Fenton Art Glass
Fenton Marigold Carnival Water Set, circa 1910
Fenton Art Glass Co., the largest manufacturer of handmade colored glass in the United States, has been creating spectacular colored art glass for more than a century. Founded as a decorating company in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in May 1905 by brothers Frank L. Fenton and John W. Fenton, the Fenton Art Glass Co. constructed its factory in Williamstown during the fall of 1906. They began by painting decorations on glass blanks made by other glass manufacturers. Soon, being unable to get the glass they needed, they decided to produce their own glass. The first glass pieces were made there on January 2, 1907. Fenton is known for its wide range of glass colors, hand-painting and handcrafting. During its 106-year history, Fenton introduced the first iridescent ware (now known as “Carnival glass”) as well as classic patterns such as Hobnail and a wide variety of handmade colored art glass as limited editions.
The glass for Fenton collectibles began with silica sand, soda ash and lime. Artisans at Fenton Glass created delicately intricate pieces from a hot, seemingly chaotic process that directly involved Fenton family members who worked together with employees to create handmade glass artistry that is loved by collectors around the world. In the beginning, those pieces, such as salt and pepper shakers, vases and sugar bowls, were designed to be purely functional and possibly decorative. Today, Fenton Art Glass is not only decorative, but a highly sought-after collectible.
During the years from 1905 to the 1920′s, Fenton design was heavily influenced by the artists at Tiffany and Steuben. In late 1907, Fenton introduced “Iridescent” glass. This glass, now known as “Carnival” glass, is a popular collectible today.
Fenton started to mark its glass in 1970 but many people may have Fenton glass made between 1907 and 1970, but they really don’t know exactly what they have. A Fenton marigold Carnival glass Goddess of Harvest bowl brought $30,000, and a Mosaic candlestick from the 1920s reached $15,000 at auction. At any given time, thousands of Fenton glass items are listed on eBay. Shown above is a Marigold Carnival Water Set, circa 1910.
A great source of Fenton Art Glass products and history are back issues of Glass Messenger. Reference materials are for sale at the Fenton Shop including, Fenton – Handcrafted American Glass Artistry, the book published to celebrate the Fenton Art Glass Company’s 100th anniversary. Ten members of the Fenton family accepted the challenge to choose the very best pieces made by Fenton in its 100-year history for celebration in a spectacular coffee table book. Breathtaking full-color images of the finest examples of glass craftsmanship, artfully presented with all-new commentary.
Collecting Fenton glassware has become so huge the local area has spawned two different Fenton collectors societies. The National Fenton Glass Society is headquartered in Marietta. The 15-year-old society is and offshoot of the older and more established Fenton Glass Collectors of America. Furthermore, the history of glassmaking at Fenton and other Upper Ohio Valley factories from 1880 to the present can be viewed in Fenton’s second floor museum. Breathtaking colors dazzle the eye as the glass sparkles in softly lit cases lining the walls. The Fenton glass museums contain more than 2,000 unusual and rare pieces.
Sadly, in the summer of 2011, the Fenton Art Glass Company announced that it would wind down production of its collectible and giftware glass products. A combination of a persistent, sluggish national economy, the increased cost of gold that Fenton uses in some of its art glass pieces, natural gas costs as well as changing patterns in glass collecting combined to force the over 100 year old company to shut down its traditional glass-making business.
For more information visit www.fentonartglass.com.
On Saturday, December 17, 2011, you can decorate and customize your very own Fenton Christmas ornament or year round sun-catcher! Fenton design templates make it easy for the young and young at heart. Spaces are limited for these special decorating workshops so purchase your ticket today or call 1-800-319-7793 x311 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.