Take a Look at Martha's Impressive McCoy Pottery Collection
Pretty, practical, and ever-popular with antiquers, McCoy pottery caught Martha's eye three decades ago—and she's been collecting it ever since. She shares her fascination with pieces from the classic American company, and her most striking displays.
When I bought my home in East Hampton in 1990, I renovated it and painted all the walls a bright, creamy white. Once I finished, I realized the house was virtually screaming for color. At that time, there were dozens of small antiques shops on the East End of Long Island, packed with vintage glass, interesting furniture and mirrors, and pottery. It was in one of those eclectic stores that I first encountered designs by McCoy.
The company, which was founded in the mid-1800s in Ohio, originally produced utilitarian stoneware items for the home. By the early 1900s, they were making decorative glazed vases, bowls, and garden pots that were widely available at hardware and dime stores. The pieces were fanciful and colorful, yet practical: They came in a variety of sizes that were meant to be used. I especially loved the aqua ones from the 1920s through '50s, and filled my shelves and tables with them. But I didn't stop there. I was drawn to the softer pastels as well, and soon began arranging tableaux of whites, pinks, and yellows, mixing in similar finds from other makers of the era. Pictured above, white planters and vases line the shelves in the cottage on Martha's property. A gray backdrop casts their silhouettes into high relief.
Many of my favorite forms, including large jardinières (some with stands), urns, vases, and wall pockets, were created by two well-known designers hired by the McCoy family, Walter Bauer and Sidney Cope, in the 1930s and '50s. I have a rare dog water dish that I adore and often bring out for the chow chows. Most of the aqua pieces are in my kitchen now, set against walls painted a deep mauvey-rose to enhance their beauty and form. I keep my white vessels in the den and in my guest cottage, and the pink and yellow collections are displayed in several bedrooms on mantels and dressers.
McCoy pots are not particularly rare or expensive, but they always make me smile. Even one or two can—and undoubtedly will—brighten your home, too.
The majority of Martha's collection dates to the 1940s and '50s, like these pale-lemony pieces on her fireplace mantel in East Hampton, New York.
The embossed details on the McCoy pots vary in sharpness depending on the age of the mold. The newer it is, the crisper the lines it creates, as on the salmon-colored grapevine vases above. Pressings from an older, much-used mold render softer features—like on the pink urn with the nosegay (pictured in the front row, center left).
Aqua pieces are highly sought-after, and they can fetch higher prices than other colors. Their glazes can be shiny and green-toned—mostly from the 1920s (pictured in the back row, third from left)—darker and matte, or light turquoise. The second flowerpot from the left is an example of McCoy's lily-bud pattern from 1940.
Pictured top left: Given Martha's love of plants, it's no surprise that she's acquired many garden pots, like these quilted McCoy jardinières, popular in the 1950s, which are grouped with pitchers from the same era.
Pictured top right: In 1940, McCoy debuted pale pinks. Swan vases with swooping feathers exemplify Hollywood Regency style.
Pictured bottom left: Flowerpots with attached saucers were first produced in the 1930s.
Pictured bottom right: Martha's yellow vessels include two geometric 1930s art-deco designs; she also has two in pink.
Martha Stewart Living, September 2020