Hypnotic Briard Housewares: Still captivating collectors after more than 60 years

By Donald-Brian Johnson

Georges Briard (1917-2005) has become so identified with decorative housewares (especially gold-decorated glass) of the 1950s, that even items not bearing his signature are often classified “Briard.” A native of the Ukraine, Briard (then Jascha Brojdo) emigrated

Green and blue glass mosaic on anodized aluminum plates, 7-3/4” sq.; 8-1/4” l x 5-3/4” h., priced at $35-$45; $30-$40. (Photo courtesy Leslie Piña)

Green and blue glass mosaic on anodized aluminum plates, 7-3/4” sq.; 8-1/4” l x 5-3/4” h., priced at $35-$45; $30-$40. (Photo courtesy Leslie Piña)

to the United States in 1937. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he spent World War II as a Russian interpreter for the U.S. Army, serving with General Patton.

Following the war, Briard teamed up with Art Institute colleague Max Wille and embarked on his design career. To separate commercial work from purely artistic endeavors, he adopted the professional pseudonym “Georges Briard.” The last name came as an inspiration at a dog show, the first was added to give a Continental flair.

Briard’s early success came with the use of 22-karat gold as screened decoration for “bent” (molded) glassware. The products were marketed through Glass Guild, a Briard/Wille venture. Their popularity led to arrangements with other glass manufacturers, including Libbey and Anchor Hocking. Plain glass giftware ordinarily sold in dime stores was, with the addition of Briard’s decorations, marketed to such upscale retailers as Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus.

Briard Patterns
While there many patterns associated with Georges Briard’s work, there are a selection of patterns that are commonly viewed as the most prevalent:

  • Ambrosia (Features a pineapple motif)(including many rarities)
  • Fancy Free (Hot air balloon motif)
  • Woodland Melody (Bird motif)
  • Yule Tide (Christmas tree motif)
  • Forbidden Fruit (Apple motif)
  • Persian Garden (Flowers, leaves, branches motif)

Sources: Suite101.com (Georges Briard Collectibles)
and Replacements Ltd.

During the 1950s and ’60s, Briard licensed designs to a multitude of manufacturers. His work graced (among other items) enameled cookware by Columbian Enamel, wooden cheeseboards with tile inserts by Woodland, bisque pieces by Hyalyn Porcelain, dinnerware by Pfaltzgraff Pottery and lamps by Lightolier. An association in the mid-1960s with Phillip Stetson of Stetson China proved particularly fruitful. After Stetson merged with Allied Chemical, Allied released Briard’s hugely popular line of “Artisan” melamine dinnerware.

Briard had an uncanny knowledge of what the mid-20th century homemaker wanted: Useful, non-threateningly attractive housewares at affordable prices. His design hallmarks — repetitive arrangements, often of geometric shapes, or nature-based images — retain hypnotic appeal a half-century after their creation.

About our contributor: Donald-Brian Johnson is an author and lecturer specializing in mid-20th century design. Book projects to his credit include “Postwar Pop: Memorabilia of the Mid-20th Century” and “Deco Decor: Porcelain, Glass, & Metal Accessories for the Home” (both co-written with Leslie Piña).

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