December 3, 2001
A passion for pottery
by Deborah Stone
Longtime Eastside resident, Margaret Lea Hanson, recently passed away after a prolonged struggle with cancer. To those who knew her, she was an exceptionally kind, giving and warm person, who truly enjoyed caring for her family and friends.
She was also a talented artist, calligrapher and the co-author of three best selling antique pottery reference and value guides, "McCoy Pottery, Volumes I, II and III." Her interest in Nelson McCoy pottery, a highly collectible and now very valuable American pottery that dates as far back as the early 1900s, began over ten years ago.
"It all started when she began accompanying me to various antique shops," explains Bob Hanson, Margaret's husband. "I collected novelty electric clocks for about a year and while I was busy looking in one store or another, Margaret began picking up these flower form vases by McCoy. I joined her in the search for McCoy pottery after I had acquired enough clocks for my collection. We both really liked the style of the pottery and how colorful it was and our interest just grew over the years."
In the process of pursuing their hobby, the Hansons met many other McCoy collectors, including the Huxfords of Indiana, who had written the first book on McCoy pottery in 1978.
The Huxfords were asked to write another book, an update to their first one, but they declined the offer and instead inquired if the Hansons might be interested in tackling the project.
"At first we said we didn't want to do it and then we asked our friend and fellow collector, Craig Nissen, if he would help us," says Hanson. "His first response was 'no,' but then he changed his mind and that's how the three of us became co-authors of these books."
It took the trio one year to complete the first volume and several years each to finish the third and fourth volumes.
They contacted collectors all over the country, visiting people as far away as New York, Atlanta and Texas, on a series of road trips.
"We had a great time on these trips and met so many interesting people," comments Hanson. "When we would visit a collector, Margaret would arrange the objects and I would photograph them for the books. She was very artistic in her arrangements and had an eye for how to display things."
It was Margaret's idea to put non-McCoy items in the photos as backdrops, to show the size of the particular piece of pottery, as well as to present it in an attractive manner. This included flowers, clocks, books, kitchen utensils and even babies and the authors' dogs. It was her way of inserting some humor into the books and including loving parts of the trio's families.
In 10 years, the Hansons amassed a collection of 4,000 pieces of McCoy pottery, putting many of them on display in their own home, while selling others on consignment at the West Seattle Antique Mall or on the Internet.
The demand for the pottery has increased with time and many pieces are hard to find now, in particular the special cookie jars, which can be valued as high as $15,000.
"Margaret really loved collecting the pottery," comments Hanson. "It became an obsession for both of us, but we had such fun finding these treasures and got excited with each of our finds. It was a great shared activity for us and I have many warm memories of these times together."