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Cameo glass is a form of glass art that is produced by etching and carving through fused layers of different colored glass to produce wonderful designs. This is usually done with white opaque glass figures and motifs on a dark-colored background. The technique was first seen in Roman Art of around 30 B.C.   The glass medium allows consistent and predictable colored layers, even for round objects.

In the mid-19th century there was a revival of cameo glass, who doesn’t love the the French Art Nouveau practiced by Emile Galle and the pieces signed Duam Nancy. I could spend days looking at Galle and Nancy cameo glass pieces but the Cameo glass I want to introduce you to are the Cameo Paperweights that have been made in the past 25 years (known as modern paperweights) and are still being produced today.

In the modern revival of cameo glass paperweights all of the top layer except the areas needed for the design are usually removed by an etching process — the figure areas are covered with a resistant layer of wax or some other acid-resistant material such as bituminous paint, and the blank repeatedly dipped in hydrofluoric acid, so that cameo glass is in some sense an acid etched glass. Some artist use a sand blasting technique. The detailed work is then done with wheels and drills, before finishing, and usually polishing.   It seems that in the ancient world the entire process of removing the unwanted white or other top layer was done by drills and wheels — wheel-cut decoration on glass of a single color was very common in ancient Rome. In the case of “three-layer” (or three-color) cameo, there is another layer of glass on top of the white opaque one, and further layers are possible. One Roman piece uses a record six layers.   It is not known where the ancient pieces were produced, but for want of any better suggestion most scholars think it is  likely that at least the making of the blanks was initially in the hands of imported Syrian glass-workers.

Some of the more common pieces found today are works by Barry Sautner.  Also pieces by Kelsey at the Pilgrim Glass Studio are very familiar to collectors of cameo glass paperweights.

Barry Sautner,  1952 – 2009

A beautiful cameo paperweight done by Barry with retail value listed at $9000.00. This is known as the “Lily” Sautner weight. Made at the Sautner Glass Studio in the 1980s.

     Vandermark-Merritt 1982 green cameo cut glass paperweight by Barry Sautner. Retail value $1200.00.

 

 

 

 

Barry R. Sautner, a nationally recognized glass artist, formerly of Flemington, passed away suddenly on June 30, 2009 at his home in Vero Beach FL. He was 57.

Barry was born to Elva and Alfred C. Sautner in Philadelphia in 1952, and later moved to the Flemington area, where he lived for nearly 30 years before relocating to Florida.

His background as a glass-blower in New Jersey for nearly 10 years was fueled by a passion to explore glass as a means of artistic expression. But after an illness forced him out of the sweltering heat of the furnace room, he found he had artistic visions yet to be fully realized in glass.

“Glass has always been my canvas and my voice,” Saunter said. In describing his artistic passion, he said, “In my carvings, I attempt to express my innermost feelings which for me, are difficult to express verbally. Major themes in my work have included the environment, beauty, nature, mythology, and the spiritual nature of man as well as people’s struggles with themselves. I’ve attempted to bring the past into the present and future by developing methods that challenge me to take glass carving beyond its acknowledged limits. In addition, I create each piece with a great degree of fine detail, hoping to involve and captivate the viewer with the piece and the message contained therein. I sincerely hope that my art will represent to the viewer something more than virtuoso carving.”

Beginning with shallow surface relief designs, Sautner continued to test the depths of the glass. The deeply undercut methods of the Romans were catapulted into the modern age, as the artist introduced a sand-blasting method of his own, called insculpture. Using his invention, he could hollow out an interior image in clear glass blanks. This resulted in infrastructures, previously thought to be impossible.

But Sautner saw the image inside, and revealed it to be possible. It is a remarkable skill to visualize and create an artwork in three dimensions, and the extractive methods Sautner had made his own, amaze even the most well-versed in glass art techniques. Technique aside, however, the complex, personal symbolism of Sautner’s artwork seems more daunting. He kept notebooks to record dreams at his bedside, thoughts that rushed to him at odd moments in the day.

“My work doesn’t come from my mind,” he explained to those close to him. “It comes from my heart, my feelings, my emotions. There are many times when I will sit down and just draw, then only through finishing it, realize that it’s symbolic of what is going on in my life. If you look closely at each piece you will see much hidden detail. If you look closer yet, you will see its meaning.”

Sautner’s willingness to explore monumental themes: emotions, philosophies and life transitions, speaks to people because his art’s scale is approachable and intimate. The proximity of the viewer to the piece creates an exchange on a personal level. Inspired as he was by the delicacy of ancient Roman diatreta, and the demure qualities of cameo carving, one can immediately appreciate Sautner’s skill. The complex framework of the works shows balance and sophisticated sculptural sensibilities, but their fragile nature belies their poise. Sautner removed layers, uncovered truths, and carved so deeply into this glass skin, one may see a tremulous heartbeat in each piece.

My inlaws live in Vero Beach Fl and while visiting my wife made a trip to the Sautner Studio.  She just went on and on about it.  I can see why.

Kelsey Murphy at  Pilgrim Cameo Studios- Ceredo, West Virginia – c. 1980’s – 2001

Under the direction of Kelsey Murphy, Pilgrim Glass introduced a line of cameo glass in the 1980’s. Cased glass is carved through a sandblasting process, to reveal the desired color and design. The designs are Murphy’s own pictorial scenes. All pieces are signed by Kelsey. Most are issued in limited editions and numbered.

Check out these pieces being offered at an on-line auction as well as prices actually sold for (after 4/15/2012).

Titled “Crowning Wish”. This is a 5 color cameo, very difficult to make. Signed by Kelsey Murphy. Retail value listed at $4000.00 to $7000.00.

Titled “Fall Gum” . This is a three color cameo signed by Kelsey Murphy. Retail value listed at $2000.00 to $3500.00. 

This is a 2 color weight called the Fern weight by Kelsey Murphy with a listed retail of $400.00 to $700.00.

 

 

 

I have tried to show you at least three of the different priced Kelsy cameo weights so that you have an idea of the values as compared to the amount of work and the rarity of the peice.  One thing for sure is that there seems to be an abundance of the Pilgrim Glass Studios work marketed.  However, since they are closed that may not last long.  If you want such a weight NOW is the time to buy it!  You can attend an online auction on April 14, 2012 at this address: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/catalog/29022_kelsey-murphy-cameo-glass-auction/page1  or you can check after the sale date to see what the pieces actually sold for.

Another interesting cameo artist I have found is Joye Colbeck. Joye is a glass artist located in the UK. On a recent weblog I found the following info that she shared with us. (quote) “I make my work infrequently and make for my own enjoyment. Many glass artists are quitting due to the high prices of fuel and the worldwide recession, but I’m hanging on in there because I love the process too much to see sense!. I intend to make a living from glass making again someday but since a motorbike accident I’ve struggled with a very painful arm. I blow cased vessels which are then etched to leave the design in relief on the surface. I put my pieces on sale, I’m always hoping to cover the cost of my materials, if they go for more then it’s something towards my time. If you like my work, pay what you can to support my future endeavors. I am in the process of setting up my own website to share more of what I do. Recent shoulder surgery has delayed this but I’m on the mend so it shouldn’t be long now. It has also kept me from the glassmakers chair thus the need to blow and feel the heat of the molten material is spurring on my attempts at recovery”.

I have purchased, owned and sold a few of the Colbeck weights.  They are certainly cameo in nature however probably more of a carved weight using a sandblasting technique.  I love her work. She is just great!

   SOLD!  This was a beautiful Blue glass weight of birds and trees hand carved and signed by Joye.

Made of purple glass and then hand carved.  Signed on the base in script Joye Colbeck, PPWT2, 2/50, 2009.  Currently listed in my eBay store Kelekchens.

 

 

 

 

I hope Joye is well and continues to make her excellent weights however I have not seen anything recently made or listed for sale.  They may be now hard to find.  Check for yourself.

As many of my followers and readers know, I do collect paperweights and have a fairly substantial collection of glass weights.  My collection mostly is of American artist from the 1970s – 1990s.  I have always been a huge fan of Orient & Flume, Lundberg Studios and Lotton Studios to name a few.  I love the aurene and irridescent styles that were made by these studios.  I have tried to write a pretty exhaustive article on Orient & Flume paperweights simply because it is an interesting story and the O&F studio contracted so many artist over the years. I continue to add to the Orient & Flume blog with new purchases and new sales.  Even after 35 years of collecting and paying attention to Orient & Flume’s work I still get an occasional surprise, and here is another.  I never considered that O&F would have a cameo glass weight.

   In a dust free case. Of course!   

     Ahh! There it is! The detailed carving of the surface ie; leaves and flower petals was done with a scrimshaw tool, by hand.

     This is actually a three color cameo  (two greens on white base) that has also been hand worked and polished. All exquisite hand made glass details.

 Signed by Dan Shura, 1983

    Created for and marketed by Orient & Flume Studios in Chico, CA  1983

 

 

 

 

Having collected the Orient & Flume weights for a very long time this is the very first O&F Cameo Glass weight I have seen.  Unlike other studios that I have listed above who have focused specifically on cameo weights this one is a rarity!  A very unique paperweight done by Dan for Orient and Flume.  If you would like to know more about Dan Shura be sure to read my previous blog on Orient & Flume.  Also, be sure to look at two weights that are currently for sale at the official O&F website.  Current retail prices are $2500.00 – $3000.00.  Go here:  http://www.orientandflume.com/Categories/Paperweights.aspx?sortorder=1&page=4  Listed as the Engraved Fox and the Engraved Wren.

You can find this Orient & Flume paperweight done by Dan Shura in my eBay store.  Put your cursor on my assistant, the Duck, double click and you are there.  Thanks for reading my blog and until next time Happy Collecting and remember “The best is yet to come”.

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You might think that after writing the articles about Steven Lundberg and Orient and Flume that  I would consider the last of the top three American Art Glass Studios, Charles Lotton in Crete Illinois. Although Lotton glass is very collectible, the studio I have chosen to write about is quite unfamiliar to most, even to the collectors who specialize in paperweights from the 1970 – 1990  time period.  Many paperweight collectors are not familiar with the Intaglio Levay Glass Studio that was once located in a defunct schoolhouse in Alton, Illinois, only a few hundred miles from Charles Lotton. There is a wealth of information about this studio, some factual and some very “bizarre” as many from the midwest would say. It is a story filled with some mystery and innuendo collected second hand by me.  Much of this information has been digested by me and regurgitated with my own spin or take on the events. That is to say that the conclusions are my own.

Intaglio Glass Studios (and a few other names) was the brainchild of Gary Levi.  His history is both interesting and controversial depending on who you talk to but not in question is the exquisite “cypriote”, Tiffany style, iridescent paperweights that he marketed.  The most interesting features of the work are the shapes and colors of the creations.  Although Gary’s studio  was never truly “discovered”  as an art glass paperweight collector I consider the glass paperweights to be exceptional although it can and has been said that his business acumen was dismal, but that was not for lack of effort.

Gary Levi was born in 1945 and by the age of 10 realized he wanted to be in the merchandising business. Gary’s original family name was Levay which is Hungarian. An ancestor changed the name from Levay to Levi in the late 1800s. In 1964 Gary Levi was employed as a railroad clerk and became interested in antiques. I met Gary Levi on a hot summer day at an estate auction in the Quincy, Illinois area. I was in my mid 20’s at the time, an avid but with limited funds, Victorian furniture enthusiast.  I was serving in the military and home on leave visiting my parents who were both collectors of fine antiques. As usual for us going to huge farm auctions and estate sales in the Midwest was an all day affair where you could visit with neighbors, old acquaintances and get caught up on all the latest gossip.  Lunch was always served and usually homemade. My mother who grew up on a farm in the area, knew all of the families, so when their estates were liquidated she knew just about what the inventory for auction would be and which sales had the nicest pieces.  Getting stupendous “finds” on the cheap were common. I remember buying a small signed Tiffany vase for 50 cents.

At this particular estate sale, Gary came to the auction near the end of the day when the furniture was being sold. He was a short but stout man in his mid to late thirties, auburn red hair, freckles and although he didn’t have a commanding presence he no doubt was very sure of himself and it showed in how he conducted his business.  There was a very large assortment of antique furniture and Gary bought most of it at what I considered to be very high prices.  My mother, always the teacher, explained to me that Gary Levi would buy furniture, load it into his large, white, horse trailer and haul it to the west coast to sell to dealers for a profit. It was obvious to me that those few who just wanted this piece or that for their home and from this estate were pretty put out with the price run up by Gary and especially disappointed that they didn’t get that piece they had their heart set on. This kind of business by Gary would in my opinion later damage his business reputation.  Even today I find that many who knew Gary or of Gary are critical of his business transactions and how he managed his business. He was aggressive and most likely had a Type A personality.

Little did I know at that time that Gary’s true love was art glass. Or even that he would later become a glass artisan or that he was a successful glass distributor.  In my research I had found information that he had opened his first store in 1966. I am not sure if that was an antique store or a glass store but it is noted that he started selling fine quality giftware, limited editions through a mail order business.  His idea was to provide a quality product to glass dealers at reasonable prices. Gary was in contact with different glass companies and would request that a certain amount of an item be made (limited editions), then he would wholesale that glass to dealers. The deal became more profitable when the glass companies agreed to prepackage the limited editions and ship directly to the dealer (drop shipping). Gary was a distributor for many of the major glass companies.  So you can see that really he had a good thing going at a period when mail order was big business and drop shipping as well as personal branding was virtually unheard of. His operation was based in the midwest around Edwardsville Il.  I have found quite a number of advertisements in the newspapers for his Gift glass in the small towns surrounding Edwardsville.

Gary Levi had a long connection with the Fenton Art Glass company that began in the 1970’s. This eventually led to his buying of Fenton cullet when his glass studio needed glass to make their own glass creations. This is not an unusual arrangement. Many glass studio artist purchase cullet from major glass companies to use in their own creations rather than making glass from scratch. Gary had Fenton make several runs of carnival glass for his company. The unique aspect of this arrangement being that the colors used were not a part of Fenton’s regular line.  Fenton, Westmoreland, Imperial, Crescent Glass and L.E. Smith all pressed glass for Gary Levi and his Limited Edition Glass mail order business. Most of this glass was signed by the glass company but only a few had a Levay logo pressed into it or otherwise marked as Levay Glass (branding). Some of the pieces of carnival glass were made by Westmoreland as well. Most of the art glass pieces were made by Imperial. The newer items 1980 – 1990 were signed and also numbered. So you will still find art glass pieces not signed but marketed by Levay. I often see these pieces advertised as experimental pieces made by Levay but they were not  made by his glass studio really. This causes some confusion and doubt in my mind on just whether or not Gary Levi ever handled any “hot” glass.  Did he personally handle and make these paperweights I have collected?  It is a good question and hard to answer.

There also seems to be some speculation about whether or not Levay had purchased glass molds from Westmoreland Glass. Westmoreland stopped producing glass in 1984 and closed their doors. Are these molds in the old Alton schoolhouse where Gary had his glass operations until the mid 1990’s?

I think it is important to mention that there were probably many who felt that Gary Levi was a usurper of the collectible glass from the well-known glass houses he dealt with.  As a collector and talking with many collectors, being taken with a reproduction, fake or fantasy piece is always a concern. An example would be Nippon. Nipponears are very loyal to the items they collect. In the 1970’s there were many knockoffs or fakes imported from China that actually had Nippon clearly stamped on them.  This caused much confusion and consternation among Nippon collectors and to this day I get emails from people who ask me. “Is this a real piece of Nippon”? Or a better example is the Galle reproductions made in China that clearly mimic the beautiful lamps and glass works made by Emil Galle in the 1920s. They even have the exact Galle signature carved into them.  This has definitely depressed the prices of even original Galle glass.  However, with any repro or fantasy piece, if you have ever owned an original and held it in your hands the fantasy pieces become easier to recognize. Now put yourself in the genre of being a Fenton glass collector in the 1980s.  You buy a beautiful piece of art glass that has the Fenton logo on it only to find out it also has this ugly frog looking logo on it. What is that anyway? Must be a manufacturing defect! Nope, it was marketed by Levay Distributing also known as the Intaglio Levay Glass Company. If you are a collector of any original period items I know you understand what I am saying. Remember that this is before anybody was doing personal branding that today is an everyday occurrence, think generic drugs etc. All of that is personal branding and huge in the business arena today. Gary was certainly ahead of the power curve and of his time in marketing and manufacturing collectible glass. Was he a marketing guru, a glass maker, both or none of the above?  The failure or success of his glass studio tells at least part of the real story.

In 1984 Gary Levi stopped having Limited Edition carnival glass made under the name of Levay.  I believe his base was in  Alton Il. There is a short article in Glass Review, November 1984,  p. 32 that notes the Victorian Art Glass Company and states that it is a subsidiary of the Levay Distributing Company and so the confusing and often criticized business saga of Gary Levi’s Intaglio Levay Glass begins.  An ad in the February 1985 issue of Glass Review also states that Gary Levi started making his own glass on October 11, 1984. This date coincides with the purchase of some glass making machinery by Gary and I am sure is when he registered his glass studio as a business.  At this time I believe he his business location was in Alton on Wood River. It wasn’t until 1990 that he purchased an old schoolhouse in Alton Il to use for his operations. Known locally as the Milton Schoolhouse, the building itself has quite a reputation including even ghost that haunt the property. I came across an article in the Alton newspaper stating that in November 1991 Gary Levi actually purchased the Milton Schoolhouse and was building a new 10000 square foot receiving warehouse for his distributing operation. The schoolhouse was listed as having 50000 square feet.  I think you will agree that is a substantial size property for glass making and marketing.  The article also noted that Levay had approximately 100 employees and five glass artisans or makers.  I wish I could tell you who those five were but at this time I don’t know. One might have been Susan Carr.  In other articles I had seen some hiring ads.  Gary was looking for employees for assembly and the ad states that they did gluing of glass pieces together.

Gary Levi had many registered business names and he wore many hats. The only question is was one of those hats “a hands on glass maker?” It was in 1990 that Gary purchased from a Michael Ladd a business called Intaglio Designs Ltd.  The business agreement was quite involved and complicated. The purchase price is public knowledge and registered at $277,983.18. In addition, Michael Ladd became an employee as a Vice President of the new company with a three year contract, a salary and five years of payments from Levay. The contract basically lasted from 1991 to 1997.  The purchase involved 490 shares of  privately held stock by Levay. Gary also had investors and I have seen a copy of a document where at least one investor put up $100,000.00. That is a lot of zero’s for the 1980s. I am sure there were many others of less denominations. The company never went public it was all private stock.  Any person who has owned a business understands the impact investors can have on your business.  Although investors are not normally involved with the daily operations of the business they certainly have the power to decide how profits are spent and losses are handled. It is obvious to me that Gary was advancing to the next level in the early 1990’s in his business operation so it must have been quite profitable to be able to fund those kind of numbers.

My own personal history of collecting paperweights became intermingled with Gary Levi when I received a beautiful and very unusual art glass paperweight as a birthday gift given to me from my wife. It was my fortieth birthday.  At the time and for many years we did not know who the maker of this beautiful paperweight was although it did have a stylized mark pressed on the base. It wasn’t until much later I learned that it came from the Levay studio and I was hooked.  From that time on I have collected these unique paperweights marketed by this studio and have built a respectable collection. It was also at this time that I started researching and collecting information about Gary Levi and Levay.

                                                                      

The first of many. This paperweight is a pearlized white with iridescent cobalt threads across the top. Absolutely my wife’s favorite.  Size is 3 1/4 inches and weight is 1 lb. 3.2 oz. Marked with the Intaglio Levay mark impressed into the glass in the concave base. Purchased in 1992 at June’s Antiques in Quincy IL.,  across from Baldwin Park on the downtown square.

 

I gave you the exact location because right next door to June’s Antiques was another antique store. Gary Levi’s Antique Furniture Store! It had been there for many years and although I had wandered around inside admiring the antique furniture I am sure I never saw any glass being displayed or sold!

In collecting Intaglio Levay paperweights I have come across many Levay art glass creations. To name a few, bowls, vases, oil lamps, glass orbs or witch balls and garden stones. I have found that often the sellers of these objects have no idea who made it or where it came from. Some confuse the paperweights with the garden stone glass decorations. 

In addition to paperweights marked Levay there are paperweights marked Intaglio Anton which were also marketed by Levay Distributing. Susan Anton Carr was and is a glass designer and my understanding, was a designer for Gary Levi designing many of  the creations that were made. She did a wonderful job!  The color, creativity and styles for the period are second to none in my opinion.  Were these beautiful paperweights made at Gary’s glass studio in Alton Il. specifically for Levay?

I have counted six different Levay markings on these paperweights. The markings can also help to date a paperweight, for instance a certain mark might indicate pre-Alton.  Gary did market glass in Edwardsville, IL prior to the Alton studio and I believe I have a piece or two made after he abandoned the Alton studio.  Below you will find a few that I have and what I believe is the date and place made:

                                                                

A Levay Hanging Hearts paperweight signed on the bottom LV-132 probably made prior to the Intaglio name being registered.

 

 

                                                            

 

 

 

The person I purchased this from did not know the name and when I told them it was made from Fenton cullet they said “Oh, I just love Fenton glass!”  Hand signed Levay and dated 1985.

                                                           

 

 

 

A very nice crackle glass paperweight marked Intaglio Anton. Designed by Susan Anton Carr.

                                                                                                                                             

         Amazing Colors!  The paperweight has the stylized Intaglio Levay mark on the base.

 

 

    

     Marked with an imprinted LEVAY no other marks. Was this paperweight made by one of Gary’s five glass artisans at Alton?

 

              

 

  Here is another Intaglio Anton weight.

 

 

 

 A hollow paperweight with the Intaglio Levay stylelized logo.

 

 

 

  Marked with the stylelized logo. I love the shapes and styles of these paperweights.

 

 

 

 

   Gorgeous Intaglio Anton.

 

 

 

 

   

 

 Small Intaglio Anton

  

 

 Excellent MINT condition. Have you ever seen more beautiful paperweights? Hot stamped LEVAY, no other markings.

 

 

 

  Same size and shape as the weight above but with a different marking. This one is Intaglio Anton.

 

 

 

 

    One has pink threads and the other blue threads. The threads are iridescent. Both weights are marked Intaglio Anton.

 

 

 

 

 

  A wonderful blue crackle glass weight marked Intaglio Anton.

 

 

 

 

 Hand printed mark Levay, no date. Was this made after Gary locked the doors to his Alton property and walked away?

 

 

 

 Each of these three paperweights have the stylized Levay mark on the base however I purchased them directly from Fenton. Did Fenton make these paperweights for Gary or were they just being a distributor for him?  If they were selling for him then these were most likely made at the Alton Glass studio.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t really collect the egg shaped weights but these two landed in my inventory.  One is Intaglio Anton and the other is hand signed Levi 95.

 This is a part of the collection I have that I term as “Cypriote glass.  I can tell you that in my collection it is the most colorful section when displayed and draws many comments and conversations.

A few years ago I purchased a very nice paperweight made by Gibson and hallmarked as such.  It wasn’t until I started researching Levay that I came across a sales ad that showed that particular style and color weight. Was Levay marketing for Gibson or did Intaglio Glass Ltd. purchase from Gibson a Levay branded product?

                                                     

  This is a Gibson PW most likely made from Fenton cullet as Gibson was known to purchase cullet from       Fenton.

 

 

 What I find interesting about this particular weight is that Levay marketed and sold this paperweight in the 1990’s. 

I still have much more info on Levay and Gary Levi so I hope you will return to read the additional writing I will do on this article each week.  I also have many more photos of Levay weights I have collected. 

Some of the questions still to be answered:

Why did Levay Distributing close their doors all of a sudden in the mid 1990’S?  Gary Levi locked the doors one day and never returned!

Did Gary Levi design these paperweights? 

Was Gary a gaffer?  Did he personally make glass paperweights or pay others to do the work for him?

Did Inatglio Levay declare bankruptcy?

Why did Gary let the distribution center (Milton Schoolhouse) stand locked and shuttered for more than 10 years full of antique/modern glass, paperweights and his antique furniture collection?

What is the status of the old Milton Schoolhouse today?

Why did Gary’s widow refuse to go to the abandoned Levay center (Milton Schoolhouse) after his death?

Was the reason for Gary’s glass business failure do to mismanagement, embezzlement and/or prolific employee theft?

That’s it for today. Be sure to check out what I am selling at my eBay store Kelekchens. To go there now place your cursor on my assistant (the duck) and click to enter. I will continue to research and work on this piece until I have it to my satisfaction before moving on. So…until next time “Happy Collecting” and remember “the best is yet to come”.

 

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Smoking has been accepted into culture, in various art forms, and has developed many distinct, and often conflicting or mutually exclusive, meanings depending on time, place and the practitioners of smoking. Pipe smoking, until recently one of the most common forms of smoking, is today often associated with solemn contemplation, old age and is often considered quaint and archaic. Cigarette smoking, which did not begin to become widespread until the late 19th century, has more associations of modernity and the faster pace of the industrialized world. Cigars have been, and still are, associated with masculinity, power and is an iconic image associated with the stereotypical capitalist. Smoking in public during the Victorian age was something reserved for men and when done by women was associated with promiscuity. In Japan during the Edo period, prostitutes and their clients would often approach one another under the guise of offering a smoke and the same was true for 19th century EuropeArt.

The earliest depictions of smoking can be found on Classical Mayan pottery from around the 9th century. The art was primarily religious in nature and depicted deities or rulers smoking early forms of cigarettes.  Soon after smoking was introduced outside of the Americas it began appearing in painting in Europe and Asia. The painters of the Dutch Golden Age were among the first to paint portraits of people smoking and still lifes of pipes and tobacco. For southern European painters of the 17th century, a pipe was much too modern to include in the preferred motifs inspired by mythology from Greek and Roman antiquity. At first smoking was considered lowly and was associated with peasants.  Many early paintings were of scenes set in taverns or brothels. Later, as the Dutch Republic rose to considerable power and wealth, smoking became more common amongst the affluent and portraits of elegant gentlemen tastefully raising a pipe appeared. Smoking represented pleasure, transience and the briefness of earthly life as it, quite literally, went up in smoke. Smoking was also associated with representations of both the sense of smell and that of taste.

In the 18th century smoking became far more sparse in painting as the elegant practice of taking snuff became popular. Smoking a pipe was again relegated to portraits of lowly commoners and country folk and the refined sniffing of shredded tobacco followed by sneezing was rare in art. When smoking appeared it was often in the exotic portraits influenced by Orientalism. Many proponents of post-colonial theory controversially believe this portrayal was a means of projecting an image of European superiority over its colonies and a perception of the male dominance of a feminized Orient.  They believe the theme of the exotic and alien “Other” escalated in the 19th century, fueled by the rise in popularity of ethnology during the Enlightenment.

In the 19th century smoking was common as a symbol of simple pleasures; the pipe smoking “noble savage”, solemn contemplation by Classical Roman ruins, scenes of an artists becoming one with nature while slowly toking a pipe. The newly empowered middle class also found a new dimension of smoking as a harmless pleasure enjoyed in smoking saloons and libraries. Smoking a cigarette or a cigar would also become associated with the bohemian, someone who shunned the conservative middle class values and displayed his contempts for conservatism. But this was a pleasure that was to be confined to a male world; women smokers were associated with prostitution and was not considered an activity in which proper ladies should involve themselves.  It was not until the turn of the century that smoking women would appear in paintings and photos, giving a chic and charming impression. Impressionists like Vincent Van Gogh, who was a pipe smoker himself, would also begin to associate smoking with gloom and fin-du-siècle fatalism.

While the symbolism of the cigarette, pipe and cigar respectively were consolidated in the late 19th century, it was not until the 20th century that artists began to use it fully; a pipe would stand for thoughtfulness and calm; the cigarette symbolized modernity, strength and youth, but also nervous anxiety; the cigar was a sign of authority, wealth and power. The decades following World War II, during the apex of smoking when the practice had still not come under fire by the growing anti-smoking movement, a cigarette casually tucked between the lips represented the young rebel, epitomized in actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean or mainstays of advertising like the Marlboro Man. It was not until the 1970s when the negative aspects of smoking began to appear; the unhealthy lower-class loser, reeking of cigarette smoke and lack of motivation and drive, especially in art inspired or commissioned by anti-smoking campaigns.  This may have been due largely to the Aquarius generation where flower power and Peace culminated in smoking cannibus. A serious collector of tobacciana can build a tremendous collection around the 1970’s era drug culture.  It could be called the “Hippie” collection. Ha ha.

Here are some of the ash rescepticles that I have collected for their beautiful art form.  Most are Asian, Hand Painted, Nippon or Noritake.

                   

                   

              

Collection of Nippon ashtrays, all hand-painted prior to 1921.

 

                   

         

Hand Painted enamel Moriage ashtrays, made in Japan, ca. 1930s – 1940s.

 

                        

Collection of Lusreware ashtrays, Made in Japan, ca. 1940s – 1950s

              

Noritake, Hand painted and Made in Japan after 1921.

 

Glass and Brass, Roaring 20s ahstray and humidor.

 

No “butts” about it this is a good sized collection of Japanese ashtrays. All are being sold on eBay at my store “Kelekchens” or you can contact me through this post by entering your request under comments. Just leave your request and a way for me to contact you .  To see these items in my store and other collectibles put your cursor on my assistant “the duck” and press enter.  Until next time happy collecting and remember “the best is yet to come”.

 

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There are a number of Nippon pieces decorated with desert scenes. This seems to be a popular and highly collectible motif at this time. The pieces found feature palm trees, Bedouin tents, mosques and other buildings, and Arabs on camels.  Some of the Middle Eastern men are found wrapped in a long white robes with a hood that is called a jalabijya.  Most of these scenes are realistic looking. 

From my collection:

         

A beautiful Nippon Stein with Desert Scene. Maker’s mark #47.

 

    

A very nice Camel Rider, Nippon ashtray with the Makers’ mark #47.

 

         

Palm Trees on the Oasis, marked with the Maker’s mark #47.

 

The Arab/Desert scene vases seem to command the highest prices.  A recent auction of a particularly nice camel rider urn 16″H sold for over $2000.00.

As I said earlier this is a popular motif.  To see more of my Nippon collection visit my store at : 

Just put your cursor on my assistant “The Duck” in the upper right hand corner of this post and press enter.

Until next time Happy Collecting and remember that “The best is yet to come.”

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Among Nipponear’s the Cleopatra’s Barge Scene is  familiar.  You can find this motif on chargers, plaques, vases, urns, smoking sets, and jugs, both the wine and whiskey jug.  The story goes that Cleopatra fell in love with Marc Antony and they ruled Egypt and Rome together.  It was said that Cleopatra once came sailing up the river Cydnus on a barge that had outspread sails of purple and oars of silver. The barge supposedly had a gilded stem and Cleopatra sat under a canopy of gold cloth dressed as Venus.  A sight to behold I am sure.

But since we were not there we can only dream and imagine what the royal lives of such as those like Cleopatra was truly like.  To help us imagine such scenes are the beautiful hand painted artwork of Japanese painters from the early 20th century.

         

This is a very nice 12″ charger of  Cleopatra’s Barge, matte finish. The name given this Nippon motif.  Recently purchased and added to my collection.

A very similar 10 1/4″ wall plaque with the Nippon green mark #47 is listed in Joan VanPatten’s ABC’s of Collecting Nippon Porcelain on page 203 and listed at $400.00 to $475.00, 2005 price guide. With the charger I received a nice bonus piece.

    

Vase 5 1/2″ with excellent gold gilding, matte finish.  Mint condition.  Green mark #47.

  

Most normally you will find Cleopatra’s Barge motif in orange background with lavender highlights but occasionally you may see a “hard to find” piece that is particularly alluring such as this lavender/blue Cleopatra’s barge. Note that the bow of the barge is different but the background scene is the same.  This ashtray is not in a VanPatten book and I own all 7 series. I was excited to get this piece. However there is a wall plaque of a blue Cleopatra’s Barge lavender/blue as shown in The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Nippon, Joan VanPatten 1979, Plate 355 on page 217.

    

Cleopatra’s Barge motif in lavender/blue with white highlights, an unusual find.  Ashtray is 3 1/2″ C  by 1  1/4″ H  Green mark #47

If you are collecting Nippon or Noritake I would highly recommend some reference books on these wares.  Not necessarily to find items that are listed in the books but to find the items that are not listed.  Those not listed are the most exciting because you never know,  that one piece might be a “hard to find” piece or production from that mold and/or the color is uncommon. 

I would recommend the Nippon books by Joan VanPatten and also The Wonderful World of Nippon Porcelain 1891 – 1921 by Kathy Wojciehowski.  It wouldn’t hurt to also have Noritake Collectibles A to Z by David Spain.  I come across many Noritake pieces that are the same mold and even the same design as Nippon pieces and sometimes just as well painted although without the “Nippon” on the backstamp.   Also a copy of 2010 Antique Trader by Dan Brownell or a Kovell’s 2010 price guide. Indispensible for collecting and antique-ing.

Here are a few more very nice recent acquisitions:

Nippon wall plaque, 10 1/4″, green mark #47. Listed in VanPatten’s ABC of Collecting, 2005 on page 300.  Mint condition.

  

Very similar to the “Green Swan Scene.”  8 3/4″ plaque also listed in the ABC’s of Nippon by VanPatten. Blue mark #52 which dates this plaque to as far back as 1891.

  

Nippon 10″ plaque, country cottage in brown, pink and lavender highlights with beautiful enamel moriage trim. Green mark # 47.

  

Just a note about plates, plaques and chargers. A plate is not just a plate.  If labeled a plaque it has two holes on its backside to hang the plaque on the wall. A charger is normally larger than a 9 1/2″ plate, usually 12″ to 14″ and can be round or square. Does not hang without a bracket to hang it with.  Normally displayed on a large plate holder which occasionally comes with the plate otherwise you would have to buy one.  A plate usually has multiple copies and ranges from 9″ to 9 3/4″ and normally does not have ornate moriage trimwork. Plates should have matching pieces ie; cups, saucers, bowls etc.

Soon I will be receiving a shipment of more hard to find and interesting pieces of Nippon so make sure to check back often. Until then Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come.”

  

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The American Civil War (1861–1865) also known as the War Between the States was a conflict of major proportions and changed the lives and history of Americans forever.  Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). Led by Jefferson Davis, they fought against the United States (the Union), which was supported by all the free states and five border slave states.

In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had campaigned against the expansion of slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republican victory in that election resulted in seven Southern states declaring their separation from the Union even before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. Both the outgoing and incoming US administrations rejected the legality of secession, considering it rebellion.

Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a US military installation at Fort Sumpter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state, leading to declarations of secession by four more Southern slave states. Both sides raised armies as the Union assumed control of the border states early in the war and established a naval Blockade. In September 1862, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a war goal, and dissuaded the British from intervening.

Confederate commander Robert E. Lee won battles in the east, but in 1863 his northward advance was turned back after the Battle of Gettysburg and, in the west, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River at the Battle of Vicksburg, thereby splitting the Confederacy. Long-term Union advantages in men and material were realized in 1864 when Ulysses S. Grant fought a battle of attrition against Lee, while Union general William Sherman captured Atlanta, Georgia, and marched to the sea. Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars in human history. Railroads, steamships, mass-produced weapons, and various other military devices were employed extensively. The practices of total war, developed by Sherman in Georgia, and of trench warfare around Petersburg foreshadowed World War I. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era that lasted until 1877.

What American hasn’t heard of the Civil War or possibly seen a Civil War artifact?  When I was about 12 years old my family took a road trip by car, driving from our small farm in Barry IL to Corsicana TX where a great aunt lived.  My mother, a major antique collector and history buff carefully planned the route down the old Route 66.  Along the way were many stops at Civil War battlefields and museums.  She took it upon herself to make sure my brother and I understood the consequence the Civil War had on our United States and how it affected the American people forever.

I was never a collector of Civil War artifacts per se although always interested in this momentous area of collecting.  Civil War collector’s are some of the most dedicated and zealous American collectors I have known and can usually cite the exact history, dates of battles, weapons used, units involved etc. more so than other areas of collecting.  Some collector’s had so many artifacts they collected they opened museums of Civil War history or started business enterprises evaluating, buying and selling these artifacts. Many of the States now have microfilmed records of battles fought, units involved and even list the state’s individual citizens and their involvement in this war. It is a very interesting period of history and makes for fabulous collecting.

Having served in the U.S. military myself for 23 years I can relate to many of the artifacts collected and their use in war.  Somehow, a few of these artifacts came into my possession.  Being a collector I guess I have a knack for recognizing what is collectible.  I usually hold onto things I think are really neat and have historical significance.  Here is my story and the few items I have collected from the Civil War.

    

A 1987 Limited Edition, Don Stivers print titled “First Sergeant”

This print by Don Stivers was purchased for me as a gift from my wife in 1994 just prior to my retirement from the Army as a First Sergeant.  It is a hand signed copy, number 1535 of 2000.  Don Stivers died in November 2009.  Don Stivers painted many scenes of and portraits of the Civil War era. You will not be able to purchase this print as it is very rare.  Those that own them will not part with them.  That makes them very collectible and valuable.  This one is not for sale.  One of the reasons I wanted to show you the print is to have you look at the First Sergeant’s sword as depicted in the print.

The sword or M1840 enlisted Calvary saber in the print is just like the civil war sword that I own.

         

An 1840 Civil War Sword Made by Horster.

 

Above is a M1840 Civil war sword made in Germany by Horster of Solengen.  There are many makers of Civil War swords some U.S. such as Ames and even Tiffany of New York and some imported from Europe such as this one.  This is a weapon that was used by a Union Officer. On the guard you will see stamped numbers.  These are called rack numbers, and were used as an accounting system. They were stamped on the sword by a quartermaster.  They don’t really tell us much about the sword as records were not kept, however, it does give us a bit of a feel that the sword was really “there”.  The fact that this sword was an enlisted saber doesn’t rule out that an officer carried the sword.  It was easy for an officer to appropriate an issued sword from the quartermaster rather than risking damaging a much nicer weapon that he had to purchase himself. This sword could possibly have stayed in service up to 1906.  NOTE:  This sword is not in perfect condition as the leather handle wrap is gone as well as the wire wrap that held it in place.  It would cost some pretty good money and time and effort to restore this sword to it’s prior glory. That being said, this is a valuable artifact that was used in the Civil War.

With the sword I also have a picture:

This is a photo of a Union Officer who supposedly carried this sword that I have. 

 

The thing to note about the photo is that it is not a tintype photo.  It is what is known as a cabinet card which dates it to about 1870.  Five years after the Civil War ended. Even though the photo is damaged (broken down the middle and repaired) it is still a very good likeness of a Union Officer and can be researched using a book called The Horse Soldier vol. II, 1851 – 1880

Some other interesting artifacts I have from this period is a Named Civil War Pattern Ladder Badge:

         

This is an ID’d Pattern Civil War badge made by the J.S. Ginger Co. of St Louis. This badge is 145 years old.

 

This is an authentic ID’d ladder badge, presented to Isaac J. Ogle, Co D, 50th Illinois Infantry.  The 50th Volunteers known as the Blind Half Hundred was organized at Quincy ILL in the month of August 1861 and mustered into service on Sept 21 1861.

Pvt. Ogle joined this unit on Aug. 19 1861, age listed as 20 years old.  If you would like to know more about this badge visit my eBay store and search for Militaria Kelekchens and read the sales ad I have with all of SGT. Ogle’s info.  Just go to My Assistant, (The Duck) in the upper right hand corner of this post. Put your cursor on the duck and press enter.

Here are some more period pieces, a Souvenir Badge dated 1922 and a desk/secretary made just prior to the Civil War.

 

That is it for today.  Come back often as I buy, trade, sell and build on the many different collections that I have.  Next post I will show you some of the Military artifacts I have from WWI and WWII. 

Until then Happy Collecting and remember “the best is yet to come.”

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There are two trains of thought behind occupational steins.  The most prevelant is that of “what kind of work you do”.  Many steins have been made and given over the years as gifts to artisans who possibly did some qaulity work for a customer and the customer wanted to show their appreciation.  There are those collectors that specialize in steins depicting one’s occupation. 

The representation of the occupation is usually shown on the body, lid, and/or thumlift.  The scene is most normally of a worker in action or in uniform, or the products or tools of the occupation are shown.

         

This is an “Occupation” stein of a Coal Miner.

 

The coal miner stein has Maker’s Mark  – Simon Peter Gerz, c. 1900 to 1960, Germany.  Gerz steins are still made today.

 

Some occupational steins are at first glance hard to recognize as “occupation” steins.  An example would be bucket, stirrer or scoop in a barrel (brewer), scissors and divider (tailor), oxheads or pretzels (butchers and bakers).  Books would indicate professional occupations such as lawyers or teachers.  When famous craftsmen are depicted such as Johan Gutenberg the Hapsburg Double Headed Eagle will be depicted.

Occupational steins can be found from all eras and in all materials.  The most commanly collected occupationals are those from around 1900 that have steepled pewter lids and porcelain or stoneware bodies.

Thats it for today fellow collectors.  In my next post I will discuss a few steins from the War years, primarily WWII. So until then Happy collecting and remember the best is yet to come.

NOTE:  Don’t forget to look for my updates in all post as I buy, sell and trade in each collection. (update to “Taking Care of Your Nippon” Collection)

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