My Glass

by Angela Bowey

Me and My Glass

I want to share with you some stories about me and my glass. I hope you will enjoy them, and have a good laugh at some of them.

This picture on the right was taken by Frank Habicht when we were using the beach and the waves as a dramatic background for some Jobling's 1930's glass. For some of the pictures Frank stood on a chair, and just as he had taken the shots a huge wave came and threatened to sweep the tea trolley with my precious glass out to sea.

I ran forward to save it, and as I was standing looking down at my soaking wet shoes and socks, Frank called out "Look over hear, Angela!" and took this photograph.

Frank by the way, is a very celebrated photographer. He was the stills photographer for the Rolling Stones when they first became famous in Britain. He has established an international reputation for very artistic photography.
When I decided that the museum collection should be photographed, I was very lucky to find someone so creative living so near. We spent nine months taking these photographs, working half a day each week.

Very often we used the beach as our scenery, and you can imagine that people often stopped to stare in surprise. I took this photograph of Frank.

On one occasion he insisted that we take a basket of glass down to this beach he had found with large weathered stones and lots of driftwood. We took some particularly delicate pieces that day, such as Loetz vases and hand blown jack-in-the-pulpit vases from the end of the nineteenth century.

To get to this beach, which was on the other side of the golf course, we hired a golf cart and drove it down a steep pathway to the beach. We did get some beautiful and creative shots of the glass amongst the rocks. But I was very nervous about the wind and the waves, although we had come a long way to take these pictures so I tried not to let it show. After a short while Frank realised I was concerned, and said we could go back.

Now, .... it was one thing taking the electric two-seater golf cart down a steep hill. But we soon realised there was no way it was going to make it back up. So I carried my basket of glass to the top of the hill, feeling rather foolish, and we went over to some golfers and asked them to give us a push up the hill. They were very helpful, but the looks on their faces were a picture to see.

One of them shortly put into words the question we could see in each face "But what were you doing with a golf cart down on the beach?" And as for our answer, well can you imagine the looks we got for trying to explain we had been taking photographs of glass vases.

But this is starting the story at the wrong end. I should go back to the beginning and tell you how I got started collecting glass.

It wasn't that long ago; about 1987. Before that, when my five children were growing up, I avoided precious things that could be damaged easily. But that year I was staying in Brighton, England, at my daughter Jane's flat in Kemptown.
We were having a party and needed some more glasses, so I went to the nearby second-hand shop to buy some. I don't think I found many glasses, but I did spot this beautiful crystal decanter, and fell in love with it.

I paid twenty pounds for it and then set about trying to find out where and when it was made and why it was such an unusual shape. Eventually I found out that it was made by Brierley's in England, probably recently, and the shape gives it stability on a ship at sea (it's a ship's decanter in cut crystal).

By the time I had learned this information, I had read several books on glass and was beginning to recognise "collectable" glass in the antiques and collector shops which abound in Brighton.
I started with "Carnival Glass" and my first purchase as a collector was a pair of tall marigold carnival glass vases, shown on the left in this picture.

I paid five pounds for them and was delighted with my bargain. There was plenty of Carnival Glass to be bought in Brighton, so my slight interest grew into a hobby, and very soon became an obsession.

Brighton is a town that seemed to be full of markets. On Saturday's there was the street market, with two or three of the main streets converted with stalls from one end to the other, and every kind of second hand and antique object to be found there. On Sunday's there was the "car boot sale" on the station carpark, a huge affair with hundreds of stalls and many amateur "one-off" sellers. So I had plenty of opportunity to find my glass treasures.

This millefiore vase was sold to me for six pounds on Brighton Station market. It is an absolutely beautiful piece in perfect condition. But to the seller it was just a piece of glass that he apparently didn't like very much.

Millefiore glass is made by cutting small pieces from canes with an elaborate cross-section, and rolling these into the glass whilst it is still molten. The name means "thousand flowers" in Italian. This lovely piece has an inner layer of blue glass and a frilled rim. The Romans invented this kind of glass, and this could almost be a Roman piece except for the frilled rim, which I think indicates a Victorian date.

My daughter and I used to search the market for glass, and then take our finds to the nearby pub where we would enjoy Sunday lunch, listen to the jazz bands which played there all afternoon, and unwrap and admire our treasures.

Eventually I moved from one kind of glass to another, and ended up with a collection that covers every kind of glass, mostly made during the last 150 years.

When I came to live in New Zealand I found a country full of old glass which had been brought here by immigrants or sent here from overseas glass factories. So my hobby flourished.
One of my best ever bargain buys was at an auction in Auckland, New Zealand.

The previous week I had been at an auction in Glasgow, Scotland, and had spotted a Lalique vase which I thought I might get for a bargain price. Unfortunately, they opened the bidding at five hundred pounds, and sold it for four thousand three hundred. I couldn't even afford to get into the bidding.

On my return to New Zealand, I went to an "estate" auction and saw this Lalique plate with spiralling fishes. Lalique was a French glass maker who made some beautiful art pressed glass earlier this century. I was not very optimistic that the plate would be sold at a price I could afford, but I was prepared to try. It's value is around a thousand NZ dollars.

So I stood at the front of the crowd ready to come in with a bid of two or three hundred. Imagine my surprise when the auctioneer called out "Now what am I bid for this Lalique plate, ladies and gentlemen. Shall we say ten dollars?"

I was so surprised that I did not manage to get my hand up, but I very quickly waved my arm when he called "Any advance on ten dollars?". His next call had me totally flabergasted. "Twelve dollars fifty, thank you. Any advance on twelve dollars fifty? Fifteen dollars, thank you ....." My mind was racing. I thought "Is he going to go up to a thousand dollars in two dollar-fifty steps?"

My arm waved again and I heard him call "Seventeen dollars fifty, any advance on seventeen dollars fifty. Going at seventeen dollars fifty!" My waving became desparate. Couldn't he see I was trying to make a higher bid? "Madam" he said "its your bid. Sold for seventeen dollars fifty to the lady in the front." That was one of the most amazing days I can remember. I was absolutely floating on air for hours afterwards.

Every glass collector deserves a good luck experience like that. In my real job (as a management consultant) I find I spend many days away from home. So in my spare time I would visit the local antique and second-hand shops. That is basically how I built up such a large collection. My other web site relates to my work on remuneration, motivation, and gainsharing (

Eventually the collection needed a home, mine was not large enough to do it justice. And that is how the Glasstime Museum came about.

If you are looking for collectable glass, you can usually find a selection on offer on ebay. - click collectible art glass.

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