Clay Art

In 1979 Michael Zanfagna and Jenny McClain were teaching at Mission High School in San Francisco, when they decided to build a business of affordable art. The company became known for their cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers and masks, but their first product was not a jar, but a ceramic hand painted cherub’s bottom fanny hook. Too bad that wasn’t a cookie jar, it would have been an interesting one.

In a telephone interview (1998) with Michael Zanfagna, he talked about the products they were working on – including adding licensed items to go with their decorative pieces.

Clay Art Soul Tones

From their first cookie jar in 1989, Catfish (cat holding a fish) to the licensed pieces of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, Clay Art jars were wonderfully whimsical. Their prices were in the low – medium range, but the quality was always excellent. The company also produced a large inventory of salt and peppers, many of them coordinated with cookie jars but that wasn’t always the case. The salt and peppers were also whimsical, fun and very collectible.

The company was one of the first companies to do affordable, but well-done black cookie jars. Starting in 1996 the first jars were the Jazz Player and Baking Time. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but Jazz Singer and Sunday Best are my two picks in the black category.

Other black jars include:

    Amazing Grace
    Bass Man
    Baking Time Lady
    Bedtime Story
    Jazz Diva
    Jazz Player #8823
    Jazz Singer
    Joyful Noise
    Mardi Gras Records
    Ragtime (Player at Piano)
    Soul Tones(four singers)
    Sunday Best

One of their most anticipated and popular jars was the Babe Ruth cookie jar from the late 1990s.
Licensed Jars:

    Alfred Mad Magazine
    Babe Ruth
    Betty Boop Biker
    Felix the Cat on Chair
    Felix Millennium Gumby and Pokey
    James Dean
    Mardi Gras Records
    Marilyn Monroe
    Marilyn Monroe Millennium
    Marilyn Monroe on Heart Box
    Mr. Potato Head
    Superman
    Three Stooges
    W.C. Fields
    Wizard of Oz

In working on this list, I was surprised I was surprised to see just how many cookie jars were produced. Again, they were all well-done with great designs and very affordable.
Cat Cookie Jars:

    Baby Cat (real pacifier in mouth)
    Cat
    Catfish #7601 (black and white cat/first jar 1989)
    Catfish #7621 (White Cat)
    Cat in the Primroses #8101
    Catnap
    Cat Racer
    Chinese Cats
    Mamma Cat
    Scooter Cat

Cows and Pigs:

    Biker Hogs
    Baby Cow
    Baby Pig
    Barnyard Pig
    Barnyard Cow
    Cow
    Cow in the Corn #8601
    Cow Racer #8809
    Cruisin Cow
    Holy Cow Diner
    Pig
    Pig Out
    Pig Racer
    Sunday Cow
    Watermelon Pig

Chickens:

    Chicken Racer
    Two Chickens

Dogs:

    Ay Chihuahua
    Cruisin Hounds
    Dogbone
    Ruff Rider


More Animals:

    Stacked Animals
    Fat Chance #8806 (Hippo on scales)
    Kabish (Monkey on Elephant) Reindeer (Christmas)
    Pelican Harbor
    Pet Shop (animal stack)
    Teddy Bear

Miscellaneous:

    Baking Time Radio
    Barnyard Santa
    Bathrobe Couple
    Cookie Patrol
    Cookie Chef
    Cookie Service
    Champagne Millennium
    Chili Cantina
    Chili Pepper
    Cookie Time
    Earth on Chair
    Fishbowl Cafe
    Humpty Dumpty #8802
    Morning Coffee (lady in curlers)
    Midnight Snack (fat couple embracing)
    Toaster #8811 (cute faced toaster)
    Wizard #7801
    Woody (station wagon)

Shortly after the millennium jars were introduced, in early 2000s, there appeared to be fewer and fewer jars shown in their catalogs, most of the items were tabletop decoratives or serving pieces.