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So we all like to get dressed up for the holidays, and company parties, family dinners, friendly get-togethers, and holiday festivities allow for a bit more glam than usual.  Why not glam up your prized art glass and vase collections as well?

 

Here are some suggestions that will work with almost any vase without damaging the vase itself:

1) Centerpieces.  For an instant “wow”, simply place your favorite vase in the center of your holiday table, filled with seasonal flowers or branches. Adorn the base of the vase with strands of holiday lights (set the vase “aglow!”), or tinsel.  My mother used pine garland and holly as a table runner, leading to a large, ornate vase in the middle of the table, during holiday parties. I also like using poinsettias for a pop of red (or cool of white, depending on the variety). A winter white tablecloth will further set off your art deco or antique vase.

2) Candy dishes. Have a shallow or wide-mouthed art deco glass piece?  Fill your vase with wrapped candy (I find that Werther’s Originals, holiday Hershey’s Kisses, or Ferrero Rocher look really nice, but any metallic wrapped candy will do) and place throughout your home for a quick treat, or amongst the hors d’oeuvres at your party.  Bonus — wrapped candy won’t melt or stick to the antique glass!  Mix and match vases for instant personality.

3) Candle Holders.  First, lightly coat the inside of your vase and the lip (if applicable) with a non-stick cooking spray.  Be forewarned — it makes it slippery!  Handle with care.  This coating will keep any dripping wax from sticking to your vase and ease clean up later (no scratching!), as well as protect any ceramic finish.  Place an appropriately-sized candle of any color or scent inside the vase for class and style.  If you have a tall vase and want to use tall, slender candles, purchase green florist’s foam and make a candle “bolster” by cutting foam to snuggly fill the vase opening and then making a crevice for the candle.  You might choose to also super glue or hot glue the candle to the foam (NOT the vase!) for added stability. 

4) Focal Piece. Group your vases together on a mantle or a large lipped window ledge.  Weave white holiday lights and garland around the vases.  Adorn in much the same way as the centerpiece, remembering that the vases are the decorative element, not the flowers or tinsel.  This creates a multi-level dynamic focal piece for any room. For an extra personal touch, place a few family portraits in neutral frames to surround the vases.  OR another fabulous idea, as seen in the picture above — purchase glass metallic ornamental balls from your local home decor dealer and place them atop your vase(s).  What a cool idea!

 

The holidays are an excellent time to enjoy your antique vases, and share the beauty of these pieces with others.  You might rediscover your love of your own collection in the process!

Happiest of holidays!

If you’re like me, you have several fabulous artisan vases, shaped in every which way that makes everything about fresh flowers or collecting more enjoyable — except the cleaning!  Recently, I found myself questioning when faced with a particularly difficult vase — one with such a narrow opening that only single stems fit into the vase, but one with a large bulbous base covered in geometric creases.  How do I get all of the white water residue out?  More importantly, how do I guarantee that mildew or mold doesn’t continue to fester in the vase’s interior between flowers?  

I tried simply soaking in soapy water for a few hours, but found that I could still detect the white hard water stains when holding the blue glass vase to the light.  I also still noticed a greenish film on the bottom of the vase, and stuck in a few of the nooks in between the vase’s architectural design elements.  Not very attractive.

I thought maybe rolling a paper towel really thin might do it.  No luck.  The paper towel, once wet, tore in half.  So now, I had not only white hard water stains and green film in my antique collectible, I was forced to showcase a $.02 paper towel as well.  Well, shoot.  Not my idea of a premiere shelf piece.

I even tried an old toothbrush.  Of course, it wasn’t near slender enough.

Like you, I then decided to consult the internet (which I should have done to begin with).  Amongst the vast web, I stumbled upon all kinds of interesting blogs and suggestions.  I will compile my favorites for you below.  I also found this article that gave me some great tips, but here’s what I’ve found worked for me:

1) Ice and Kosher Salt.  Throw them both in the bottom of the vase (crush the ice under a kitchen towel with a hammer and use it if your vase opening is as narrow as mine is).  Swirl and swish.  The coarse salt and hard surfaces of the ice will break up gunk and dissolve the yucky film.  Be forewarned though — this can be a bit abrasive for smooth, very expensive glass.  You might want to employ another means of cleaning, like…

2) Coca-Cola.  Seriously.  Have you ever heard the urban myth about soft drinks?  I’ve seen “experiments” where a steak marinated in coke actually breaks apart and partially disintegrates after a few weeks.  Whether or not you believe this is true, using soda pop (sugared or diet) and its carbonation to clean the crud from your vase’s insides worked for me!  Make sure you rinse WELL — especially if you use high-octane (meaning non-diet) pop.  The last thing you want is to feed the mold or mildew some sugar!  A few sources also said that denture tablets worked in the same way (the effervescence almost oxidizes the surfaces).  Truly, though, I’d rather be caught buying the soda (which, if “properly used”, could later lead to the denture tablets I suppose, but I digress…).

3) Another less abrasive mixture is a hot, soapy sink spiked with bleach.  Soak and swirl and re-soak.  Rinse well.  A fellow vase lover suggested this!

4) Remember building clay volcanos for middle school science class, and combining baking soda and vinegar for the all-important “eruption”?  The chemical reaction between these two household regulars seems to help dissolve and break down the interior sludge.  Bonus — feeling like a kid again.  I suggest gathering a few kiddos (or your friends!) and showing off your art deco vase with a volcanic show!  Oh — and no harsh chemicals and no bleaching your favorite green dishtowel (not saying that this happened to me, but wait, it did).

No matter the method, leaving gunk in the bottom or crannies of an expensive antique vase (whether glass or pottery) might pose a risk to any other living plant-like creature that enters its walls.  Do you have a favorite vase cleaning secret?  Please share!

Thanks, and happy cleaning!

-Diva Fiore

In Part I, I introduced three different types of pottery, and how each is made. Part II will discuss the aesthetics of art deco pottery, including the use of shape, color, texture, design, glaze and paint, and how these artistic elements reflect the trends of the day.

COLORS

White (the most popular), light yellow, beige, icy blues (the most fashion-forward and mod — the infamous seafoam blue makes many appearances!).  I’ve found quite a bit of black as well as metallic gray and red.

SHAPE and TEXTURE
Geometric, angular, uniform, mathematical, graduated, concentric.  Modern and simple, not over-designed.  Each art deco vase contains one or two artistic themes that are repeated or reflected throughout the piece. (PIC)
Smooth surfaces seem to be the norm — polished, high gloss. This reflects the wide use of glass and shiny metal used in architecture during the Great Depression. I’ll discuss gloss later in this article.
Acid Etching — a process used by famous makers such as Lalique, Tiffany, and Daum (among others).  Acid etching involves introducing a particular type of acid to a surface to cause a “reaction”.  This reaction affects everything it touches, so artists usually covered the parts they wanted to remain in the original color with a wax pattern.  This creates different effects and, ultimately, the surface design of the material. (PIC)
“Crackling” — an effect created with paint and a reactant, seen often nowadays on wooden furniture and mirrors. The surface appears to be “cracked”, and was then glazed to protect the pottery. Artisans used this technique with art deco glass as well.
PAINT
as is evident in the wall paintings of the modern art deco period, some artists painted avant garde shapes and lines on pottery vases. Any painting directly placed on the pottery had to be covered with a protective glaze. Depending on the artist, painted pottery pieces can fetch a handsome amount at auction, given their individuality, although some replica designs were mass-produced.

GLAZE
Most pottery pieces shine with a high-gloss glaze.  Research indicates that the most popular 1920’s and 1930’s high-gloss glaze was a bright tin-enamel. As an interesting side note, modern-day high-gloss glazes are sold as “deco” glazes.

Whether painted or geometric, high-gloss black or shiny seafoam, art deco pottery can contain a myriad of stylistic elements and exhibit artisan techniques, offering modern-day art deco connoisseurs chances to purchase or admire one-of-a-kind vases.

Throughout history, artists and sculptors have molded, fired, and glazed clay to form a myriad of items, from ancient urns to your daily coffee mug. Possibilities for creativity within this medium seem as endless as the countless pottery pieces collected over time. As interesting as some of these pieces are, I’ve recently been exploring the genre of art deco pottery — and especially, art deco pottery vases.
The process of making pottery can be as simple as molding wet clay and baking it. However, the artisans of the art deco era had many other advanced techniques to utilize in making their pieces completely unique. First, let’s consider the three major types of pottery.

They are:

Earthenware – the most organic, “natural” type of pottery. imagine ancient peoples using clay dug from the earth to form mugs, pots, tables, etc. and heating the molded item over a hot hot flame until it dried or set. In more modern days, Earthenware meant for domestic use had to be glazed to seal the porous surface.
Stoneware — very simply, the hotter the flame, the harder and more solid the clay becomes. People noticed that when they used high high heat when curing their pottery, the item became almost as hard as a stone, hence the name stoneware. Stoneware needs no glaze since the surface is considered non-porous and therefore waterproof. Pottery meant for use in human consumption nowadays will most likely be stoneware; however, it still maintains the look of organic earthenware without the glaze.
Porcelain — the Chinese found that by adding a feldspathic material (material containing feldspar, a naturally-occurring element composing almost 60% of the earth’s crust) to their clay when making stoneware, they created a white paste. This white paste, when fired, can either take on a smooth, shiny, almost glassy appearance or a slightly translucent form that is usually glazed with a lead-based glaze. The latter of these two became widely used and revered among Europeans during the 1700’s.
No matter the type, the skill and experience of the artisan comes into play when choosing the most perfect firing temperature. More valuable pieces will have been treated with the correct flame and the most careful temperature judgment.
In the early 20th century, commercial advances and the industrial revolution introduced the ability to mass-produce pieces, resulting in a decline in original true works of art pottery. However, during the Great Depression and the early 1930’s, artist-potters in Western Europe and the United States revived the ancient forms of Japanese and Chinese potters and began experimenting with new materials and clay composition. In other words, many pottery pieces (including art deco pottery vases) were made in small or singular batches, resulting in more valuable and artistic collectors’ items.

Part II will discuss the aesthetics of art deco pottery, including the use of shape, color, texture, design,glaze and paint, and how these artistic elements reflect the trends of the day.

So what exactly is Art Deco, and why is the style so historically revered?  Does Art Deco refer to a time or a style, or simply an idea?  During what years was the Art Deco style the biggest?  

The Art Deco aesthetic exploded during the Great Depression.  Decadance within demoralization.  Bigger than life while living small. Having something unique and imaginative to look at while the world around you is slowly sinking…

During the 1920’s to the 1940’s, “style” became important.  Paper catalogues, the Pony Express, and word of mouth were replaced with billboards, automobiles, huge Hollywood movie musicals, and radio advertisements.  Art Deco Vases capture the lavish, overstated consumer ideas of this trying time in world history.  Each vase speaks to each person today as differently as it did when it was crafted.

Think, for instance, of the famous Chrysler Building (NYC). The architecture and exterior styling are so metallic — strong — modern — geometric — equal.  Much akin to our current economic times, people living during the Great Depression were searching for some sort of symmetry and balance in their lives.  Art Deco style beautifully illustrates that ideal.  

As for Art Deco Vases, the artistic mediums of glass and / or ceramics provides malleability and flexibility, but are fragile at the same time — much like the human spirit during times of trouble.

Today, you can easily own a piece of history.  Art Deco Vases are as varied as our current styles and tastes — there’s something to fit any budget and home decor.  This, and more, make these unique artisan pieces so attractive and accessible.

 

 

Thrift store find!

OK – so it’s not “authentic” or even antique, but it’s amazing what you can find at your local thrift store. A BIG plus for me is that this cheap cool art deco style vase perfectly accents my new home’s decor! And I’m a sucker for green. ;) Go explore and let me know what you find!

On a recent trip to my favorite local antiques dealer here in Austin, I stumbled upon a vase which resembles the following:

I found the nearest clerk and inquired about the piece.  The clerk told me that the piece dated from “around the turn of the 20th Century”, and featured ”Art Deco Styling”.  Hmmm…red flag.  Why, you ask?  

Experts agree — Art Deco Style directly descended from the globalization of the artistic and home decor markets, mostly because of a resurgence in American interest in French (and other European) trends across the creative arts.  If you have visited French cities like Montmarte (where the foreign language film Amelie takes place), I’m sure you noticed the types of painting reproductions sold in local shops, mostly conceived by the famous French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec was an “archetypal bohemian artist” who lived in Montmarte (a Parisian suburb) and created Impressionist art during the belle époque, or “beautiful era” of Paris, roughly during the 1890′s.  Henri is best known for his dancing, flowing female forms, and often painted advertisement posters for the infamous cabaret, Moulin Rouge (from which he painted this scene, and one of his most revered works). 

This style is considered Art Nouveau.

The Impressionists during the late 19th Century celebrated not only a strong feminine aesthetic, but the forms of flowering blooms and other natural elements (remember Monet’s Lilypads, Renoir’s Sisters at a Piano, etc).  The pastel, almost cloudy and soft nature of the Impressionists bled into Art Nouveau pottery, glasswork, and architecture easily, and the the genre names are considered somewhat interchangeable.  I’m sure you can see the subdued colors and sweeping, feminine curves indicated by the vase pictured above, and several obvious nods to nature.

So, back in the antiques shop in Austin, I politely corrected the store clerk.  I was pretty sure that the vase in question pre-dated the Art Deco era by at least 10 years, using the above argument.  However, the store clerk was still not convinced.  No worries!

I asked the clerk to turn the vase over, so we could look for a “born-on date”.  With pottery vases, this is rather easy to find, usually, and sure enough — there it was.  My proof.

“1895-1907″.

Art Deco didn’t officially begin until the 1920′s, and flourished from the Great Depression until WWII. The name comes from the 1925 Exposition “Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” which featured the new high-end Parisian ”style moderne”.  Artists during this time shied away from the Impressionistic, soft florals and pastels of the Art Nouveau period and instead, began embracing Cubism, Futurism, and Neo-Classisism styles.

As interesting as I found this particular vase, I passed it by since it didn’t meet my particular criteria.  The store clerk actually thanked me for the information and offered to take down my email if she saw anything come in that might interest me — which makes my quest for great Art Deco pieces that much easier.

As a reference, here’s the series of questions I ask myself when shopping specifically for Art Deco Vases:

 

 

 

  • Question 1: Is the overall shape geometric (square, oval, round, angular)?
  • Question 2: Are the colors bold or solid (no pastels)?
  • Question 3: Is the overall design modern, industrial, and / or ”futuristic” (not soft, whimsical, and feminine)?
  • Question 4: Is there a “born-on-date” that shows a year between 1920-1945?
  • Question 5: Is it appealing? (truly the most important question!)

If the answers to all of these questions is YES, then you’ve found yourself a piece of Art Deco history!

 

 

I’d love to hear some of your stories.  Please leave a personal shopping experience in the comments below.  Enjoy, and good luck!

Look what I found!

Here's a beautiful art deco vase I just spotted!  I loved it so much, I decided to make it my profile picture. ;)  My sources tell me it is an "Art Deco Square Czechoslovakian Vase".  I adore the black and yellow — looks fabulous on my living room table!  Enjoy.

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