Stunning auction highlights 107 years of glass making heritage
By James Measell, historian, Fenton Art Glass Co.
DEXTER CITY, Ohio – Auctioneer Randy Clark’s Auction Gallery was the scene for a fabulous sale of 400 lots of Fenton glass on April 21, 2012. Fenton staff members at the factory in Williamstown, W.Va., chose items from all eras of Fenton’s rich 107 years of history, and more than 250 Fenton fans attended the sale.
There was something for everyone: early opalescent and Carnival glass; offhand pieces from the mid-1920s; stretch glass; opaque and transparent colors from the 1920s-30s, as well as acid etched items; Cranberry, Cranberry Opalescent and crested pieces from the 1940s-60s; and many hand-painted pieces by Fenton artists Louise Piper, Martha Reynolds, Frances Burton, Michael Dickinson, Susan Bryan, Robin Spindler, Linda Everson, Kim Barley and Michelle Kibbe. Offhand creations by glass artisans Angelo Rossi, Dave Fetty and Frank Workman were up for auction, along with unique cameo carved items by Kelsey Murphy and Robert Bomkamp.
The sale also featured some original metal signs and other interesting items from the Fenton factory. Prices quoted in this report include the 10 percent buyer’s premium.
Knowledgeable Fenton collectors accurately predicted “plenty of competition” and “some record prices.” The first piece on the block was a spectacular “developmental proof” Favrene oval vase with cameo carved grapes and leaves by cameo artists Kelsey Murphy and Robert Bomkamp ($798). Other cameo items by Murphy and Bomkamp were: artist’s proof Burmese “Aztek” vase ($440); artist’s proof Burmese “Apple Delight” vase ($330); emerald green/French opalescent “Lily Pond” vase ($550); and the artist proof for a ruby/milk glass vase with patriotic scene that was a numbered, limited edition available through QVC ($523).
The “star” of the sale was surely lot 52, the super rare Karnak Red 14 inches tall offhand Egyptian vase with hand applied Hanging Hearts and random threading and applied cobalt blue short stem and foot. The vase, stem and foot all have a light iridescent finish. This exceptional item was made by the group of four European skilled glassworkers who were at Fenton for a short time in the mid-1920s. Rarities such as this are seldom available in today’s marketplace, so it was no surprise when spirited bidding took place, and the vase finally sold for $11,000.
Other rare offhand pieces made by those European glassworkers included a Turquoise 8 1/4 inches tall vase with Hanging Vine decoration and light iridescent finish ($2,090), an Antique Green 12 inches tall candlestick with Hanging Hearts and random threading, cobalt blue socket area and cobalt blue foot ($2,970), and a Mosaic Inlaid 10 1/2 inches tall vase with cobalt blue handles ($2,860).
Fenton letterheads from late 1907 heralded the company as “originators of iridescent ware,” and today’s collectors maintain great enthusiasm for the pieces they call “Carnival glass.” Early Carnival in this sale included: Marigold Carnival Horse Medallion three-toed 7 1/2-inch diameter bowl with 8-point crimp ($248); Amethyst Carnival Birds and Cherries two-handled bonbon with sides pulled up ($209); White Carnival Basketweave Open Edge 7-inch diameter bowl with two sides turned up ($154); and Blue Carnival Cherries and Reef two-handled bowl ($358).
Stretch glass and opaque colors from the 1920s-30s also generated considerable interest. A Florentine Green stretch Dolphin bonbon with four-point pull up crimp from the mid-1920s sold for $242, and a rare Topaz stretch 8-inch tall cornucopia vase with tulip-style finish from the same era brought $275. An opaque Mandarin Red fan vase fetched $165, and a Melon bowl in the same color sold for $99. A Jade Green creamer and sugar in Fenton’s pattern No. 100 brought $160 and $176, respectively. Near the end of the auction, a rare Pekin Blue No. 549 8-inch candlestick with gold decoration sold for $330, even though the decoration had a few spots of slight wear.
Fenton crested pieces are those with a hand applied edge of glass in a contrasting color to the body of the item, and this innovative glassmaking skill has been a Fenton trademark since the late 1930s. A rare Aqua Crest pitcher from the 1940s brought $275, and an Emerald Crest double crimped vase from the 1950s fetched $39.
Cranberry and Cranberry Opalescent have been Fenton staples from Fenton for more than 60 years, and competition was keen for some examples in this sale. A Cranberry Opalescent Coin Dot pitcher with applied crystal handle from the early 1950s fetched $330, and a Cranberry Opalescent Hobnail vase with tulip finish from the early 1980s brought $105. A Unique Cranberry Spiral Optic 10-inch vase from the mid-1980s with sandcarved portrait of young woman went to a happy buyer for $468. A Sample Cranberry Opalescent Open Heart Arches basket with fine rib twisted handle and hand-painted floral decoration (signed “hand painted by Stacy Williams”) brought $110.
Hand-painted pieces by Fenton designers Louise Piper, Michael Dickinson, Frances Burton and Martha Reynolds were of considerable interest. Piper’s Custard Satin bell for “Mothers Day 1981” brought $99, and a sample Burmese lamp with hand-painted roses fetched $358. The sample Custard Satin miniature bell with hand-painted Bob Evans Farm decoration by Dickinson totaled $149. A Burmese Satin pitcher with hand-painted rose decoration by Frances Burton”), made for QVC circa 1990, brought $121. Martha Reynolds’ satin-finished Sage Green 5165 Cat figurine with hand-painted floral decoration went for $105.
Followers of Fenton glass artisans Dave Fetty and Frank Workman were pleased with the pieces offered. Dave’s whimsical 6 1/2-inch long Pig (signed “Dave Fetty 1-31-11”) sold for $193, and the artist’s proof of his Mosaic vase made for QVC in 2006 brought $303. A 14-inch tall vase in lustrous black glass with applied pink decoration and random threading by Frank fetched $215.
Fenton artist J. K. “Robin” Spindler designed and hand-painted a number of one-of-a-kind pieces especially for this auction, and these were the subjects of much admiration and plenty of active bidding. Her limited edition (1 of 3) Opal Satin “Luv Bug” figurine with hand-painted decoration sold for $413, and a Lotus Mist Burmese 10-inch vase with tri-crimp finish and hand-painted fishing scene brought $303. Her Burmese 8 1/4-inch flared vase with hand-painted scene featuring realistic birds on a tree branch fetched $523, and an Aubergine 10-inch vase with hand-painted lighthouse scene in Mary Gregory-style sold for $880.