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Monday, January 2, 2017

Leland Claes Siamese Cat TV Lamp


 Oh lala...my vintage 1954 marked and signed Leland claes glowing cat eye lamp! The lamp was made in 1954 and is marked and signed on the base. This lamp was made by Leland Claes whose lamps are very rare and highly sought after especially after his death in 2000.


T V lamps were made for only about 10 years in the 1950's. The early first television sets had such low resolution, the quality of the picture was best at night with all other lighting turned off. This kind of low light was thought to be bad for your eyes, thus the T V lamps were born! Placed on top of your console set, they splayed light onto the wall through the back of the lamp without affecting the television broadcast (and through the eyes as in our cat lamp). As T V technology improved, the short lived T V lamp era was over. 

The lamp is made of ceramic and features a pair of lounging Siamese cats that have been hand painted beautifully and is VERY RARE AND HARD TO FIND! The cats also have blue painted eyes which are underlit by a bright white light which makes their eyes glow when the lamp is turned on. The lamp would have originally sat on top of someone's television or in their window.

This Siamese Lamp was designed by Leland Claes, "a virtual unknown in most pottery collecting circles, his designs are appreciated almost exclusively by TV lamp enthusiasts. Claes was born in Turlock, California on August 31st, 1916, and would be the eldest of seven children. Leland was a loner, and as a result the details of his time as a pottery designer are rather vague, even to those close to him. He designed pottery for Arthur Ball at Ball Art Ware in the late '40s through the early '50s, replacing Howard Ball, who had left to design for Brad Keeler. 
Most, if not all, of Claes' TV lamps were made by William H. Hirsch Manufacturing.


In 1952 Claes left Ball Art Pottery to design and manufacture independently, and established his Morongo Valley studio. Demand increased, and Leland opted to take his designs to the William H. Hirsch Manufacturing Company for production. Thus began the period in which the best-known Claes designs were produced.  Hirsch Mfg. made most, if not all, of Claes TV lamp designs, and a stylized "WH" can be found on most examples. The length of this association with the Los Angeles-based Hirsch Manufacturing is unclear, but it was likely a five or six year span. 
A little-known pottery called Williams Ceramics is also thought to have produced some of the lamps, but this cannot be substantiated. The companies involvement was suggested before Hirsch was discovered to be the primary manufacturer, and the connection could simply be a confusion resulting from the similarity of names. The records of Underwriter's Laboratories indicate that Williams Ceramics was active in Fontana from 1953 until 1957, in which year they are inexplicably shown to be located in Elsinore. No records of that company exist after 1959.

In 1960 Leland abandoned his desert workshop and returned to Turlock, working from a shop located behind his father's home. His interest soon turned to photography, and he opened Adam Portrait Studio in Turlock. He specialized in individual and group portraits, some finished in oils. His kiln was situated in the back of the studio, which allowed him to continue his ceramics and give help and instruction to interested individuals.

Leland closed his photography business in 1971 and moved to his own residence where he tended a small orchard, worked on his computer, and did a great deal of reading and writing. His health was failing, and he passed away on March 11, 2000 at the age of 83.  Leland Claes left behind a marvelous body of work, but couldn't have forseen the rise in popularity that occurred so soon after his passing. His TV lamps and figurines are distinctive, valuable, and a lasting testament to his artistic passion.