China Town


In 1986, 50 years after its introduction, Fiesta was reborn, with a mix of colors both new and old, and it remains in production with 12 colors today. (Twenty colors have been rolled out since its reintroduction in 1986, 8 retired.) The classic dishes and platters and pitchers look very much as they did seven decades ago. As testimony to its enduring style, it’s the most requested casual dinnerware on bridal registries. And despite its astounding abundance, the values of older Fiesta ware have held up, while a whole new market has been born in collecting new Fiesta. “I was just at a convention of Fiesta collectors, and I’d say it’s about evenly split between those who collect the old and the new,” said Dave Conley, Homer Laughlin’s director of retail sales.

Visitors can tour the factory where Fiesta ware has always been made. (Tours are offered twice daily and are free but require advance notice.) What most struck me during the 45-minute tour was that the operations look like the historical dioramas at the Museum of Ceramics across the river. I’d half expected gleaming machines cranking out plates at dizzying speeds; instead, I saw a patient and exacting worker attaching the handle to a mug by hand. This was somehow deeply reassuring.

The factory does contain its share of modern marvels. It has one of the world’s longest continuous kilns, for instance, and the lower plant has state-of-the-art operations that include computerized kilns and high-tech forming equipment. But it’s not the future that keeps pilgrims coming through its doors. It’s the past, with travelers and collectors eager to see where all those asparagus green and sunset red and cobalt blue platters and dishes and cups were born and nurtured. That, and the promise of an uncommonly good deal.