I recently moved to Saugatuck, Michigan and while setting up a temporary studio space, I began to unpack some of my stained glass panels. Sadly, I discovered that one of the panels was broken, snapped into two pieces.
This was a piece that I did several years ago, just as I was getting back on my feet, after a lengthy hospital stay. In a way, sad, it was part of my rehabilitation program. However, accidents do happen; the glass was broken.
Although the glass was broken, I was aware of a traditional Japanese aesthetic concept, wabi- sabi, where beauty can be found in imperfection. An object can be old, scratched, dented or in this case broken, but has its’ own inherent beauty. As I took a longer look at the piece, the broken glass retained its’ integrity. The jagged edges gave the piece a different and distinct look.
I took the glass back to the studio, filed down the jagged, broken edges, so no one, including myself, would cut their fingers on the glass. Where there was one piece, now, there are two.
Due to the pandemic shutting down many thrift and antique shops, my search for vintage objects to house and frame my stained glass mosaics was diverted to Ebay. This time, I was looking for vintage brass trays that had the markings of a past life, a history: dents, scratches, tarnish and there marks.
On Ebay, I found an oval brass tray, made in Hong Kong, that had true signs of use. It was deeply tarnished and scratched.
Cleaning the tray was a combination of elbow grease, baking powder and vinegar, a messy but effective cleaning solution. It worked. I wanted the flat base to be clean and function as a mirror; but, also, wanted to leave some of the patina on the rim, acknowledging its’ past history.
In the center of the tray, there is set of Chinese characters which I did not have a clue as to their meaning. I was saved by several people who follow me on Instagram, who graciously informed me that the characters mean Good Fortune.
After, the cleaning of the Good Fortune tray, I began to play with designs and stained glass.
The Good Fortune tray is an integral part of this stained glass mosaic. It is a contemporary piece of art yet retains its’ past history.
Some of my stained glass mosaics are set in vintage, silver plated trays. The heyday for silver plated trays in the United States was from 1850 to 1940. Now, many of these trays, once popular, sit discarded in thrift shops. They served a purpose in an earlier time. Although the trays show age and usage, they have character and a history.
A distinguishing part of that history is the manufacturer’s mark, etched on the back of the tray. Today, many of the manufacturers who designed and made the silver plated trays are no longer in business. But their mark still exists
The mark on the back of this silver plated, serving tray identifies the maker of the tray as the Glastonbury Silver Company, Chicago. The company, no longer in business, was active from 1920 to 1950. Mark is shown below.
The mark on the back of this tray identifies the Gorham Manufacturing, a well-known name in silver and silver plating, was responsible for making the tray. The Gorham company was founded in 1831 in Rhode Island and later in the 1960’s was sold to Textron.