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Friday, July 20, 2012

LaGardo Tackett

LaGardo Tackett (1911-1984) was born in Henderson, Kentucky. His father was a grocer, and later in life Tackett, who preferred to be called Tack, explained that his unusual first name came off a can of tomatoes from his father's store.

As a young man, he entered Indiana University to study geology but left school after two years and married Virginia Lee Roth, whom he had met there. In 1937 they moved to New York, and Tackett got a job with the department store giant The May Company. By the early 1940s, he became the interior promotion director, which necessitated a move to the company headquarters in Los Angeles.

He was drafted during World War II but returned home in 1945 and used the GI Bill to take formal pottery classes. He later taught at the California School of Art, including a course he taught at his own kiln in Pasadena. He mentored several of his students, including John Follis and Rex Goode. His work, along with that of Follis and Goode, as well as Malcolm Leland and David Cressey, was discovered by entrepreneurs Max and Rita Lawrence, who started Architectural Pottery. The pieces designed for this company became favorites of the architects who designed Case Study houses. Architectural Pottery is still available today through VesseL USA.

Tackett Associates was started in 1953, and Tack and Virginia began a large-scale pottery business. For a brief time in 1953, Kenji Fujita joined the company. Later the Tacketts became friends with Paul Schmid of Schmid International, a porcelain manufacturing company based in Boston. As a result of this friendship, in 1956 the Tackett family moved to Kyoto, Japan. During the two years they were there, Tackett moved his focus from hands-on production to design. The Tacketts returned to the United States in 1958 and started a design firm but moved back to Japan in 1960, this time to Tokyo.

His earliest foodware design was the chocolate brown Rockingham line with accompanying fish motif plates. He soon moved from terracotta to porcelain, for which he had a special respect. He created a number of  sets for espresso and coffee, as well as liquor decanters. His Sandpiper cruets took the form of stylized birds. He designed canisters in the form of globes and cylinders, many with a characteristic toggle handle. Many of his designs for Freeman-Lederman were white glazed spirit bottles, often with a large red dot and whimsical script. His anthropomorphic Black Russian was a decanter created to promote Kahlua. His humorous Egghead containers were sold in the back of Playboy and Esquire magazine as bedside condom holders; they stand about 9" tall and are sometimes referred to as "stash holders." One of his last collections was an ice cream and candy service in white with brightly colored vertical stripes.

In 1961 Tackett and his family returned from Japan and settled in Connecticut. He still had a business arrangement with Schmid International and commuted to Boston for meetings. He also became active arranging programs at the Brookfield Craft Center, which had been founded in 1954 to preserve and encourage fine craftsmanship in Connecticut. In the late 1970s, Tackett suffered a stroke, and his wife Virginia was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Biographical information about Tackett is difficult to find, but Dr. F. Peter Swanson wrote a fascinating article about his life that I used for this post. If you want to know more, I encourage you to read his fascinating account.


LaGardo "Tack" Tackett and his wife Virginia

Architectural Pottery planter

Lustreware pitcher by Rockingham - Owliceandstone

Espresso set for Schmid International - Modernismus

Fish plate made with Kenji Fujita

Bird decanter with Kenji Fujita - modernform

Cookie jar

Egghead condom holder
originally sold through Playboy and Esquire

Black Russian Kahlua decenter - bergenhouse
Tackett marking


  1. I'm all over this Dana! Love the planter, I'm really into planters at the moment, thanks for sharing! :)

    1. I love large planters too, so I'm really, really lusting after one of the new Architectural Pottery from VesseL USA.

  2. Now I want to find something by Tack. Every piece is amazing. And odd coincidence, I was born near Kyoto Japan in the time he was there. Hmmm, I wonder if my parents might have crossed paths with him?

    1. I would guess the Americans living in Japan that soon after World War II were a pretty tight-knit group, so it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that they had crossed paths. Their daughters Lyn and Lee would have been teenagers at the time, and they're still living. You ought to try to track them down.

  3. Gorgeous stuff! I dream of having a whole collection of the architectural pottery. Wouldn't mind any of the others either ;)

    1. There's a bunch of his stuff on eBay right now, and some of it is pretty reasonably priced.

  4. This is amazing. It seems so ahead of its time or it kind of reminds me of the late 80s and early 90s when this style came back in style, especially the condom holder and the kaluha decanter. I guess most everything goes in and out of style.

  5. Today I found a small pink jar with "Cookies" across the front and the familiar smiling wood face stopper type lid with long nose that I believe is a Tackett jar. It is unmarked and has little "ears" on each side of the jar. I'm an avid cookie jar collector and have never seen this jar and wondered if you might have information on it? I don't see any way to submit pictures, otherwise I would have done that. Thanks for any help