Opalescent Sunflower Vase

It’s usually the things that nobody knows about that attract and intrigue me. If they’re of a certain (good, or fine) quality, or have an interesting look, I want to know more. Browsing around the Cambridge Glass Fair, I came upon this rather unusual looking small posy vase. Somewhat etherial, it’s also rather appealing. But it looks like a child painted it!“, I hear you cry. You could indeed say that. But look closer and think. The enamelled flowers and leaves are rather evenly applied and don’t waver all around. The sunflowers themselves are placed directly opposite each other and, most importantly, the enamel is baked on, rather than just being painted on. So unless someone had access to a kiln or furnace, this was done in a factory. So, arguably, a child couldn’t have done this. Furthermore, the colour tone of the enamel is similar to those used at Haida (Nový Bor) in today’s Czech Republic. As well as its factories, the town is known for its glass school (fachschule) founded in 1870. Then there’s the …

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1970s Pentii Sarpaneva Oy Kumela vase © Mark Hill Publishing Ltd

The many different hats I wear for my career often take me to unexpected places. Last month, I was delighted to be asked to visit Helsinki in Finland, home to many a notable mid-century modern glass factory and designer, from Iittala to Riihimäki and Alvar Aalto to Timo Sarpaneva. I don’t often get too much time to explore or go shopping on my own account on such work trips, so I was delighted when my kind host offered to drive me to a large antiques centre one morning, on the way to a location. Pulling up to a large metal warehouse on the outskirts of a deserted industrial estate oustide Helsinki, I wondered what was in store for me, but I wasn’t disappointed. My host had judged my tastes perfectly, Tattarisuon Antiikkihalli Ja Löytötori was right up my street with over 1,000 square feet filled with furniture, ceramics, pictures, rugs, household goods and, of course, glass. Quality ranged from ‘very good’ to the sort of stuff one may find in a house clearance, and dates ranged from the …

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Mark Hill signing his new book on modern Czech Glass

On February 26th 2017, I launched my latest book, Sklo: Czech Glass Design From The 1950s-70s. It is a revised and considerably enlarged version of my bestseller Hi Sklo Lo Sklo: Postwar Czech Glass Design from Masterpiece to Mass-Produced, which I published in 2008 and which sold out two years later. I was delighted to be asked to launch it at the Cambridge Glass Fair, the premier fair for vintage, antique and contemporary glass in the UK. As ever, the fair didn’t disappoint, with hundreds of visitors queuing at my stand across the day to buy a copy of what had apparently become a much-anticipated release. The fair also didn’t disappoint in terms of the truly vast selection of glass available for sale. It really is “three hundred years of collectable glass in one day”, as the organisers state – there’s something for everyone. I managed to buy a few superb pieces for stock and a few little treats for myself, despite shelf space being so very limited! The day was made even more special as my …

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Henryk Albin Tomaszewski Glass

Attributions in the world of antiques and collecting change frequently, and across the board too, from porcelain to furniture to glass. This is particularly the case with ‘new markets’, like mid-century modern Italian ceramics and postwar Czech glass design.  A new source will be unearthed, such as a catalogue or forgotten book, or a piece will be discovered with a correct, original label. On rare occasions, the designer or maker themselves surfaces to set the story straight. The sculptural design shown here, in olive green and yellow, is usually attributed to the talented Czech designer Pavel Hlava. This is mainly due to the fact that he produced some blown glass during the 1970s & 80s with internal structures vaguely similar to these. It’s also because, along with Frantisek Vizner, he’s a well-known ‘big name’ and many are keen to raise the profile – and value – of their piece by attributing it to him. I never believed this attribution, as the glass is thicker than most of Hlava’s work, the machined base is different, the actual technique isn’t …

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Snowflakes Glass Vase

Browsing around the excellent and huge Hopkinson Vintage, Antiques & Art Centre just by Nottingham’s station after doing a NADFAS lecture, I stumbled upon this vase. I was delighted as it had a label – something I’ve been looking for for ages. When sold on eBay or in countless fairs, shops and antiques centres across Europe and US, they are always either labelled ‘Murano Glass’, or ‘Italian Glass’, indicating factories based in Empoli near Florence. None of this is true, but I needed to find one with a label to be able to prove it and write a blog post. As the original silver and black foil label on the example I found clearly indicates (below), they were in fact made in China. Stop gasping – and relax. Although most collectors eschew and pass over Chinese glass, most of which is derivative and poor quality, I think these are worthy of consideration. Marketed under the brand Snowflakes, this diverse range was made by The Dalian Glass Co. Ltd  which is one of many glass factories on the …

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Last Thursday Alfie’s Antiques Market in Church St, Marylebone, London hit a major anniversary when it turned 40. It’s almost as old as me! A day of festivities, including a lecture on 20thC Glass given by me, culminated in an intimate party, held as part of the London Design Festival. Exhibiting in a pop-up shop was London’s glass legend, Peter Layton, who was also celebrating 40 years of business by selling some of his newest designs in stunning black and white, as well as much-loved favourites including jewellery and his gorgeous Aeriel range of stone-forms and dropper bottles. The Antiques Young Guns also created a pop-up shop just 2 minutes walk away, with a varied stock that showcased the future of antiques, from posters to taxidermy to 18th & 19thC furniture and decorative accessories. For those into antiques, fashion, jewellery, mid-century modern design, and collectables with a leaning towards the 20th century, I can’t emhasise how wonderful and unique Alfie’s is – especially in this day and age of identical high streets across the world. I’ve …

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Sam Herman Glass

Sam Herman (b.1936) is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential living glass artists and makers in the world today. After studying and helping to develop the new studio glass techniques directly under their inventors, Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino, at the University of Wisconsin, he brought them to the UK in 1965. He worked briefly with Michael Harris at the Royal College of Art, before becoming a Research Fellow there in the same year and then, a few years later, Lecturer in Glass. He went on to co-found The Glasshouse in London in 1969, helping and inspiring hundreds of glass artists, providing them with the tools, support and space to create, and the venue to sell from. In 1974, he was invited by the South Australian Government to bring his unique style, skills and studio glass techniques to Adelaide, where he founded a glass studio at the Jam Factory. On his return to England in 1979, he founded his own studio in Lots Road, Chelsea, and became an Honorary Fellow of the …

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Wilhelm von Eiff Glass

I’m a great fan of the Glass Fair at Knebworth and The National Glass Fair, and have been a regular visitor (and buyer!) since it was based in Cambridge years ago. They promise over 300 years in glass in one day, and they and the dealers who attend have always delivered it too. It’s the sheer variety available – there truly is something for everyone. I’m always on the look out for pieces that are unusual, rare and of a certain quality and I certainly found something that fulfills all those aspects last time. It was the small size of 5in (12cm) and finish that first caught my eye. The matte finish caught the light, and it almost glowed white. Looking closer, the finely-worked detail provided a feast for the eyes and for the mind. The pleasingly proportioned body is carved and engraved nearly all over with frieze of a man, a kneeling woman holding a bowl, two lions and a tree. The style perfectly combines the Antique with Art Deco – it’s a little …

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Millers Collectables Price Guide 2016

Now in it’s 27th year, the all new edition of the Miller’s Collectables Handbook & Price Guide is hot off the presses, having been published this week. I say all new, because every edition is entirely new – over 4,000 completely different collectables hand-selected by Judith and I are featured in glorious technicolour in this 432-page book. This means that every edition builds to create a unique library of collectables from across the world. Each and every item is accompanied by a price guide, a full description and often extra information, expert opinion, and tricks of the trade to help you become a canny buyer and seller. Features such as ‘Judith Picks‘, ‘Mark Picks‘, ‘A Closer Look At…‘ and ‘Miller’s Compares‘ enable you to learn more about why one object can fetch ten times the price of a (seemingly) similar one. Forthermore, hundreds of footnotes draw more of the veil back, giving easy to understand and practical tips on buying, selling – and spotting a bargain. All the collectables featured are taken from verified dealers, auctioneers and …

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Jonathan Harris Elvis Presley Cameo Graal Vase designed by Mark Hill

Me, Elvis Presley and Jonathan Harris? An unlikely combination, I hear you say. Well, I’d agree, it’s funny how seemingly disparate things can come together for some reason. But, quite often, when they do, amazing things happen. And that’s what happened here. In this instance, it was The British Glass Foundation charity that brought us together. Earlier this year, they set a ‘Doodle Challenge’ and asked celebrities, well-known faces in the glass world and local schools to produce a doodle that would then be translated into glass by a crack team of some of the best glassmasters in the country. Doodles came in from actress Emma Thompson, singers and musicians Frankie Valli, Tony Hadley, Robert Plant and Beverley Knight, chef Raymond Blanc, much-loved and recently knighted comedian Sir Lenny Henry and others. Oh, and BBC Antiques Roadshow specialists and glass addicts Andy McConnell and me. I was delighted when my doodle (left) went to my friend Jonathan Harris, the globally renowned and hugely talented and skilled cameo and graal glass artist. Looking back, he …

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been involved with the cataloguing, valuation and sale of a small collection of Murano glass once owned by the legendary businessman, politician and collector Lord Alistair McAlpine (1942-2014). Built up from the 1980s-2000s, the collection was acquired by his friend the writer and curator Karun Thakar, who has taken the decision to sell it. iInnovative online auction house The Auction Room (part of a group also including Bloomsbury Auctions, Dreweatts and Mallett)are handling the sale – which is online for viewing and bidding now. The majority of the pieces from the collection were produced by Carlo Moretti, founded in 1958. They’re most notable for their acid-finished matte display and drinking goblets, footed jars and vases in vivid colours such as light blue, yellow or red, which were released c1959. Often lined with translucent white glass, they have an unusual plastic-like appearance typical of the 1960s & 70s. Other notable designs include bi-colour swirls in white and a strong colour, in vase, ashtray and bowl forms. The …

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Monumental Blenko
BIG COLOR!

Blenko Big Color Glass

I’m a great fan of Blenko glass due to its stunning, vibrant colours and array of quirky forms. The pieces that attract me the most are the large floor decanters, with their voluptuous, sculptural curves and extravagently large stoppers. I’ve only been lucky enough to own one piece – the 22in (56cm) high Turquoise decanter shown here, which I spotted on holiday once and hauled back home – all the way from St Louis, Missouri! Alas, I sold it some years ago – all part of the perils of being a dealer and a collector I guess. I regret it as we don’t see much Blenko here as it was rarely exported from the US into the UK, and I’ve always wanted to learn more. So I was delighted when my friend Toma Clark Haines, the Antiques Diva, introduced me to Damon Crain, a researcher, dealer and collector of Blenko and other American art glass based in New York. Blenko was founded in 1921 in Milton, Virginia by British expat glassmaker William Blenko as The Eureka …

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