A Tale of Two Vases
by Stu Horn
(Originally published in the Rose Bowl Collectors Newsletter, reprinted with permission.)
I'm sure many of you have admired the beautiful Fenton Robert Barber satin glass Cascade vase/rose bowl on the cover of Johanna and Sean Billings' book -"Collectible Glass Rose Bowls". The fact that it keeps company with a beautifully decorated purple satin and a Pompeiian Swirl shows the high esteem that the authors hold for this modern classic. This 7 1/2 inch tall rose bowl shaped blue and white looped or "pulled" vase was designed by Barber in 1975 - a year in which he was retained as an "artist in residence" by Fenton to create a number of unique pieces. It was designated Number 0006 CV in the Fenton line. But - that is only half the story!
Actually, the satin version, as striking as it is, was a way of designating "seconds" of the Barber Collection piece to be sold at the Fenton Gift Shop located at the factory. There must have been high criteria for the "firsts" since the satinized versions seem to be found much more often in the secondary marketplace. At any rate, the image above shows my two vases side-by-side for comparison. Although the satin exterior results in quite a different appearance, the only difference between "first" and "second" would appear to be the preciseness of the white "pulls". Besides the sparkle of the surface, the fact that the white design on the opposite side is clearly visible adds to the spectacular look of the clear bowl. I think the color is much more striking in the clear version too.
The clear vases were limited to 700 pieces and were numbered within the series - much the way artists prints are done. My vase, shown all by itself on the right, is number 299 of 700. As an additional finishing step for the chosen 700, their bottoms were ground flat and smooth with a concave center and special inscriptions were added.
The figure on the left here shows the bottom of my vase. It has an acid etched Fenton in oval mark and 1975 plus hand scribed 299/700 and the makers initials - D.L.F..
Besides the distinctive marking, the original buyer received a pedigree booklet with the purchase of one of these special vases. The pictures below show two pages including biographical information on Mr. Barber and the signatures of Frank M Fenton, Robert Barber, David L Fetty (Craftsman) plus the embossed Fenton Corporate Seal. I think this also shows the high regard that Fenton management had for these 700 vases.
If you are lucky enough to find one of the 700 Cascade Vases for sale - expect to pay $400-500 - especially if the original booklet is included. Satin versions sell in the $150-300 region. Good luck hunting them both - now you know the full story!