Friday, January 14

Glass Parade Canes

'In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, glassmakers in both the the United States and Europe often ended their workday creating a variety of objects from the leftover materials used for making other glasswares. Master craftsman were allowed to “play” with glass on their own time and create objects for their own use, enjoyment, or simply to improve their skills. These “end-of-day” creations, called “Friggers” in England or “glasshouse whimsies” elsewhere, demonstrated their great skill and control over molten glass. A variety of objects were created including chains, sock darners, doorstop turtles, bells, horns, pipes and of course whimsical canes. Given their fragile nature, canes were rarely used for walking, although they were occasionally employed ceremonially in parades. Glass canes are rarely documented to their maker.
Glass workers had a difficult life, with the heat, smoky, dusty, air and the pressure to produce. Pay scales were often equated to the volume produced. Most glass blowers retired before the age of 60.
Glasshouse whimsies were not part of the regular glasshouse production process and had no connection to the glass company. Although there was little opportunity to create objects for home or just for pleasure, one of the few benefits afforded glassblowers at the consent of the owners was the use of the virtually worthless materials comprising glass for purposes of creating end-of-day or between shift whimsies.
The many whimsies of aqua color were probably products of a window glass or bottle factories. Bottle glass was usually aqua due to the natural iron in the sand, which discolored the glass. Window glass may have been chemically treated to produce a somewhat clearer glass. Seldom was green, amber, cobalt blue or ruby red available to the workers of these bottle and window glass factories. The more colorful whimsy items may have originated in larger glassworks, which had many pots and possibly several colors available at one time.
A major problem a worker faced when he made a whimsy was preventing others from taking it. The item had to be cooled overnight, so whoever was first to get to work the next morning had the opportunity to grab the whimsy, if he were so inclined. Most workers expected their whimsies to disappear and were surprised when they were still there for them in the morning.
There are two general types of glass canes, the first fashioned from solid lengths of glass frequently featuring decorative twists along the shaft and most often having crook or L-shaped handles. It was not unusual for the inner core of glass to be to be encased in an outer layer (or layers) of different colored glass. The second type of glass cane is a hollow baton with a rounded knob handle. This form was often made of clear glass and decorated with spiraling stripes of assorted colors along its length.'

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