Dateline: April 2013
It’s always an interesting story on how one starts their business or what makes them create their art. J.D.’s story is a little different than most artists. Basically he saw a niche and decided to fill it.
While living in Florida (pre-1990) J.D., with his wife Pat, painted and sold pieces of greenware flower shops and florists. He decided to try making a mold using a set of characters he purchased. While many of us would feel we would have to take a class or two to figure out how to do something entirely new, J.D. went to the library, got a book and learned how to make ceramic/plaster molds.
They decided to move back to Buckeye Lake Ohio, purchased a small cottage and set up shop with the molds they had and started Pottery by J.D. Their initial offerings were still small pieces to ceramic shops and florists, but that all changed when he attended a cookie jar auction in Zanesville, Ohio. While chatting with folks JD mentioned he made ceramic molds, a little while later a gentlemen approached and asked if he would make a cookie jar mold for him. As JD says, “He brought me a McCoy Mammy that I thought should have been put in the garbage can, but it was his money. He wanted “Them Cookies Shore Am Good” on the lower part of the jar — and that was my introduction to the Commemorative Cookie Jar market.
Later J.D. was approached by two dealers that had an original Hillbilly Frog cookie jar. He made the molds for them and that was the end of his business dealings with them. He doesn’t know how many they sold.
I decided to make molds of other cookie jars and purchased a cookie jar book. I was amazed at the different cookie jars that had been produced in Zanesville. I found that all of the cookie jar producing pottery companies were out of business and most of them had not patented or copyrighted the rights to the jars. I also found that there was a very large collectible cookie market all over the USA. Collectors are very loyal, they don’t mind buying a commemorative jar, but frown on reproductions of the same jar. Most of the jars I have made were sold to collector dealers.
It was a short time later that J.D. and his wife Pat started creating their jars, his first set was the five piece Popeye set, a replica of the three American Bisque jars, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Sweetpea. He also created Bluto and Wimpy. Bluto (aka Brutus) was the first jar, then he restructured Olive Oyl, and sculpted Wimpy. This set has been his best seller.
One of his favorite pieces is the replica of the Regal Peek a Boo jar that also has matching salt and peppers in both large and small sizes. This is also the only jar that has ever been returned by a customer. The reason? The red did not compliment her kitchen decor.
Patricia does all the art work on the jars and is also self-taught. Her favorite jar is Jackie-O, but they said they get such great pleasure in each jar they make it’s hard to really pick a favorite.
Today J.D. still does a few jars, including a few prototypes, as well as vases and Art Deco style pieces.
When asked how he obtained the original jars to make the molds, J.D. he purchased many of the jars, but there was also a large antique dealer in Zanesville that would “rent” him the jar to make a mold and then it would be returned to the dealer.
When J.D. and Pat started producing the jars, the reproduction problem that we see today had not get started. There are some that might say the problem started then, but times were different.
When faced with wanting e.g. a American Bisque Mohawk Indian, most collectors could not afford to pay thousands for the original jar, nor was it easily found. The J.D. version was still costly, selling for $250 -$300 and collectors purchasing it were just happy to have the representation in their collection.
The general consensus of collectors who purchased his reproduction or commemorative jars at the time did not do it with the intention of deceiving, nor did he sell them with that in mind. J.D. has always been upfront about the jars and never claimed that his were the originals — if he did, he could have sold them for much more
J.D.’s jars were always well made and often finished better than the originals! The best way to tell the difference is the size. He says his jars are always about 3/4″ smaller than the originals and are usually marked J.D. on the bottom, but at times he left the mark off when a customer specifically requested it.
Next: JD James Jars
©2013 Barb Crews