Frantisek Zemek’s Glass Designs

Now there’s a name you don’t hear every day. But it is one that you might hear more of in the future. Frantisek Zemek (1913-60) is arguably one of the lost great names in 20th century glass design, and was key to the development of hot-worked glass in Czechoslovakia.
Starting his career as a glass cutter for the Inwald group, he went on to study at the Zelezny Brod glass school, and then under the renowned Professor Karel Stipl. He worked at the Chrìbska factory in 1949, followed by the Zelezny Brod factory from 1952-57. He was also concurrently the head designer for the Mstisov factory from 1956-59. His early death in a motorcycle accident in 1960 cut off what looked to be a promising career, given his influence in the 1950s.
His most notable designs produced on a large scale were the multi-coloured ‘Rhapsody’ of 1956 & 60, and the green and blue ‘Harmony’ of 1959, but he also produced cut designs for Moser, and pressed designs for Hermanova. All were exported across the world. Today, his work is typically mis-attributed to factories on Murano, but things are changing and his contribution is beginning to be recognised.
This particular vase, devised in 1957, is an early example of his designs and was deemed important enough to be included by Josef Raban in his landmark book ‘Modern Bohemian Glass’, published in 1963. As well as being typical of Zemek’s hot-worked designs with its curving, organic form and applied trails, it also hints at machinery with its resemblance to propellers and spun screw threads. For its date, as well as for its country of origin, this design is highly Modern and progressive.
The example shown in Raban’s book was made at Mstisov, but this example is more likely to have been made at Zelezny Brod during the 1960s judging by the yellow (Citrine) and brown colouring and the precise form. They’re not all that common, and can be found in a range of colours, sizes and variations in proportions. I really rate Zemek as a good buy for the future, and think this early design is well worth looking out for. Expect to pay anything from £5 to £30 right now.
For more information about Zemek’s designs, and those of his contemporaries, see Hi Sklo Lo Sklo, published by Mark Hill Publishing.

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