THE KAY HACKETT STORY:

Kay Hackett, born Kathleen Kastner, grew up in Batavia, New York, a town mid-way between Buffalo and Rochester in upstate New York

Kay with her brother George in 1922

From a tender age, Kay’s obvious talent in art drew the attention of family. She began drawing at age eight and was given her first water color set at age ten by her uncle. Then, when she was a teen, two townswomen who were patrons of the arts took notice. So impressed with Kay’s art and obvious talent, they provided the funds necessary to initiate Kay’s art lessons. Soon after, she enrolled at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University which was considered one of the finest art schools in the nation, especially in the study of ceramic design.  Kay was a Ceramic Design Major at Alfred University. Her thesis was on various effects of glazes and firing using red body clays. 

Kay creating a plaster model in the plaster shop at Alfred University, 1940.

   

Left: Kay's original 1941 photo of an engobe-decorated popcorn set she created as part of her graduating thesis.
Right: One of the mugs from Kay's popcorn set.

   

Left: One of several glazed porcelain horse figurines Kay produced at Alfred.
Right: An earthenware ostrich utilizing a single-fire underglaze decorating technique developed by Kay at Alfred University.

Always athletic, Kay enjoyed most sports and participated in skiing, tennis, swimming, basketball, archery and hunting. 

Above: Kay was quite the adventuresome young woman. Here she is looking down the barrel at her quarry.

Below Left: Kay on skis at Alfred University during 1940.
Below Right: Kay enjoys a break from swimming, 1939.

   

 

Several of Kay's early designs were produced:

       

Left: Kay's original 1940 tempera rendering of the Salmagundi pattern she designed in 1940 for Southern Potteries in Erwin, Tennessee while at Alfred University.
Right: Kay today holding an example of her Salmagundi produced by Southern Potteries.

Hippo ashtrays designed by Kay Hackett in 1940 and produced in Ohio.

A classmate of Kay’s at the time, Betty Stangl spoke to her father about this gifted student and urged her father to hire Kay. The topic of her thesis drew interest from Martin Stangl as he was developing products using red clay and she already had experience in it working at Alfred. He originally offered her $20 a week but she held out for $25. In the meantime, she took a teaching position that lasted 10 weeks while she waited him out.

Kay’s yearbook photo graduating from Alfred University 1941

 

For the first two weeks at Stangl, Kay worked in the decorating department in order to learn about the company and what was currently being produced. Following that brief stint, she went to the modeling shop to work with August Jacob. He was modeling Stangl artware and had a studio of his own near the plaster shop. Kay mentioned that she did some little animals that were intended as place card holders at dinner parties. Few were made as Kay was only in that shop for five or six weeks and she felt it was just an exercise.

A group of Kay's diminutive place card animals.

Verna, Kay's first dinnerware pattern produced by Stangl Pottery in 1941.

Martin Stangl escorted Kay to the museum in Philadelphia to study early Pennsylvania Dutch style pottery, from which she patterned Tulips, Double Bird, and Single Bird motifs from sketches she did right at the museum. This style of dinnerware was developed because Martin Stangl felt there was a market for an Early American style dinnerware to go with the Early American style of decorating popular at the time (late 30s to early 40s). Within the same time frame, she designed Fruit, Garden Flower as well as some cigarette boxes.

   

Left: Double Bird pattern, right: Single Bird, both designed and introduced in 1942.

 

Fruit, shown above in an early 1940s Terra Rose finish, was Stangl Pottery's most popular, longest produced and consistently best-selling dinnerware pattern.  Kay designed this pattern in late 1941, it was introduced as a short salad set in January 1942.  Fruit was immediately popular, and was expanded to a full dinner service by 1945.  It continued in active production right up to Stangl's closing in 1978.

Garden Flower, another Kay design, was one of Stangl's most popular patterns during the 1940s.

Kay designed the Quimper/Brittany pattern in 1942, produced by Stangl for Fisher-Bruce and Co.  It was intended to replace French Quimper pottery no longer available in the United States due to the cessation of shipments from Europe during World War II.

During World War II, Kay left Stangl Pottery to do her part for the war effort.  She worked for General Motors Eastern Aircraft division in Trenton creating exploded line drawings for repair manuals for the Grumman Avenger airplane.  Above: one of Kay's original Grumman Avenger drawings.

Kay married in 1944. Then within a few years, two sons, Pat and Dave came along. By 1947, she was divorced and had moved her family to Buffalo, New York.  In Buffalo, she worked in the advertising industry at $35 per week. during that time she began doing free-lance design work. She submitted designs to several dinnerware companies, including Stangl Pottery. Martin Stangl purchased six of her designs and paid $100 for each of them. Her friends marveled that she could make that much money working out of her attic!

   

Two of Kay's Small Fruit patterns she created in her attic, Currant and Gooseberry.

Kay returned to work at Stangl in 1948 at triple the pay. Her "attic" designs of Blueberry and the other small fruit patterns like Fig, Gooseberry, Cranberry, Kumquat, Lime, etc. were then being produced.

Left: Stangl Teapot sample in Kay’s Blueberry design. Right: A Blueberry Cruet, dinner plate and individual covered casserole.  The Blueberry pattern probably ranks as number one in collecting interest among Stangl dinnerware collectors.

 

 

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