by Diana Bulls
I really love all those strange and funny ceramics produced in Japan during the pre war days and immediately afterwards. Before I decided to start down-sizing my collections, my kitchen shelves were filled with pitchers, tea sets and odd little condiment sets. I have managed to pare my collection down to a couple of tea sets and about six or seven pitchers, along with an egg cup and some pie birds. Still, whenever I visit an antique or thrift store I am compelled to check out the kitschy Japanese ceramics.
While on a recent visit with daughter #1, another thrift store aficionado, we had to visit the king of thrift stores – I mean this is a mega-thrift store – housed under the roof of a former big-box business. I should mention that we were there on “50% Off Friday”. I guess I should also mention that this particular thrift store is located about 2,770 miles from Reedley and airlines now charge $25 per extra bag.
Well anyway, there I was checking out the “Made In Japan” stuff when I came across two little pixie dishes, one with and one without its lid. A good thing for me that neither pixie was in very good condition, but they did remind me of a whole group of fun, kitschy kitchen collectibles that were manufactured for just four years (1958-1961) by Holt-Howard.
Holt-Howard Introduces Pixieware
During the 1950s and 60s, Holt- Howard was a leader in the manufacturing of novelty ceramics. The company was created by a serendipitous partnership of three young men and loan of $9000 from their parents. The main showroom was in New York, but the ceramics were manufactured in Japan.
Initially the company focused on Christmas items like winking Santa pitchers and mugs, or candy dishes. The ceramics were an instant hit because of their endearing features and the surprisingly high quality of the finished pieces.
In 1958, Holt-Howard introduced its Pixieware line with three striped mustard, ketchup and jam ‘n jelly ceramic jars. Each jar had a lid in the shape of a cute little pixie-it was the detailing in the facial expressions that made Pixieware so popular. Mustard’s face is yellow and he is wearing a sort of frown, indicating his potentially sharp and spicy disposition perhaps. Ketchup’s face is tomato red and he seems rather pleased with himself, while sweet little Jam ‘n Jelly’s expression is just sweet. Each of the little condiment containers are about 5 inches high with colorful stripes around their bases.
These first three pieces were featured in a B. Altman & Company 1958 Christmas catalog as a three-piece set for $4.95, otherwise they were sold separately for $1.00 each. Each piece is marked “1958 Holt-Howard” on the bottom. There were hundreds and hundreds mass produced and are probably the most commonly found pieces today. A quick look on e-Bay shows prices for the mustard jar ranging from a low of $19.50 to $35.00 with an original box. You could expect to pay much more for the entire set of three.
These three little pixies became enormously popular, and it wasn’t long before the company rolled out a whole line of Pixieware including coffee containers, sugar and creamers, all types of relish and condiment jars, and cruets for salad dressings. The little spoon that is attached to the jar lid is called a “Spoofy Spoon.”
Because of their popularity, other novelty ceramic companies like Lefton and Napco jumped on the pixie bandwagon. In fact, the Davar Company pixie is very much like the Pixieware copyrighted design. However, none of these pixies compare with the quality product made by Holt-Howard.
The entire line of Pixieware includes the following:
• Condiment Jars (sold for $1.00 each): Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Mustard, Jam ‘n Jelly, Onions, Cocktail Onions, Olives, Cocktail Olives, Cherries, Cocktail Cherries, Cream Crock and Lil’ Sugar, Instant Coffee, Relish, Honey, Chili Sauce
• Cruets: Sal Oil & Sam Vinegar (sold for $2.95/set), French Dressing, Italian Dressing, Russian Dressing
• Liquor Decanters (sold for $1.95 each): Whiskey, 300 Proof, Devil’s Brew
• Salt & Pepper Shaker Sets: Salty and Peppy Pixie heads with wooden handles, Stacking set of 4 (2 salt and 2 pepper) stacked in wooden container with no pixie head but pixie stripes
• Bowls: Pickle Pete, Mustard Max, Ketchup Katie, Oscar Olives, Onion Annie, Peanut Butter Pat, Tartar Tom
• Sundae Bowls: Nuts, Goo, Berries
• Hor d’Oeuvres: Pixie Boy with green hair, Pixie Girl with yellow hair
• Hurricane Lamps: Pixie Boy on Handle, Pixie Girl on Handle; both are the shape of a teapot.
• Spoons (sold for $1.95 set): Chicken Soup, Vegetable Soup, Pea Soup, Tomato Soup
• Towel Hooks: Mother, Dad, Brother, Sis
• Bottle Bracelets(sold for $1.95 set): Whiskey, Rum, Bourbon, Scotch, Rye, Gin
• Wall Hanging Planter
• Serviettes Ashtrays
• Crazy Clips
In 1968, Holt-Howard was purchased by General Housewares Corporation and the three brothers left the company to pursue other interests, and that was the end of Pixieware.
If you are lucky, you might turn up a pixie or two in your Mom’s cupboards, or maybe even at a thrift store or yard sale. You never know where a little pixie magic might show up. Happy hunting.