Carnival Glass: A Family Visit

Along with so many more traditional collecting areas, Carnival glass seems to have fallen largely out of fashion over the past decade. This is both a shame, as I think it’s a fascinating and visually impactful area, and a wonderful opportunity as falling demand has led to lower prices, making it much more affordable. Visiting my parents last night, I met some old lovely friends of theirs from New Zealand – Max and Christina. Lively conversation soon turned to collecting, as Christina is both a studio potter and a collector of Carnival glass amongst other areas. Trips abroad for so many of us collectors can turn into shopping trips, baggage constraints considering, and Christina was no different. She visited the excellent Battlesbridge Antiques Centre in Essex, and came back with this frilled dish to add to her collection. I’m usually used to seeing pretty standard marigold dishes, but this was more than that. Made by Fenton in the US, the pattern is known as ‘Ribbon Tie’, sometimes ‘Comet’, and is typically found on dishes and …

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Dexter Loves Mdina

Regular readers of my blog will know I’m rather fond of spotting retro and antique pieces in TV series and films. After watching Tom Ford’s beautiful, visually stunning and relaxing ‘A Single Man‘, I had felt spoilt already this weekend. Poirot (lovely as it is) is too easy, so it’s the less obvious ones that prove more of an enjoyable challenge. Like me, my German friends Marc & Maiken of Utopia 2000 are fans of US hit TV series Dexter. I’d already spotted the late 1970s-80s Mdina ‘Earthtones’ Fish vase that the anti-hero lead has on his desk, but for those who missed it, here’s another shot from the latest series.

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Sam Herman & Studio Glass

I was recently quoted on the excellent ABJ Seattle Glass Online blog, talking about Sam Herman, “Arguably [he is] the greatest name in British studio glass – and pretty darned important in the global studio glass movement too. Unfairly in my mind at least, few recognise his incredible vision, abilities and importance. Without him, studio glass techniques would not and could not have spread to the UK and beyond.” I absolutely believe this, and think his star is still rising. His work has, without doubt, enormous potential for the future, marking as it does key points in the development of 20th century glass and decorative arts. Shown here is a typical ‘torso’ form made and signed by Herman, dating from the 1980s, and worth £350-450.

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…said the lady behind the desk of the antiques centre I was in as I plonked it in front of the till. Perhaps she was right. It wasn’t a shape I immediately recognised, and it had a cut and polished scooped rim that I’d usually associate with Scandinavian makers. Still, even if it was a piece of Orrefors or something, £10 didn’t seem bad at all. There was something about the colour though, I could swear it was Whitefriars. After handing over my crisp tenner, I drove home mulling it over. Did I really need another vase, especially one that I only ‘quite’ liked? Also, I don’t collect Whitefriars anyway, even if I am right about the colour and the characteristic nicely polished concave pontil mark. Books are an invaluable thing. Within seconds of flipping through Lesley Jackson’s excellent tome, I found it. I was right. It doesn’t look much, especially if you prefer something more jazzy and colourful. Designed in 1957 by Geoffrey Baxter, it represents both the popularity of Scandinavian glass at the time, and the …

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Filmed during the first ever retrospective celebration of the life and works of Frank Thrower in Summer 2006, the documentary film of Frank’s life, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, will be shown on the the Sky 2 Arts channel on Sunday 9th August at 7pm. This fascinating documentary was filmed and produced by Nigel Edwards of InHouse Productions, and was co-directed by Graham Cooley, the foremost collector of 20th century decorative arts in the UK. Graham also acts as the focal point during the film, which also includes interviews with members of Frank’s family, many of his colleagues at Dartington Glass, glass experts including Charles Hajdamach, and I. You can also see exclusive footage of the legendary FT15 ‘Ship’s Decanter’ being made, which are nothing less than spectacular. If you love glass and 20thC design, you’ll love this film, which draws to a truly tear-jerking end. Tune in to see what I mean. Copies of the film on DVD can be bought at £12 + P&P by emailing the Glass Association, who funded it, at crystal-edge@hotmail.co.uk. If …

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World Record Price For Mdina

The Mdina Glass ‘Crizzle Stone’ signed by Michael Harris – rightly dubbed the Holy Grail for many Mdina collectors – being offered by Artius Glass on behalf of a collector has sold. And it stormed home, selling for a staggering £3,400! Representing the apex of collecting, less than a dozen are currently known to collectors, with only one of those being signed by Michael. This example was in the most desirable green and ochre colourway, with a nice, clear signature on its base. Developed from the iconic ‘Fish’, this treasure was brought to light after the vendor saw an episode of the BBC Antiques Roadshow, where my colleague Andy McConnell valued an unsiged example in brown and ochre at £1,000-1,500. Whoever the buyer is, they have my sincere congratulations – it’s a cracker!

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Harris Goes Home

I’ve just got back from Broadfield House Glass Museum in Stourbridge, West Midlands, where I have been setting up the first ever retrospective exhibition of the work of Michael Harris at Mdina Glass and Isle of Wight Studio Glass. Exhausting, but enormous fun!

The exhibition contains hundreds of pieces of glass designed, and in some instances made, by Michael. The pieces have been sourced from my own collection, with gaps filled from the Harris family private collection, and the collection of a notable collector. For those of you who haven’t heard about the Michael Harris phenomenon, and how he revolutionised the production of studio art glass during the late 1960s, I suggest you read my book on the great man, published back in 2006. But I guess I would say that, wouldn’t I?! For those of you who are attending the third International Festival of Glass in Stourbridge from 22nd to the 25th August, you’ll be amongst the first to be able to visit this ground-breaking exhibition. Mdina and Isle of Wight Studio Glass has risen …

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Mdina in Hollywood hit TV series

Over the past few days I’ve become a fervent fan of US hit TV series ‘Dexter‘. It’s getting so bad that I watched four back-to-back episodes into the early hours last night, although I’m told my addiction will get far worse as the series develops! Bring it on, I say. When the serial killer with a social conscience is researching just how evil and warped his next victim is, he uses his Apple laptop from the privacy of his home. Imagine my surprise to see that accompanying him on his desk is a large Mdina ‘Fish’ vase. You can see it to the right hand side of our anti-hero in the image shown here. That the set designers have taste is beyond question – his 1950s Miami apartment is very well-appointed yet comfortable – but I think this shows a really impeccable eye.

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Now held annually, these exciting events have become firm fixtures in collectors’ diaries. Over 80 keen collectors and fans packed into the studio today for this, the second of such days. The busy schedule kicked off with a welcoming introduction from Ron Wheeler of Artius Glass. This was swiftly followed by Timothy Harris making a ‘Flower Vase’ in front a rapt audience. Next up was a lecture on the origins of British studio glass by Roger Dodsworth, the Keeper of Glass at Broadfield House Glass Museum. After a break to watch more glass being made, and even try your own hand at this most ancient of arts, a delicious buffet lunch was served. Straight up after lunch was your truly, giving a lecture (above) on the fashion for textured glass during the 1960s & 70s, and Michael Harris’ important part in that trend. It seems my choice of theme was fitting, as the most important event of the day – the unveiling of the ‘Day Piece’ – was to follow. Only available to attendees on the …

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Sam Herman – Then & Now Exhibition

Last month I had the pleasure of another meeting with Sam Herman, who is arguably the greatest name in British studio glass – and pretty darned important in the global studio glass movement too. Unfairly in my mind at least, few recognise his incredible vision, abilities and importance. Without him, studio glass techniques would not and could not have spread to the UK and beyond. Sam studied at the University of Wisconsin under Harvey Littleton who, with Dominick Labino, sowed the seeds of the movement in the early 1960s. In late 1966, Sam came to the UK on a scholarship and ended up taking over as Head of the Glass Department at the Royal College of Art. His predecessor, Michael Harris, had been bitten by the studio glass bug and left for Malta to found Mdina Glass in 1968 – the rest is history, so read my book. Sam went on to found the influential ‘Glasshouse’ in London, and work and teach in Australia. He also taught the first generation of Britain’s studio glass artists. The event …

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Mdina Magic

Yesterday, at the rather marvellous Woolley & Wallis salerooms in Wiltshire, a new world record was paid for a piece of Mdina at auction. Lot 169, the Mdina ‘Crizzle Stone’ shown below, fetched a staggering £950 – over £1,100 including buyer’s premium. Whilst this isn’t quite as much as the £1,564 paid for a large Mdina ‘Fish’ signed by Michael Harris on eBay.de in March (see below), it is important as it’s the highest price paid for a piece of Mdina in a traditional auction room environment. For those of you who haven’t read my book, the Crizzle Stone represents the apotheosis of Harris’ hallmark Fish design, and the highly complex, time-consuming techniques behind its creation. Furthermore, having researched and closely watched this area for over five years now, I am only aware of four other examples. Two of those are in a private collection related to the Harris family – primarily as they were only made towards the end of the four years that he ran Mdina Glass. Add to that the facts that Michael Harris was the only …

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Mdina on the move…

For those of you who treat buying antiques and collectables somewhat like the stock market, here’s something you will be interested in. Today, a large Mdina ‘Fish’ vase designed by Michael Harris, and also signed by him, sold for a staggering £1,564 on eBay.de! A couple of years ago, this would have probably fetched around £200, and the rise clearly shows the increasing recognition being paid to Harris and his work. Those of you who have read my book will know how rare large ‘Fish’ vases are, particularly those from the period when Harris ran the company. To find an example that is signed by him is even rarer! I think that the lucky buyer, whoever they are, owns a real treasure of 20thC studio glass. I also think that this is indicative of the price rises that lie ahead as more people reassess his contribution and start to collect.Do we rate this area as a strong BUY? If we do, get in early – you have been warned!

 

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