"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." — Mark Twain.
Such was the case for Mary Alice Hadley.
The rich clay deposits of northern Kentucky had established Louisville as a center for pottery making long before Mary Alice Hadley came into this world. Born to a family of potters, she developed her love of working with clay at an early age. Those skills combined with her interest in design and her natural talent as a painter would lead her to produce her first set of dishes in 1939. Although intended only for her personal use, guests to her houseboat on the Ohio River loved her dinnerware and were anxious to acquire a set of their own. With their encouragement and the help of her husband George she decided to enter the world of collectible pottery.
Her first sales were to those friends who loved her hand painted creations, but soon orders came in from the surrounding area and then rapidly progressed to country wide distribution. Her earliest pieces were hand painted in her kitchen and fired at The Louisville Pottery Company. This arrangement was short lived as the ever growing demand for Mary Alice's work made it evident that the Hadley's needed a factory. To accommodate their ever increasing orders George Hadley purchase an old wool mill in 1944 as a birthday gift to his wife and together they worked to convert it into a place to produce their wares. The next year The Hadley Pottery Company officially opened its doors and production continued at that location for the next 65 years. Today that building, at 1570 Story Avenue in Louisville, serves as a museum that displays many of the early works of Mary Alice Hadley including a number of her hand painted wall murals that covered the interior of the factory.
The "Country" line was her first release in the 1940's and remains a favorite with Hadley enthusiasts today. These pieces feature a variety of farm animals with the trademark "happy cloud" in the background. Also of interest are their Coastal and Holiday/Seasonal lines. Some patterns of will contain touches of pink, green or yellow, but the predominant color will be "Hadley blue." All Hadley is lead and cadmium free, making it as practical as it is attractive.
In addition to their dinnerware lines and numerous ornamental pieces, Hadley also produced lamps, one of the most noteworthy being their "Brown Fleck" design which was featured in the "Good Design" exhibit at The New York Museum of Modern Art in 1952.
Open stock has been maintained on a total of eight patterns that are marketed as "M A Hadley Designs". These are either original designs or were created by a protege of Mrs. Hadley and will carry the M A Hadley signature.
Mary Alice Hadley passed away in 1965. A life well lived and a dream fulfilled. Loyal collectors still seek out her whimsical painted characters and quality pottery. The company has changed hands several times through the years but with each reincarnation a concentrated effort has been made to maintain the quality she set in place over 80 years ago.
Hadley pottery is found in antique malls and specialty shops across the US or for you online shoppers there are many fine pieces currently being offered on eBay.
Until next time, Linda