contemporary Fenton stretch glass Discussed on May 11, 2017

Note:  A complete set of photos of the glass discussed can be found in this document (PDF), which will open in a new window.  For full report, scroll past the photos immediately below (click on any photo to enlarge).

Our May 11, 2017 Stretch Out Call on Contemporary Stretch made by the Fenton Art Glass Company was most informative. Leading the discussion were Sarah Plummer, Russell and Kitty Umbraco, Dave Shetlar and Cal Hackeman. About 16 people joined the call with Bob Henkel moderating.

Sarah briefly introduced the topic of Contemporary stretch glass.  With some clarification it was determined that the Fenton Art Glass Company made most of the Contemporary Stretch, with Imperial making very few pieces in their last days of operation. Vintage stretch was made from the late teens to the early 1930’s.  No stretch glass was made after that until the newly-formed Stretch Glass Society asked Fenton if they would try making Stretch glass again in the mid 1970’s. 

Russell and Kitty were a part of the formation in 1974 of The Stretch Glass Society. They shared first-hand about this revival of stretch. Page 1 describes the sample pieces. The top 4 pieces – the Topaz Opalescent bowl, Persian Pearl fan-shaped bowl, Celeste Blue vase, and the Ruby bowl were all made from the same mold.  Russell was in the factory when the Topaz bowl was being made.  It was an experiment to see how the stretch iridescence would look even if no reshaping was done after spraying.  The shape of the bowl is exactly as it came from the mold, and it shows good stretch iridescence. The two Ruby footed bowls at the bottom were made a year later in 1975 from a different mold, with foot included, not applied.  The top finishing, crimps and flutes, were done after the pieces came out of the molds. 12 of these were made. They are rare. The color was not true and revealed amberina around the rim.

A second mold was also used to make a topaz opalescent hobnail cake plate. (Not pictured) There were only 2 made in topaz opalescent stretch. Frank and Bill Fenton each took one home. No one knows where they are now. These were the first patterned stretch made since the early 1930’s. The mold used was a regular production mold being used for making milk glass footed cake plates.

Sarah then continued her overview of Fenton’s contemporary stretch glass, first explaining the three categories, giving reference sources for each.

  1. In-line pieces are those made and sold by Fenton as part of their main product line.  They are featured in the Fenton catalogs, most if not all of which can be found on the website fentonfan.com.  These in-line pieces will be the focus of this and at least one more future call.
  2. Fenton also made stretch glass to sell on QVC.  Some, but not all pieces can be found on a searchable QVC database on the fentonfan.com site.  There is also a book by James Measell called Fenton Glass Especially Made for QVC.
  3. Fenton also made limited numbers of some stretch glass pieces for other entities, including:
  1. Collector clubs.  SGS, NFGS, FAGCA, and Fenton Finders of Kansas City all had stretch pieces made as souvenirs.
  2. Other companies, including LeVay Distributors, L. G. Wright, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Ann Fenton.

References are Fenton Special Orders, by John Walk, and Fenton Art Glass Made for Other Companies, by Carrie Domitz.

Sarah then explained several ways to distinguish between vintage and contemporary stretch:

  1. Contemporary stretch is generally marked with the Fenton logo, in an oval, with the number 8, 9, or 0.  The number indicates if the piece was made in the 80’s, 90’s or 2000 or after.  The first contemporary glass made for the main product line was Velva Rose , made in 1980 to celebrate Fenton’s 75th anniversary, and includes ‘75th’ under the Fenton logo with the number ‘8.’
  2. She pointed out that a sand-blasted ‘S’, ‘F’, or star on a piece stands for ‘second,’ but that this doesn’t always mean poor quality.  If the in-line pieces were advertised as a limited number series, decorated, or patterned, extra pieces without the number, decoration, or pattern were marked as seconds. 
  3. Contemporary stretch glass is thicker and heavier than vintage stretch glass.  Dave indicated that it was his understanding from talking with Frank Fenton that there were two reasons for the thicker glass – the desire to have less breakage and the use of old molds. Many of the older molds had to be buffed out to remove any rust or pitting and this increased the space between the plunger and the mold.  However, breakage of thin glass was more of a concern so they purposely re-worked the molds so that the glass would be thicker and less prone to breakage.  Dave mentioned that they also hadto modify the “dopes” used to create the iridescence to meet current OSHA regs for gas releases, especially the use of iron sulfate that released sulfuric acid in a gas form!
  4. Contemporary pieces were mostly made in new colors.  In fact only two colors used for contemporary glass are the same as early period stretch glass:  Velva Rose and Celeste Blue.
  5. Some contemporary shapes are similar to vintage shapes, but many new shapes were made.

Dave then led the discussion of individual pictures, starting with page 2.  1980 was Fenton’s 75th Anniversary. Velva Rose Stretch was introduced at this time. Velva Blue Stretch followed.  He pointed out that the shape of the Velva Rose epergne is different from that of the later Stiegel Green one on page 8 – the Velva Rose crimps being hand-made and the Stiegel Green machine crimped and more pointed.  The new Velva Rose dolphin candy jar has a thinner base than the old one (though usually newer glass is thicker).  The crimped bell andthe epergne are both new contemporary shapes.

Page 2

Page 8

Page 3

(Click any image to enlarge.)

On Page 3 he cautions that the logo on contemporary candlesticks is very hard to see.  Cal pointed out that vintage colonial candlesticks in Velva Rose are rare – not so new ones, so look carefully for the logo. The shapes of the dolphin fan vase, candlesticks, melon rib bowl and salver were the same as the originals. Each was heavier and thicker. The logo was in different places and sizes, with the logo on the candlesticks very near the edge. It is hard to find a complete 3 piece set of the fairy light (bottom left corner). They made many fairy light bases.

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Other items were also made in Velva Rose in 1981 and 1982 without the 75th year logo. They are pictured along with Velva Blue on Page 4-6. Patterns were sometimes added. For example on page 5: #96 candy jar and #99 basket have the stippled panel; #98 bowl - Sheffield; #100, #101 miniature rose bowl and comport- Water Lily pattern; #104 crimped & roll rim comport-Persian Medallion. On Page 6 the Velva Blue candy jar with stippled panels and the Sheffield bowl were highlighted as unusual. The Rose Bowl Miniature (bottom left corner) is actually a fairy lamp base, cupped in to make a rose bowl.

Time did not permit us in this call to continue with the remaining colors, but they will be included in the next calls to be announced.