Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sea Glass

Beachcombing

My earliest memories of family picnics at the beach were of my grandmother hunched over and walking slowly looking for anything interesting. My mother would follow a few paces back to see if she missed anything. Even as a small boy I found this activity simply exciting!

Sea Glass

I heard a program on NPR Radio this past weekend about finding sea glass and it brought back a rush of happy memories. I simply LOVE sea glass. There is nothing better than walking on a beach, warm sand underfoot, the sounds of shore birds and waves crashing, …and looking for elusive sea glass. Greens, aquas, blues, whites, browns and rare reds are among the many colors to be found with a little patience and a bit of luck.

Sea glass jewelry by Lisa Hall.

Antique Bottles

My lifelong love of glass really started when I graduated from college in California. A few friends and I started the hunt for antique bottles on the weekends. I felt part treasure hunter, part historian, part anthropologist, and part sleuth. In the late 19th century many bottles were thrown in old town dumps and outhouses. The quest would begin by researching old maps and city records. It was not easy to find a virgin spot that was not already built up with new buildings. Once a productive location was found, the digging would begin. It was a hard and dirty job but it was exciting and fun. On a lucky day one might find antique soda bottles, whiskeys, medicine, tonic, or even Chinese opium bottles. The bottles were often extremely colorful in hues of amber, greens, and blues.

A bottle collector digging in Leadville Colorado.

Marla and I selling some of our antique bottles in Alameda, California.

Marla admiring our little collection when we were first married.

Tiffany lamp

Our love of glass simply exploded. I remember driving by an antique store in Denver that had a stained glass lamp very similar to the one above. I can’t remember how many times I would stop and look in the window dreaming of owning the lamp. Finally I talked Marla into buying it. The price really wasn’t very much but it was about half of my monthly salary! I guess I was a little obsessed. That’s the way collectors are.

American stained glass window

We started collecting stain glass windows. I used to sneak into 19th century apartment houses in Denver’s Capital Hill just to photograph their stain glass windows. On a New York buying trip for Wesco Fabrics I found a window from an old synagogue. I put it into a taxi and had it shipped home. I cherish it even today.

Lillian Nassau

I became interested in Tiffany glass and art nouveau objet d’art on a visit to the magical Lillian Nassau’s gallery in New York.

Tiffany lampshades at New York’s Macklowe Gallery.

A stained glass window made by Tiffany Studios.

Tiffany Wisteria lamp

The record price for a tiffany lamp is over $8,000,000!!!

Tiffany Favrile vase.

Louis Comfort Tiffany was fascinated with ancient Roman glass when he started creating Favrile glass vases in his studio. Years ago I purchased a few small Tiffany pieces in auction. I remember the shock when I found a vase in pieces from an overly zealous cleaning person. Today I do all the dusting in our glass cabinets.

The famous Paris Marche aux Puces flea market, in Saint-Ouen.

Our interest in glass really went ballistic after our first trip to the Marche aux Puces in Paris. It is supposedly the world’s largest flea market with over 200,000 weekend visitors. The term flea market is really incorrect as most of the dealers have free standing galleries. Years ago we were looking around one Saturday morning with an attorney friend from Paris. He picked up a vase made by Argy Rousseau in the 1920’s. He told me it didn’t look very expensive and asked the manager the price. After hearing $9,000, he carefully put it back on the shelf.

Le Louvre des Antiquares

When you really want to see some fantastic museum quality antiques you must visit Le Louvre des Antiquares! High prices but a really wonderful selection. Their three floors of up-scale galleries are really magnificent! At one Venetian glass gallery I spied a late 18th century dolphin stemmed wine glass that looks just like what they make today on the island of Murano.

Argy Rousseau pate-de-verre vase

Wheeled carved cameo glass vase by Daum from 1900.

Carved vase from the Daum studio in Nancy, France.

Art Nouveau vase with bronze mounts.

Vintage Murano Glass wine stem.

Every collector changes and evolves. I love vintage wine glasses from Murano. They are very difficult to find and prices are crazy!

Dolphin based candlesticks from Murano.

Dale Chihuly’s fantastic ceiling installation at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas.

I love all glass whether new or antique. The Dale Chihuly glass ceiling for the Bellagio is really amazing.

The Grand Palais in Paris.

The Grand Palais was originally built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. The use of glass to illuminate the interior was quite innovative. Few people know that there is even a police station in the basement to help protect the many exhibitions held here. The House of Chanel has used the Grand Palais for many fashion shows.

The Chapel of Sainte-Chapelle.

The private chapel for King Louis IX was Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Begun in the 13t, century Sainte-Chapelle is a masterpiece of gothic architecture and the stained glass windows are unrivaled. If you are lucky enough to pick a time when it is not swarmed with tourists just sit at the side and marvel. Few places combine the spiritual and the grand aesthetic like Saint-Chapelle. For lovers of glass art this is the pinnacle!

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