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Past Times Newsletter - February 2001
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
and Fine Art ... and now Arts & Crafts
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o COLLECTING MARBLES by Mark Block of the Journal of Antiques
o Open your own Shop on Ruby Lane
COLLECTING MARBLES BY MARK BLOCK OF THE JOURNAL
OF ANTIQUES AND COLLECTIBLES
While the history of marbles and marble games of some form can
be traced back thousands of years to ancient civilizations, it
is only during today's generations that a hobby has formed
around the collecting, documenting, studying and preserving of
these varied spheres. Collectors gather at regional marble meets
throughout the United States, sometimes for a week at a time,
and at local clubs to buy, sell and trade both common and
extremely rare examples of all types of marbles and marble
related ephemera. These include antique-handmade German swirls,
sulphides, clambroths, Indians, lutzes, onionskins, and others
from the late-1800s to the early-1900s that can sell for
thousands of dollars. And during the past ten years, a
burgeoning collectible market has developed for machine-made
A quarter century ago there were no marble meets, just one small
book on the subject and only a handful of collectors. Today,
books and articles abound, clubs meet regularly and shows entice
collectors to show their treasures and add to their collections.
All this has brought with it the embracing of the latest
addition to both the marbles collecting community and art glass
world-the explosion of artists and craftsmen working in studio
glass settings. Artists now create some of the most gorgeous and
unique contemporary works of art in the spherical form, solely
for decorative and ornamental purposes. These artists/craftsmen
make use of both centuries old techniques, state-of-the-art
computer imaging and formal schooling in glass blowing and
sculpture to bring their concepts from paper to glass in ways
unimaginable only twenty-five years ago. For that is when it all
In 1975, in Marin County California two individuals who would
later go on to make substantial contributions to the American
Studio Glass Movement got together and built a two-sided glory
hole and furnace in which they crafted small 7/8" swirl style
marbles. Richard Marquis and Ro Purser, both dressed in medieval
garbs for a Renaissance faire, brought the first handmade
contemporary glass marbles to market. Highly prized by
collectors for their rarity, Marquis and Purser went on to craft
through the 1980s what are still recognized today as some of the
most distinctive contemporary spheres in the world.
Today, the creativity, use of color theory and exceptional
technical ability of artists like Mark Matthews has taken the
art of the crafted sphere to levels unheard of a short decade
ago. Matthews' landmark Population Portrait series, black and
white geometric graal sphere's, superior filigrana works and
unique animal skin spheres set the standard for all artists
striving to achieve the perfect sphere. By simply looking at
Matthews body of work the collector or interested public gains
a sense that what was once a child's plaything has earned a
rightful place next to their older, more established cousin, the
decorative and ornamental paperweight.
As the art of the sphere continues to mature and the number of
serious collectors expands, the demand for the finest art glass
spheres will continue to grow as well. However, we are left to
ponder what impact the full emergence of this truly unique form
of American art can achieve. What if notable master glass
craftsmen of the paperweight art such as Paul Stankard, Rick
Ayotte, Bob Banford, Christopher Buzzini, Ken Rosenfeld and
others used their extensive skills and creativity to craft a
sphere, round by its very nature rather than a flat base
paperweight? Would we then see the works of all sphere artists
and craftsmen take the next leap to a level never even imagined
a decade ago? Let's hope the challenge of the sphere, where
these artists pick up the most volume per unit, entices others
to make a significant contribution to enhance the body of work
of the American Studio Glass Movement in ways not yet fathomed
by collectors or even the artists themselves.
For the complete article with many full color photos please
visit The Journal of Antiques.
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