Original shapes were designed by the company's art director, Frederick Hurten Rhead. Some of the redesigned original shapes, and other new shapes were designed by the late Jonathan O. Parry, who became the company art director in 1984.
As a line of open-stock dinnerware, Fiestaware allows buyers to select by the piece, rather than requiring the purchase of entire sets. Notably, buyers can mix and match from the color range. According to David Conley, the company's director of retail sales and marketing, Fiestaware's current colors derive from home decor and fashion trends, and according to the Smithsonian Institute Press, Fiestaware's appeal lies in its bright colors, modern design, and affordability.
"COLOR! that's the trend today..." and it went on to say, "It gives the hostess the opportunity to create her own table effects....... Plates of one color, Cream Soups of another, contrasting Cups and Saucers....it's FUN to set a table with Fiesta!"To the variety of pieces offered at its introduction, the Homer Laughlin Company quickly added several additional items to the line. During this period a few of the items received modifications, and one or two of the most unusual items were eliminated completely such as the Covered Onion Soup Bowl, and the Mixing Bowl Covers. In the following years up to 1940 still more items were regularly brought into production to expand the line. At its greatest number the Fiesta line of dinnerware comprised approximately sixty-four different items including Flower Vases in three sizes, Divided Plates, Water Tumblers, Carafes, Teapots in two sizes, Five Part Relish Trays, large Chop Plates in fifteen inch and thirteen inch diameters, and several unique sales promotional items offered for only one dollar each which were only available in a predetermined glaze color.
The disruption to society caused by World War II, and the need for manufacturers to focus on production for that effort, affected non-war related production and public demand, and so beginning in 1942 the Fiesta line of items began to be reduced. Over the next four years, even as these more unusual serving pieces were being discontinued, and in fact by the year 1946 the line's variety of items had been reduced by nearly one third, still, overall sales of the more typical place setting pieces in the Fiesta line remained strong and reportedly peaked around 1948. Ultimately the popularity of Fiesta was due to its bright colors, durable construction, stylized art deco shape and design, and its promotion through mass marketing. From its first introduction in 1936 and for over a decade Fiesta was a widespread fad and so became something of a status symbol of the late 1930s and pre-war 1940s middle-class household. Today, this vintage Fiesta trades briskly on auction websites and at other antique/vintage product sales venues.
At its initial introduction in 1936 Fiesta was produced in five colors: Red (orange red), Blue (cobalt), Green (light green), Yellow (deep golden), and Old Ivory (yellowish cream). By 1938, two years into production, a sixth color was added: Turquoise (robin's egg blue). With the exception of the Red, this color assortment remained in production until approximately 1950. The original Red had been discontinued before 1944 (see below). The lack of this vibrant color, plus the general change in society due to the United States' participation in World War II had caused a slump in sales of the larger serving pieces from the early 1940s. This slump precipitated a drastic reduction in the variety of items produced in the line. Accessory items such as Candleholders and Flower Vases, as well as serving pieces such as Comports and Carafes, were removed from production. Prior to this general reduction in the number of shapes offered, only one or two very specialized shapes had been discontinued and those early on by 1938, and so these items such as Covered Onion Soup Bowls in turquoise glaze and Mixing Bowl Covers in any color glaze are rather scarce and highly prized by collectors.
By 1950, home decorating styles and colors had changed also, and so the Homer Laughlin Company in an attempt to reinvigorate sagging sales, discontinued some original glaze colors and replaced those with four new trendy colors. The original Blue (cobalt), the original Green (light green), and the original Old Ivory (yellowish cream) were discontinued and were replaced by Rose (dusty brownish), Gray (medium), Forest (dark green), and Chartreuse (bright yellowish green). In addition to these four new glaze colors, two existing glaze colors, Yellow and Turquoise, continued in production keeping the color assortment in production and available during the 1950s to six different glazes.
By the end of the 1950s, sales had again dropped, and so the item assortment was once again reduced, and the glaze color assortment changed. By 1959 the United States government had released its block on uranium, making it possible for the Homer Laughlin Company to again produce the bright orange red glaze (see below). The four newer glazes, having then been in production for about ten years were discontinued at this time, the item assortment was reduced, and the new glaze color assortment was limited to four choices only. A wholly new glaze color was developed and marketed at this time. Although the company always referred to this new color simply as Green on any of its brochures, collectors later christened it Medium Green, in an attempt to distinguish it from the other green glazes the company had produced over the years. This Medium Green is a bright, almost Kelly Green, or as some have described it, a "John Deere Tractor" green. So beginning in 1959, the four colors Fiesta was available in were Red (original orange red), Green (new Medium green), Yellow (original golden), and Turquoise (original robin's egg blue).
Although this color assortment was available and sold for ten years (1959-1969) the popularity of Fiesta had so fallen by then, that this newest shade of green, seems in very short supply on the secondary market relative to the other glaze colors and has gained almost mythical status and for certain pieces in this glaze commands astronomical prices wholly disproportionate to the rest of the line with few exceptions. The Yellow glaze is the one glaze which was in production throughout the life of vintage Fiesta. Turquoise, while not strictly an original color (having been introduced about a year into Fiesta's production) was otherwise also in continuous production until the end of the original vintage era in 1969. Red, while an original color at the line's introduction, was forcibly removed from the market before 1944 (see below), and although brought back into production from 1959 to 1969, a period by when most of the unusual and exotic serving pieces had long been discontinued, and so Red too usually commands a premium price in the secondary market, both for its vibrancy in the mix of colors and for its scarcity due to limited years of production. While many collectors love all the colors, some only want "Original 6" or "Fifties Colors".
At the time of this reintroduction the color assortment was five: Rose (true pink), Black (slightly chocolate under very bright light), Cobalt (dark navy), White (bright stark white), and Apricot (pale pinkish tan). The glaze texture on this new Fiesta is very smooth, hard and much shinier than on original Fiesta. Since its initial introduction and marketing, new Fiesta has remained popular, and has inspired a renewed interest in collecting Fiesta. Many are collecting, by ordering and purchasing brand new items from department stores and catalog retailers. Some add this new ware to their existing collections of vintage Fiesta, while others concentrate on only buying pieces from the new assortment. The Homer Laughlin Company recognized a potential marketing technique in this consumer behavior and so early on in Fiesta's second incarnation, it has been marketed as a new collectible. The manufacturer has maintained interest in Fiesta and manipulated this collector's market over the past twenty years by discontinuing glaze colors primarily, but also by limiting production on some items in the line to only a certain number of pieces, or a certain period of production.
Since its reintroduction, the Homer Laughlin China Company has produced new Fiesta in a current accumulated total of twenty-six glaze colors, none of which match exactly any of the previous thirteen colors of vintage Fiesta. Therefore as of early 2008, many Fiesta shapes exist in a total of thirty-nine color glazes. The names of these new color glazes, in addition to the first five and in order of introduction, are: Yellow (pale custard), Turquoise (more greenish than vintage Turquoise), Periwinkle (slightly lavender blue), Sea Mist (slightly bluish pale green), Lilac, Persimmon (brownish orange), Sapphire (medium bright blue like faded denim), Chartreuse (brighter and greener than vintage Chartreuse), Pearl Gray (warm light gray), Juniper (dark blue green), Cinnabar (maroon), Sunflower (bright yellow), Plum (dark purple), Shamrock (bright deep green), Tangerine (soft light orange), Scarlet (deep true red), Peacock (bright blue), Heather (light violet) and Evergreen (Christmas green). On March 16, 2008, Homer Laughlin announced its newest color, Ivory, a shade designed to recall the original 1930's hue, which will be available beginning in June 19.
In 1997, 500 limited edition presentation bowls in an exclusive Raspberry (reddish maroon) colored glaze were made to commemorate approximately the production of the 500 millionth piece of dinnerware carrying the name Fiesta produced by the Homer Laughlin China Company since 1936. In anticipation of Fiesta's 75th anniversary in 2011, Homer Laughlin announced its 75th anniversary color Marigold and the first of line of specially backstamped annual anniversary items, a set of three baking bowls, at the 2008 International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, IL. Dinnerware and accessories will be available in coming years, with each introduction marketed for 75 weeks, beginning April 1, before it will be retired.
Fiestaware was featured in an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt in 1988.
In A Christmas Story, the Parker family is seen eating on Fiesta dinnerware in the dinner scene just prior to the arrival of the famed leg lamp.