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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ben Seibel and his work for Iroquois

Ben Seibel (1918-1985) was born in Newark, New Jersey. He started his education at Columbia University, studying painting and sculpture. He then became interested in industrial design and attended Pratt Institute. World War II interrupted his studies, and he spent almost four years in the Air Force. After the war, he worked briefly on the design staffs at Raymond Spilman and Morris Sanders. In 1947, he started his own design firm, which he operated until his death in 1985.

Early in his career, he was asked by the financially ailing Roseville Pottery to design a line for them that would revive sales. His design was popular, but it was not able to save the company. However, it did make a name for him in the design world.

He produced an extremely large body of work, designing for American Can, Brueton Furniture, Cherokee Nation Pottery, Cosmos Products, Duncan and Miller, Fostoria, Gilley, Haeger, Henry & Miller, Jaxton, Kasuga, Krischer Metal, Laurel, Levco Mfg., M. & L. Manufacturing Company, Mikasa, Morgantown, Carl Lendinara Furniture Company, Oneida, Oxford Hall Silversmiths, Park Techniques Design, Pfaltzgraff, Raymor, RLR, Roseville, Stand-Built Upholstery Corp., Steubenville, SFC Associates, Vermont Pacific, Westwood and Wilton.

His designs included fine china, stoneware, pottery, flatware, cutlery, cookware, ashtrays, glassware, wood accessories, metal accessories, furniture, clocks, electric food warmers, lamps, textiles, tea kettles, and even plastic cutlery for Dixie Cup and children’s tableware for Campbell’s Soup.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have decided to collect his Harvest Time china, so this post will focus on his work for Iroquois. I'm becoming so fascinated with his designs, however, that I'm sure I'll touch on other aspects of his work from time to time. You'll get an idea from the following list just how extensive his list of designs really is, since this represents work for only one of the thirty-one companies listed above.

Seibel designed four lines of tableware for Iroquois: Impromptu in 1956, Informal in 1958, Inheritance in 1959 and Intaglio in 1964. (There is possibly a fifth line called Interplay, but most authors on the subject have found no pictures and have very little information other than the name.)  Each line had its own uniquely shaped pieces. Within each line, there were sets employing numerous decal patterns, as well as accent pieces in solid white or white undersides with a color on the top, which are referred to simply as Accent. Because he was so prolific, even the most knowledgeable collectors find it difficult to catalog all his work with complete certainty.

The Impromptu line included the following decal pattern sets:
  • Autumn Harmony
  • Aztec
  • Beige Rose
  • Blue Doves
  • Bridal White
  • Colonial Pink
  • Colonial Blue
  • Cosmos
  • Country Garden (sometimes called Country Time)
  • Dutch Treat (sometimes called Blue Delft)
  • El Camino
  • Fjord
  • Frolic
  • Garland
  • Grapes
  • House of Flowers
  • Jarninieres
  • Knollwood
  • Lexington
  • Luau
  • Parasols
  • Pins and Beads
  • Pompon
  • Pyramids
  • Spring Flowers
  • Stellar
  • Tiara
  • Vision
  • Wild Rose
  • Wild Violet

Impromptu Pyramids

Impromptu El Camino

Impromptu Stellar

Danton China

There is a starburst decal pattern set marked "Danton China" that is shaped like Impromptu, but even expert collectors are stymied about it, because its mark is unlike that of the Impromptu line.

The Informal line included:
  • Blue Diamonds
  • Blue Vineyard
  • Bombay Blue
  • Bombay Green
  • Georgetown
  • Harvest Time
  • Hearts of Gold
  • Knollwood
  • Lazy Daisy
  • Madrid
  • Old Orchard
  • Rosemary
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Teuton
  • Thane

Informal Blue Diamonds

Informal Accent in blue
Informal Harvest Time

My note: Since I found and bought the samovar so quickly, I have to find the Harvest Time lazy susan now. It must be mine! :)

The Inheritance line included:
  • Baroque
  • Beige Rose
  • Cotillion
  • Dynasty
  • Grecian Gold
  • Knollwood
  • Medallion
  • Pompon
  • Su-Shi
  • Sheer White
  • Gold Band
  • Platinum Band
  • Teuton
  • Thane
Some of his previous decal patterns were repeated in this style.

Inheritance Su-Shi

Inheritance Grecian Gold
Inheritance Medallion

The Intaglio line included:
  • Dahlia (Blue)
  • Dahlia (Golden)
  • Ivy (?)
  • Old English Blue
  • Old English Pink
  • Painted Daisy (Blue)
  • Painted Daisy (Pink)
  • Rosette (Jade)
  • Rosette (Sun)
  • Diamond White
  • Woodale

Intaglio Dahlia

Intaglio Painted Daisy
Intaglio Rosette in the color "Sun"
From; portrait of Ben Seibel (copyrighted to Michael Kaplan) via


  1. Great post! I love his work in fine china but didn't know his history. I have his Duplex china by Mikasa - a great retro pattern of white and green with flowers.

  2. Some very nice patterns there.
    The Intaglio ones you show seem very 80s to me so was surprised to see the line was designed in 64.

  3. Very nice post!! Thank you for all of the great photos. He designed so many beautiful things. I really like a lot of his book ends. I agree that you must have that lazy susan. I've been perusing listings for Franciscan Starburst. I am now 100% certain that I'm krazy to start it. I need to stay within my budget which means I may be collecting Dixie Cups :)

  4. @Rhan Vintage: Glad you enjoyed the post! Do you have the Dahlia pattern in Duplex? It simply amazes me that he was so prolific and designed so many different design decals for every style.

  5. @Moondoggie: I agree with you that Intaglio looks very un-mid-century. It's my least favorite of all the designs he did for Iroquois. To me it has a fru-fru look that doesn't seem in character with his other Iroquois work.

  6. @Krazy4Mod: I love the bookends too. I found a pair yesterday on eBay that had a small repair, and the bidding was starting at 95 cents! I just looked a few minutes ago, and there's only one bid...still at 95 cents.

    Thanks for agreeing that I need the lazy susan. All I need is the slightest encouragement to be self-indulgent. :)

    I'll let you know if I see any Starburst cheap. One of my contacts emailed me last night and said she's selling all her mid-century china. She said she had 4 patterns of Franciscan but didn't say what. She did say she had Royal Blue Heaven and Star Glow.

  7. Lovely post! I just scored over 40 pieces of the Iroquois Impromptu Stellar china set at an estate sale for $50! This was just the information I was looking for - thanks!

  8. Congratulations! That's quite a score, and the Impromptu Stellar pattern is so beautiful. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Come back and comment often.

  9. Oooh, you’re such an inspiration. I love this blog!
    Flatware pattern guide. Active and discontinued sterling flatware patterns for sale at very affordable prices.

  10. Hi, I came across this set:

    It seems to be pretty uncommon, I don't see it listed with your impromptu patterns. Have you seen this one before?

    1. I hadn't seen that one before. Fantastic that you found a set of it!

  11. how much is a complete set of the galaxy print worth

    1. I really couldn't even guess. The folks at are the ones to talk to about that. It doesn't cost anything to join, and the members there are the most knowledgeable you'll find on the subject of mid-century china.

  12. so i added a post like thing to my profile is that the right way of going about it? im cluless lol

  13. What a great post. Thanks so much for such a great round up. I'm new to Ben Seibel but have been coming across his name as an influence on English Mid-Century pottery, while researching items for my Etsy shop, DunedinSt. I will definitely explore your blog. What a fantastic project your home is!

  14. Hello, I just discovered Russell Wright which has led me to Ben Siebel and all things mid-modern. Love your blog, glad I found it, now I have a place to stoke my own obsession!

  15. We just got 6 pieces of informal harvest time at estate sale for $16 total. Includes 3 medium bowls,1 larger bowl, 15" platter, small (syrup or creamer?) Pitcher. Can anyone tell what the intended purpose of each piece as Ben intended.. Or is it even known?

    1. thanks - we found the answers. My original thoughts were correct for the pieces & their use/ purpose as I posted. It's a very colorful fall set. We love it

  16. We just got 6 pieces of informal harvest time at estate sale for $16 total. Includes 3 medium bowls,1 larger bowl, 15" platter, small (syrup or creamer?) Pitcher. Can anyone tell what the intended purpose of each piece as Ben intended.. Or is it even known?

  17. Thank you so much for this post! I just came across a 16 pc set of Impromptu Vision and I am in love! I couldn't find much information and not many pieces seem to be floating around.

  18. I have an Iroquois Impromptu ("Pins & Beads") very large (14.5") bowl that I cannot find any reference to. Does anyone have any info? Thanks...

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  21. I found these online as links - maybe they can help you.

  22. I have an Iriquois plate marked "proof" dated 11/59 that is similar to Lazy Daisy but has pink flowers. Do you know if this pattern was ever produced or anything about it?

  23. I found the Informal Blue Vineyard at a thrift store. 5 serving pieces, 9 dinner plates, 9 bowls, 8 salad plates, small plates, cup/saucers all for $35! I’m hooked! Thank you for the post. I’m just starting to gather information and this is really helpful.