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SITTING PRETTY; ART GLASS IS UNDERGOING A REVIVAL, THANKS TO UPDATED STYLES AND A FOCUS ON FUNCTION.

NEW YORK-"You can put flowers in it, but even if you don't, it sits there and looks pretty."

According to James Measell, associate historian at Fenton Art Glass Co., this is what the late Bill Fenton would say about his company's ware. And such is the appeal of art glass -- an item that sits there and looks pretty.

Despite the weak economy, the art glass industry is alive and thriving. "The word on the show floors is that art glass is having a bit of a revival," said Maben Smith, partner at the San Diego-based Mission Hills Trading, which sources contemporary artists from around the world and works with a number of designers in the art glass category, including the United Kingdom's Jo Downs; the Melting Pot Glassworks; Sarah Cable, also from the United Kingdom; and French artist Pascale Riberolles.

"People are appreciating the beauty of art glass in many forms -- mouth-blown or kiln-fired, with a wonderful mixture of colors," Smith said. "People are starting to realize that art is three-dimensional, not just two-dimensional, and there are a multitude of forms it can come in."

Many of those forms are not only art pieces but also are functional, which is key, said Lynda Portelli, national sales coordinator for Peggy Karr Glass. The company produces handmade fused-glass giftware, such as plates, platters and bowls, and has recently added lamps and wrought-iron stands from which to display the products. "It has to be multi-use. The trend we see lately is that the pieces have to have a function," she added. As examples, Portelli cited the plates, platters and bowls that can be used for display as well as serveware. She also noted that the company manufactures an ornament that doubles as a sun-catcher. "When it's not on a tree, it can be hung in the window," she explained.

Fenton's Measell agreed that functionality is a trend in art glass. "There's been more and more of an interest in pieces that are functional in the sense that they fit in with home decor, such as candlesticks and vases," he said. Fenton manufactures a wide variety of functional and decorative art glass items, including vases, votives, figurines, candy and bauble boxes, and pitchers.

Anca Mistorica, president of Ioan Nemtoi, has also found that functional items are among the best-selling pieces of art glass created by Nemtoi, a Romanian glass artist.

With a gallery in New York, a wholesale business and other distributors that sell to retailers throughout the United States, Nemtoi offers three levels of product lines -- the art line of one-of-a-kind items, the home decor line and the gift line -- that cover prices that range from $49 (gift line) to $5,000 (art line).

"The candleholders sell very well, as well as the platters, vases and bowls," said Mistorica. Some of the other solely decorative pieces, such as glass flowers, haven't sold as well, she added.

Adding to the functionality of its product selection, Seguso Viro will be introducing stemware to its lineup of Murano glass vases, candleholders, platters and bowls at the Spring New York Tabletop Show. The collection will include contemporary and colorful designs, and will focus on the collectible nature of the functional art glass. "We were looking at where we can move in the U.S. market as far as tableware," said Gianluca Seguso, president.

However, Robert Rainwater, Smith's partner at Mission Hills Trading, maintains that even pieces with a nominal function, such as vases or platters, are increasingly being used solely as objets d'art.

"People are looking for statement pieces that can stand alone," he said. "If you put flowers or a twig arrangement in a beautiful art glass vase, it would take away from the beauty of the piece."
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Comment:SITTING PRETTY; ART GLASS IS UNDERGOING A REVIVAL, THANKS TO UPDATED STYLES AND A FOCUS ON FUNCTION.(US)
Author:Webb, Carla; Goldbogen, Jessica
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Industry Overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 24, 2003
Words:623
Previous Article:DOMINANT FORCES.
Next Article:STEUBEN MARKS CENTENNIAL WITH PRODUCT INTRODUCTIONS.
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