When postwar tourists returned from Europe bearing souvenirs of handblown glass, 1950s America couldn't get enough of those fanciful shapes and dazzling colors. Then the pieces, many crafted in Italy, Finland and Sweden, fell out of fashion, relegated to shelves of kitsch at thrift shops. Now, thanks to a boom in mid-century modern design, these sculptural vases, bottles and bowls are again hot collectibles.
Jay Novak, co-owner of Modernica, an L.A. store specializing in mid-century furnishings, says his sales of Italian glass have quadrupled in the last three years. "It goes so well with the whole [period] look. When light plays off the colored glass, it's beautiful: A concentration of pieces in the same hue can affect the color of a room." And as demand has soared, so have prices. Jeffrey Schuerholz, co-owner of Fat Chance in L.A., recently sold a vase by Dino Martens, an Italian artist famous for his patchwork patterns, for $15,000. "Ten years ago," he says, "that same piece would have been half as much."