Posting Number 3188 Date: 05/03/19 Return to Posting List
David Goldstein spoke in an e-mail about a Tyrian "lunch box piece". This caused Helaine Fendelman to ask: "What is a lunch box piece?. Please."
The "lunch box piece" term is another term for "whimseys". In 2009 Lon Knickerbocker wrote an extensive article for the Gazette, that is reprinted in part.
from Lon Knickerbocker
A whimsey- what is a whimsey I asked? -that was in 1971 and for a long time I thought the only whimsies were sock darners- but I learned different- and I learned from the best and her name was Joyce Blake.
Whimsies, as defined by their collectors, are a non-production item generally made for personal use. These items were often given to a family member, loved one, or traded at the local watering hole for an evening of drinks. Glass companies would often require a glassblower or maker to create unusual objects to show their skills and abilities before they would hire them. Most glassblowers were from Europe and often didn't speak the language well - but could communicate fine in 'glass talk" and that's how they worked together.
Glass workers came to this country like most immigrants- to build a better life and find opportunity. The glass industry boomed in this country from the late 1700's until the 1930's - the time frame of which I will speak of here in this article.
Just a little background- then we will move onto how Carder's Steuben fits into all of this. Although there are many great books on glass and many mention and show whimsey pieces, there only two books dedicated totally to the subject. Glasshouses Whimsies by Joyce Blake and Glasshouse Whimsies 2 An Enhanced Reference by Joyce Blake and Dale Murschell. The first book is quite good but gave little information. The second book, although containing much more information has many items pictured which were not true whimsies and also included some mis-information.
I met Joyce Blake in 1984 just after the first book had gone to print- this book was mostly items from her collection and the limited information was very interesting. By 1987 when Dale Murschell and Joyce decided to collaborate on a second book- we were quite good friends. I was to proof the second book before it's going to the printer- according to Joyce, but there were a few issues, so I backed off and the book came out.
By 1995 I had put together a lot of factual information on whimsies and Joyce and I decided to try and get it right- putting together a third book. During the time we were putting all the information together Joyce had a heart attack and never fully recovered. I chose not to finish the book without her. Joyce passed away a couple years later and although we spent a lot of time together, the book was shelved. Joyce Blake was a special person, both a mentor and a very special friend, and one of the most knowledgeable persons I have ever met- about antiques and life. She was frank, at times - blunt, and always completely honest- I miss her greatly and still rely on her great wisdom.
Almost every glass company had talented glassmakers- it didn't matter whether you made art glass or blew bottles - these people were amazingly skilled. When these talent laden men grew tired of making what the company boss wanted them to make, they made what they wanted to make. The creations often turned into amazing pieces of art. There were glass canes- sometimes 10ft. and longer (I still have a 12' cane in my attic- yes of glass) Many of these canes would have 3 colors of spiraling barber pole type work- I have owned them with as many as 10 colors- you would have to see them! Glassworkers made pipes, witchballs( a story in themselves), cigarette holders, chains - which could become basically a curtain that would cover a whole wall- with awesome colors. The chains made at the Cambridge glass factory in Cambridge Ohio were some of the best. They also made small hats, rolling pins-bells and my favorite- the sock darner.
Finally to Steuben- The Corning factories were somewhat different than other factories in that the type of items were unique to the Corning area and they made few of the many items that were so popular elsewhere. Most whimsey items in Corning were made in the 1920's- 30s- you can tell this from the color range. I was personally able to sit down in the 1980's with two persons who had first hand knowledge, which helped me a lot. The first fella was a glassblower and his family has asked that I not give his name, and although he has long since passed- I still honor their request. The second person was a neighbor and personal friend of a flameworker by the name of Frank Cutler. I obviously cannot go into everything here because this would turn into a book not a short article. I have also spoken with family members of many glassworkers over the years and have seen some of the great items they created.
The most common and available whimsey in the Corning area was the sock darner. Somebody at some point discovered a darner of glass would not splinter like wood examples, thus they became very popular. Steuben made their fair share of darners and as hard as this for some people to believe- gold and blue Aurene are by far the most common and available. Steuben darners I have seen include - celeste blue, amethyst, Pomona green, selenium red, Ivrene, green jade, Verre-de-soie, mirror black, Flemish blue and crystal. The following colors I have seen only one example of- these include Spanish green, alabaster, citron, iridized ivory, iridized green jade, and heliotrope. There are also some colors that I have seen that I'm not sure of, including two different opaque yellows- which Tom Dimitroff believed one of them to be mandarin yellow- and a dark green evergreen color which I no longer own and was not sure of the color name at the time. There are also many decorated darners- generally these are calcite- gold aurene or Ivrene and are decorated with green and gold pulled feather, or heart and vine designs-they can also have other colors involved or be totally unique. Deb and I have a Flemish blue example with what appears to be mandarin yellow decoration and years ago I saw what was offered as a Rouge Flambe with aurene decoration at the Baltimore show- the price was so foolish- over $10,000, I didn't even consider it . I'm doing this from memory so I'm sure I missed some even in my own collection. I wish I could go into more detail and explain the in's and out's of glass sock darners but I'm guessing this is getting long.
Steuben also made cigarette and cigar holders, letter openers, a few canes, very scarce buttonhook and the occasional odd ball item or wildly enhanced versions of regular production items, and of course, paperweights. Based on what I have seen (leaving out paperweights - many paperweights were made at the Corning Glass Works) cigarette, cheroot and cigar holders were probably most available, and trust me if you tried to start collecting them today- you would be waiting some time to find one. I have probably seen 25-30 of these holders since my interest was peaked in the 70's. The colors of the holders I have seen include blue and gold aurene, Rosaline, mirror black, Pomona green, Bristol yellow, celeste blue, selenium red and flint white. The colors which seem most prevalent are Rosaline and mirror black- I have seen 4-5 of each of these colors. The holders are basically all the same shape and style-only the length and width seem to vary. Letter openers I have seen also would number near 25-30. I have owned 5 or 6 myself and now only have one, as I let collectors talk me out of the others- I always thought I would find more- but haven't seen one for sale in probably 8-10 years. Most of the letter openers have a clear blade and a single color handle- most often gold ruby was used. Other handle colors I've seen include amethyst, dark green ( same color as the darner color I mentioned earlier that I wasn't sure of), a blue- probably celeste, and crystal. There are other Steuben whimsies- all very scarce or rare- I know of 4 Rouge Flambe glass canes- of which my family owned 3- these were all parted with and now reside in someone else's collection.
In closing I can say this isn't even the tip of the iceberg on where you could go with information on whimsies- it's a fascinating art all unto itself. If any of you have questions I would be happy to answer on an individual basis.
Dansville, New York
September 8, 2009
A New Auction Is Coming
Submissions for consideration of the Carder Steuben and Corning Glass Auction are well under way!
This first-ever public auction will be held on Friday evening, September 20 in conjunction with the Carder Steuben Symposium in Corning NY.
The Club and Upstate Auction Company are accepting submissions for consignment from members and readers of the Gazelle Gazette until mid-May.
After that, we will be advertising to the general public for consignments.
No submissions will be accepted after July 15.
If you would like to have your items considered for this very exciting auction, please review the information on the Club's website by clicking on the Auction Detail box at the end of this article.
Pictures, descriptions, and other required information can be sent to:
Click to view image one: Whimsey.jpeg
Click to view image two: Whimsey.1.jpeg
Click to view image three: Whimsey.2.jpeg
Click to view image four: Whimsey.3.jpeg
Click to view image five: Whimsey.4.jpeg
Return to Posting List