Splendor in the GLASS
From Depression-era to precious ornaments, Houston glass aficionados are constantly adding to their collections
By Melanie Saxton
One-of-a-kind treasures are the foundation of many glass collections, as well as an assortment of a particular glass types. One area collector, Mark Church, enjoys the history of the various patterns of collectible glass and pottery. He, with others who are like-minded, loves sharing his knowledge of the nomenclature and methods for identification.
“I’m a big fan of preservation of glassware,” says Church, whose passion extends to his involvement in the Houston Glass Club. Through the years he and his fellow collectors have appreciated a breath-taking range of beautiful and unique glass pieces from vintage art to post modern. “We see a wide assortment of gorgeous antique stem ware, window glass, designer glass, artwork, jars and bottles, jewelry, home décor and vintage lighting — there’s just no end to the fascinating world of glass.”
Popular Glass Collectibles
“Depression era glass, American crystal, American dinnerware, kitchenware and pottery are popular,” says Pamela Wiggins, a Texas antiques guide and author of “Buying and Selling Antiques & Collectibles on eBay.” Wiggins especially enjoys pieces from Depression-era because they are emblematic of people for whom poverty was a way of life beginning in 1929. “The rich history of each piece embraces the bubbles and imperfections, as the mass-produced items injected color and beauty into an otherwise dreary existence. Today we recognize many items used in the home during the 1930s as collectibles.”
The Hocking Glass Company and the MacBeth-Evans Glass Company are two well-known manufacturers of Depression glass. Take, for instance, a pink American Sweetheart cup and saucer from the MacBeth-Evans Glass Company, ca. 1930-1936. “Saucers are more common than cups and represent about one-quarter of the value of these sets,” says Wiggins. “Block optic cone sugar bowls, plates and saucers are eye-catching in their design and made famous by the Hocking Glass Company, circa 1929-1933.” These are just two examples in a sea of notable glass pieces.
The First Step
Perhaps a treasured tea cup heirloom has been passed down, or perhaps a figurine catches the eye. How does one become knowledgable about glass collecting? “If you find yourself drawn to glass, consider doing some research from your own computer,” says Nancy Norman, a Houston glass collector who also on the board of the Houston Glass Club.
“For instance, many who are new to glass collecting search to identify certain pieces and often connect with others who also collect. Many join the Houston Glass Club, which is a wonderful community of new and seasoned collectors. Together, people exchange information, accumulate pieces and discover new glass work that captures the imagination. Everyone is welcome to network with fellow enthusiasts. The camaraderie benefits everyone.”
A Club and a Library
The Houston Glass Club was established in January 1974 and today has approximately 100 members who come together monthly to share information, identify new found treasures, and have ongoing dialogue about the numerous depression era, elegant, and other patterns available for collecting. Members join from all walks of life and diverse interests, from professional dealers to the avid collector to those just interested in learning more about “Grandma’s old glass.”
Collecting glass art and glassware can be an adventure. There are literally hundreds of thousands of pieces in venues that range from flea markets to antique boutiques. Estate sales often lead to exquisite finds. Norman encourages members of the Houston Glass Club to make use of the club’s library, lovingly cultivated to meet the demands.
“Our library contains approximately 300 books on American glass, china, pottery and other related collectibles,” says Norman. Members may check books out on a monthly basis to learn more about their favorite patterns. New, updated glass books are added to the library on a regular basis.” The club also purchases and donates books on glassware to the Houston and surrounding libraries for the education.
The Ultimate Show
The efforts of Church and Norman reach beyond their own collections and activities in the Houston Glass Club. They are also antique show organizers or the upcoming 38th annual Festival of Glass & Antique Show and Sale, which is exciting fans of glass collecting from all areas in and around Houston.
“People travel from The Woodlands, Cy-Fair, Katy and even arrive from out of state,” says Church of this Fort Bend County event. “It is a fabulous gathering for everyone. This year we feature a glass and antique repair professional, Leigh Ann Winter, and offer a rare opportunity to get that special family treasure restored.”
This year the doors open from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, August 17; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 18; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 19 at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds in Rosenberg.
Are you pursuing an interest in glass collecting? The categories are expansive and it would take several volumes of books to address them all. Here are just a few manufacturers and patterns, some very rare:
• Antique – Brockway, Pepsi, Caithness, Cambridge
• China — Lefton, Doulton, Balleek
• Collectibles — Milk glass, glass insulators
• Depression glass patterns — Adam, American Sweetheart, Cloverleaf, Coronation, Daisy, Mayfair, Normandie, Old Cafe, Tea Room, Waterford
• Designer Glass — Fentons Burmese, Libbey, Blenko
• Glass Art — Wimberly, Viking, Fenton, Murano
• Glass Jars and Bottles — Fostoria, canning jars, old bottles, American stoneware bottles.