Sunday, May 10, 2015

NMRC of the RHS Explores La Luz Pottery Factory

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Members of the New Mexico Roadrunner Chapter of the Red Hat Society had a grand time taking a guided tour of the La Luz Pottery Factory, now on the National Register of Historic Places, just north of Alamogordo. Our guide, Alex, was extremely knowledgeable and the fact that he himself is a potter was a plus.

The La Luz Pottery Factory was built about 1930 by Rowland Hazard III from Newport, Rhode Island. Over the years, having had several owners, it was donated to the Tularosa Basin Historical Society for long term preservation and interpretation. The properly contains some 235 acres that includes the "Pottery", with eight structures in various condition, including two residential houses, the large downdraft kiln, a commissary and associated industrial facilities; the José Torres homestead, an historic stagecoach station; and the Holden Place, an early 20th century farm.

The "Pottery" produced Spanish-style red barrel Mission tiles used throughout the region in La Luz, Tularosa and Alamogordo, and on St. Joseph's Mission church in Mescalero, designed and built by Fr. Albert Braun, who is remembered for his leadership during the Bataan March. Architect John Gaw Meem often specified these La Luz roof tiles in his designs, including Albuquerque's Little Theater, the first structure built by the WPA in Albuquerque.

In addition to the famous tiles, the "Pottery" produced some 90 styles of pottery including chimney pots, ornamental vases, strawberry pots, bowls, floor tiles, even ceramic bells. La Luz Pottery had showrooms on Fifty Second Street and Park Avenue in New York City and sold throughout the nation and four foreign countries.

Rowland "Roy" Hazard III, the scion of a prominent Rhode Island Industrial family, was a chronic alcoholic who graduated from Yale in 1903. He joined the Oxford Groups and consulted Carl Jung in search of sobriety. Rowland influenced the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and is remembered by AA as Rowland H.

One of the most prominent features for the La Luz Pottery Factory is the large kiln chimney. The outside of both kilns are covered with adobe bricks and reinforced with iron straps. The interior of the kiln and the chimney are constructed with fire brick. This brick is designed to take the thermal shock of extreme changes in temperature. The "Pottery" kiln's used a forced air burner that utilized compressed air and fuel oil in determining the proper fuel to air ratio to enhance the temperature and atmosphere in the kiln. One example of a large kiln firing in June 1931 produced: 10,025 large roof tiles, 5,913 small roof tiles and 140 assorted pottery items with a total firing cost of $350.15.

Their products were of superior quality their product catalog described the clay as having "an individual coloring of warm pink. It is truly typical of the name La Luz, or 'the Light', for its rich coloring has a life and light, and its soft tints react delicately to atmospheric conditions, causing the pottery to change in deepening, now paling, in a most interesting manner."

Should you be interested in taking a tour, they are not open every day and you will need to call 575-434-4438 to schedule a tour or you can contact the Tularosa Basin Historical Society, 1301 North White Sands Blvd., Alamogordo, New Mexico 88310. They are doing all the renovating using volunteers so they do ask for a $5.00 donation per person. It is well worth it!

Queen Ladybird (Carla K.) all set to begin the adventure
Everyone filling out the "hold harmless" forms
L to R: Terry, Margie, Dorothy E. and Alice
This a pieced together recovered bowl found on the premises
There were a number of these hand-made wheel barrows in view
This is a photo of a huge vase that used to be outside on the property
Samples of some of the products made on site. The tile at right is a Saltillo tile
Gail and Darla listening to our guide, Alex
Terry decided to rest a moment while listening to Alex
L to R: Margie, Alice, Donna W. and Monica
Jean and Rosa paying rapt attention
Samples of different types of pottery which has a higher glaze
This makes it official
One of the old tractors formerly used in making the pottery. See how the rubber has just rotted of the wheel!
It is quite rustic and we believe this is the base upon which that huge vase formerly set
This is the Laboratory with a home-made pottery wheel that was run by a tractor outside the window
Alex is explaining to Dorothy and Terry how the pottery is made
The wall of chemicals in old tins and bottles, some quite poisonous
There are several of these old wood burning stoves around, each one different from the other
Alex talking about clays and glazes. Should have had a tape recorder, he had so much to impart.
The Red Hatters asked good questions and Alex was able to answer them

This is a wooden dancing girl on the door of the bathroom
The kiln chimney and the large kiln
Some old machinery in the Blacksmith Shop. The walls are about half gone and they have built an aluminum covering over it to preserve it until they can rehabilitate it.
Alex is explaining about firing the pottery and bricks in the big kiln
Inside the small kiln
Inside view of the large kiln. It is loaded with tile
This is where the fuel oil mixed with compressed air fed into the four burners on each side of the large kiln
This is a small cart that carried clay on a railroad track up to La Luz Pottery
Note: On the roof is a sample of their whimsical pottery
And another up on the roof
Queen Ladybird is crowning Donna Williams as Vice Queen while Gail looks on
Another shot of the Queen and Vice Queen at lunch in Asian Gardens Restaurant
Everyone agreed that it was a grand adventure and we learned good information about this particular type of pottery and how it was made. This was a more crude pottery than what you see today, but it was highly prized in its day. Many of the pieces are in a Rhode Island museum and some can be found in a museum in Santa Fe so, if you happen to be in either of these places, look for the La Luz Pottery trademarked with two "L"s back to back.

We kazooed and sang Happy Birthday to Donna Williams and Monica Shaw after eating delicious Tai food at Asian Gardens. We met a couple of ladies interested in Red Hatting in our travels this day and hopefully they will become members in time to go to Hondo, New Mexico to the Iris Gardens on May 23,  2015.

This is all I have to say for now.

1 comment:

  1. Hello my name I ken Larson. I used to live up Labrocita canyon past to pottery place on Dr. Hamms property. I lived in the pond house close to the road. I was told It used to be part of the Hazard Estate, it was there carriage house behind The Dr's. house. Is this correct?