Someone recently asked in a Facebook group about a lamp she’d inherited from her grandmother. It was very retro, with a corset-shaped base and white drum shade. She said it was marked “Tye of California.”
I’m not much of a lamp specialist, so out of curiosity I looked up the company name. All I can tell you is that if you have such a lamp, you have a treasure, indeed! Asking prices seem to start at $400 and go up from there.
The lamps that I’ve seen are fairly large (in the 20-inch tall range) and all have ceramic bases. They often feature colorful geometric designs, either carved or applied. But they have a truly 1950s style that fits perfectly with mid-century and contemporary décor.
Some Tye lamps are pure works of art. This 1950s ceramic lamp depicts carved and glazed symbols of Paris, perhaps a tribute to French artist Raoul Dufy, with drilled holes to allow the windows to light up. It was purchased for $20 from a thrift shop — the experts on Antiques Roadshow valued at $1200 in 2014!!!
All Tye of California lamps are signed, which should make it easy for you to know if you’re holding one.
The company was founded in 1956, and as far as I can tell, made nothing but lamps and other lighting fixtures. I have seen other ceramic items for sale, listed as an “unsigned” Tye of California bowl, for example. However, I have no evidence that non-lighting items were made by Tye.
Because the company wasn’t in business very long, the Tye name isn’t one that most vintage hunters might know. But now you do.
Next time you see a large ceramic 1950s-style lamp in a yard sale, thrift store or flea market, check for the distinctive Tye signature. You may have just found the bargain of the year!