because it reminded me of an incident that happened many years ago.  And incident where I could have crushed my sister for a broken cookie jar, or let her know accidents happen.  I received a bright red apple cookie jar as a show present when I got married.  The cookie jar was the hit of the party and I absolutely loved it.  In order to display it in a prominent place, I put it atop our refrigerator.  If you have ever had an old fashioned refrigerator, you know the leveling legs on them were not real stable.  Well my sister was over one day and she accidentally slammed the refrigerator door and my beloved cookie jar fell and smashed into smithereens.  I was upset, to say the least, but one look at my sister’s face and all I could do was console her by telling her it was my fault for putting it on the rickety refrigerator.  My sister and I are still very close today and always have been.  When I think of how I could have acted very differently, I shudder, and am so thankful that at a young age I had cared more about my sister than a cookie jar.

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I am a soon to be 59 Nana to Anthony who is 11. I live in Benicia CA with my husband and Shih Tsu. I worked in Banking and the Financial Industry for 24 years in Fraud, Risk Management, Account Management, Program Management, Project Management and Customer Service. I was a Fraud Investigator for Credit Card and Merchant Business and investigated internal fraud and responded to Bank robberies. I was also management in most of these positions. Now I am content to find a part time job where I am just a worker bee, no more corporate BS for this gal. I also make jewelry. I can spend hours in a bead shop just touching all the fine baubles. Only another beader would understand that one.

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I just discovered your wonderful article about Fred Kaye. I was delighted to read how Fred worked at a pottery owned by Bob and Jeanette Ortman. Bob and Jeanette were my parents! My parents were very fond of Fred and Faye Kaye, and their children Tom and Linda. They remained good friends long after the end of the pottery. Unfortunately I don’t have many pieces from my parents’ pottery, but I do have a fun flamingo figurine that I believe Fred made while working for Brad Keeler.

You wrote about the popular black panther figurine. My dad told me that inexpensive and crudely made imports of the popular panther were what did their pottery in. He was proud of the quality panthers they were creating, but he couldn’t beat the prices of the cheap knock-offs that were imported. After my parents sold their pottery they eventually moved to Fresno (CA) and my dad worked for Duncan Ceramics. Duncan manufactured ceramic glazes and stains for hobby ceramists. In 1968 my dad left Duncan to work with Bob Umhoefer, owner and president of Mayco Colors, another glaze manufacturer for the hobby market. Mayco had just the one plant in southern California, and Bob Umhoefer was looking to expand. My dad was made vice president of Mayco, and he moved our family to Ohio to start Mayco East. My mother again worked alongside my dad as Mayco East’s office manager. After many successful years at Mayco, my parents eventually retired. But my dad continued consulting for Mayco until the month before he passed away.

Thank you for letting me share my family’s history and connection with Fred Kaye!


Very nice, Sherlock! My mother was a real collector of what-knots. I only have a few of them because…..well, never mind. But I watch for them at estate sales or on-line and pick up some when I can of those like she once had. I also have a big apple cookie jar. It was left in the house and I found it up in a cabinet when we moved in. It doesn’t have the lid but I kept it just the same. It must have meant a lot to someone at sometime because they had put it away up high. I have a lot of stuff, too much probably. Have to set them up high because great dane tails are lethal weapons. I have had friends come over and say more than once, “Sally, I can always find something I haven’t seen before in your house.” Well, it has been here for awhile, you only have to look at the dust build up to know how long. But, I would like this gentleman’s pretty things. I also love all that beautiful jewelry you make. I have plans to do some Christmas shopping with you. Thank you for sharing their story and yours.


Sue, thanks so much for sharing this artist and his creations. I like his pieces. They’re really charming and whimsical. You can see why his family cherishes his memory and his art.

Loved your story of forgiveness and the cookie jar. Your relationship with your sister meant more than any material item. I still have one of those great apple cookie jars. It’s just about the only thing I have that belonged to my grandmother. (I’m not too sure just how old it really is!) I’m not sure I could be as forgiving as you were, though, if that got broken. 😉

When my sister and I were really little (maybe 4 or 5) our dad took us shopping for gifts for my mom. I don’t remember whether it was for her birthday or for Mother’s Day. We both chose little figures that looked a lot like the ones Fred Kaye created. (My sister picked out a little mallard, and I chose a rabbit — who knows why?) Those little figures survived quite a few moves. I think the rabbit met the same fate as your cookie jar eventually, but the mallard lives on!