Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Anyone who has never made a mistake

has never tried anything new."  ~ Albert Einstein

A shelf of "crackle" glass drew my attention this week at auction.   Crackle, also called craquelle, overshot or ice glass, is actually the result of a process that was used to cover up imperfections.  
Supposedly Venetian glass makers invented the process in the 16th century (before you could buy "seconds" at the outlets).  If a glass piece came out with lines or swirls, it was submersed in cold water to cause the "cracks".  Then it was reheated to smooth the surface and seal the cracks.   Instead of disposing the damaged material, it became a manufacturing process.   Recycle, repurpose 17th century style!  And we think we are so innovative!
It became popular in the U.S. in the 1930s and maintained its popularity until the 1970s.  West Virginia was the home of five major glass companies that produced crackle, and it is well-known for its production of "off hand glass" or glass that is mouth blown.  Bischoff, Blenko, Kanawha, Pilgrim, and Rainbow all produced cruets, cups, decanters, glasses, jugs, pitchers, and vases.  Blenko is the sole survivor though, and Walter Blenko, the grandson of the founder, is President of the company.  It is always so pleasing to read about an American company that has survived since the 19th century.
Many items were copied, but reference books are available.  The new buyer of vintage is not so taken by the company name as he/she is about the look and, in this case, the color.  But, for those who are purists, research material is available, and there are some clues to the maker.  Blenko has sandlasted their name on the bottom of some pieces with an image of a hand underneath the name.  Some Pilgrim Glass pieces had a mark on the bottom that resembled a strawberry.  Tapping a file while the glass was hot made this imprint.   There are paper labels also.  So, welcome to the world of crackle...
There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.
                      ~Leonard Cohen

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