The Crown Pyrex Affair: Why Vintage Pyrex Is Bang On Trend

I love vintage Pyrex.  I love it all but I have to declare a special place in my heart is reserved for psychedelic Pyrex.  That isn’t an official term, it’s just one I use for some of the more exuberant patterns produced worldwide in the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies.  One of the things that is so striking about this type of Pyrex is that it seems to have the properties of a TARDIS – one glance at it and you’re immediately transported back several decades.  There’s no problem with dating it either, it is so beautifully and unashamedly of its time.

Apparently, according to many interior design experts, including the team at Elle Decor, the ‘Seventies are back with a vengeance in terms of interiors, so now is a good time to take a closer look at the Pyrex of that period.  Sadly I missed this exciting time but my mum (I did promise to say she only just remembers it herself!) says it was a mixed bag, the music and TV were good, some of the more high end interiors were stunning but in her opinion the clothes were best forgotten.  Apparently, my uncle had a pair of rust coloured flares which had brightly embroidered flowers on them up to the knee and HE WORE THEM IN PUBLIC!!!!  What may not have worked on gentlemen’s trousers, certainly did on ovenware though, as Indiana and Briarwood prove!

Some of the other big interior design trends for 2019 are nature (this always seems to be “in” in one form or another!) and sustainability, both of these are good news for Pyrex fans keen to make their collections a central part of their interior design schemes. Natural themes and sustainability also work well with the ‘Seventies colour palette and ethos and they are all tailor made to showcase vintage Pyrex.  According to design pundits mid century modern is now well and truly over!  I beg to differ but as a vintage Pyrex person I suppose I’m biased.  Just the number of TV shows heavily featuring mid mod, such as Endeavour, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and upcoming dramas (in the UK – not sure when/if these will get to the US) Summer of Rockets and The Trial of Christine Keeler, will keep the best of mid century modern at the top of the design agenda.

‘Seventies colour schemes could vary somewhat, bright colours were certainly ‘in’ but so were the more muted hues of mustard yellow, olive green and a myriad of shades of brown, colours often found in nature.  This brings me neatly to one of the best vintage JAJ patterns ever, the stunning Toledo!  Strictly speaking, Toledo is a late ‘Sixties pattern but (somewhat ironically) it’s also the one which many collectors see as all the best of ‘Seventies decor rolled into one design.  Toledo is arguably the most famous of the ‘Medallion’ patterns which JAJ were famous for in the ‘Sixties and early ‘Seventies. Interestingly, the medallion motif is also back as a burgeoning design trend in itself for 2019.   Toledo therefore ticks all the boxes if you want to be at the cutting edge this year as it embodies the ‘Seventies, is in colours associated with nature and heavily featured in the groovy ‘Seventies colour palette and as it’s vintage, also speaks to sustainability.  Toledo casseroles come in both the Easy-Grip and later styles, both of which fit the ‘Seventies interiors style but personally I find the Easy-Grip much more pleasing, with its roundness and bubble lid.  Of course, the Easy-Grip style had all but been discontinued at the start of the ‘Seventies, so the later style casserole may well have been seen as more desirable and modern at the time.

image1.jpegThe time machine that is Toledo!

Of course, one of the advantages of being a vintage Pyrex collector in the twenty-first century, as opposed to someone with a brand new set of Pyrex dishes in the ‘Seventies, is that we can proudly display our Pyrex to be admired by our friends wherever we like in our homes whereas a person in the ‘Seventies would have been seen as somewhat eccentric if they had suggested that their Pyrex could be used for interior design purposes, rather than just for Coq Au Vin!  Vintage Pyrex now takes pride of place in many a display cabinet but of course you could just as easily use a favourite piece in other places (I say this as someone who uses a duck egg Carnival Cinderella as a fruit bowl).  With Cinderella bowls popping up as light shades and plant pots, I see no reason why a Pyrex piece which you adore could not be placed on a sideboard or coffee table, just as a vase or other decorative accessory would be.  A stack of Easy-Grip casseroles would look pretty good on living room shelves or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, on a ‘Sixties/‘Seventies Scandinavian sideboard, chosen either to match the main colour scheme of a room, or as a contrast.

Another ‘Seventies medallion pattern is the delicate Morning Star, in orange and blue.  A little more subtle than Toledo, Morning Star always reminds me of snowflakes (actual snowflakes, not the Gaiety kind!) but I feel the colour combination in the pattern is unusual for the decade in which it was produced and is less likely to fit comfortably with the more earthy tones popular then and now.  The same can’t be said of Medallion Five in either of its colour ways!  These pieces are brazenly funky, with colours to match.  I love these dishes but their colour scheme is pretty ‘in your face’ and they’re not for everyone.  That said, a mixed stack including both colours could introduce some interesting accents into a mustard or beige room.  Tempo (or Carnaby as some fans call it) marries earthy shades with light blue and green.  The design features stylised, funked up flowers which have been given a particularly ‘Seventies vibe.  This pattern seems to be an attempt to marry a more traditional JAJ blue/green, flowery design with a more contemporary interpretation of it and it works well.  Tempo has a much more modern feel to it than the ‘Sixties designs of Matchmaker, Checkers or Chelsea, both in terms of colour and motif.image2.jpeg Medallion Five and Indiana have funky ‘Seventies credentials.


A ‘Seventies style sideboard like this would look great displaying a carefully chosen vintage Pyrex stack in an accent colour.

The ‘Seventies trend emphasises different textures, like rattan, wood, wicker, wool and of course shag pile carpets (I have no direct experience of these but can imagine they are very high maintenance and a nightmare if you have pets or small children!) and glass fits very well with them.  It’s sort of ironic then that it was in the ‘Seventies that JAJ decided to team plastic with its glass by introducing glass cups with brightly coloured plastic ‘sleeves’ and Stack’N’Store containers – glass storage jars with plastic lids – not, in my opinion anyway, their finest hour.image4.jpeg

Morning Star, a hard colour scheme to match but a beautiful design.
According to House Beautiful magazine, open shelving in kitchens will be popular over the next year or so, which could be the answer to many a Pyrex collector’s prayer as they will be able to hide their addiction in plain sight!  The very ‘Seventies colours of mustard and olive green are set to be big in kitchens and that too is good news for collectors.  Both the US Pyrex patterns Crazy Daisy and Butterfly Gold (here I must confess that I love the second Butterfly Gold but am not crazy about the first one, strangely!) would look fantastic against those background colours and would look brilliant stacked on open shelving on a wall in one of those colours.
The current kitchen trend for very dark cabinets or walls, or sometimes both, can also provide an excellent backdrop for a display of vintage Pyrex, although I feel, in terms of JAJ, that it is the collections from the ‘Fifties and early ‘Sixties, such as Colourware, Weardale, Gaiety and Carnival, which can really shine in this kind of environment due to their bright colours, rather than later designs featuring motifs on a white background, or perhaps that’s just me and my love of bright colours!  American Pyrex seems to have maintained bright all over colour for longer than JAJ and designs such as Colonial Mist would look elegant and sumptuous displayed against dark cabinetry.  Of course, the exception to what seems to have been a move away from all over bold colour at JAJ in the ‘Seventies is the 2001, produced in bright shades of orange and teal, with a very flower powery lid!  They would also pop against a dark kitchen scheme.
As I’ve already said though, it seems a shame, with the current interest in ‘Seventies styling, to restrict vintage Pyrex displays to kitchens and bathrooms.  In the ‘Seventies, Scandinavian style modular furniture was huge and like the sideboards this lent itself very well to display.  A few well chosen vintage Pyrex pieces could look stunning in a living or family room displayed in this way.image1.jpeg

‘Seventies style modular furniture and vintage Pyrex would be a match made in heaven!
In fact, I think that some of the designs made for and inspired by the Scandinavian countries, in particular the Red Hearts, would look very stylish displayed individually or in stacks in a living area.  Personally, I think that they would be easier to blend in to a room design than the red and blue hearts, although they could also look fabulous in just the right setting.image3.jpeg

The red Hearts with a very ‘Seventies phone.
Although it does sometimes make me sad that most vintage Pyrex is no longer used for the purpose for which it was intended (although I have a well used Tuscany oval casserole which bucks that particular trend), it is good to see it being transformed into an interior design essential as it would be a shame for the beautiful patterns and streamlined designs of these twentieth century classics to be hidden away out of sight.

The Pyrex Collector

Since I’ve been collecting Pyrex, several of my friends have decided to give it a go too. I’d love to say that that is because I’m a natural leader or because I have an innate ability to forecast trends but I’m afraid to say it’s neither of those things, it’s simply because we’re all now getting to an age where we actually enjoy cooking almost as much as eating or are equipping our own kitchens for the first time and vintage Pyrex is of course a modern design classic.  Anyway, as I’ve been collecting a little longer than they have, they tend to ask me questions and the same ones crop up all the time, so I thought I’d answer them on my blog.

The first question is often “What sort of Pyrex should I collect?”.  This strikes me as a rather odd question, in that if you’ve decided to collect it, you must have seen some pieces which you particularly like, so that would surely be your starting point! I think some people feel that as Pyrex collecting is becoming more popular, that there are specific things which they ‘should’ look out for.  I think that’s the wrong way to go about it, as it would certainly drain the joy from hunting for your next piece.  Obviously some items are harder to procure than others because they had a limited release, were a short-lived promotional pattern or because they are from a different country but it’s always better to stick to what you like.  As well as building your collection on the basis of the designs you prefer, your budget will also play a part.  Prices of vintage Pyrex vary enormously but one of the plus points of collecting something that in it’s heyday was extremely popular (and let’s not forget virtually indestructible!) is that there is something to suit every pocket.  I personally don’t collect Pyrex tea sets or dinner sets as I prefer the casserole dishes and mixing bowls, so concentrate on them but I have one friend who particularly likes the tea sets and also collects the coffee jugs.  You can gradually build up a tea or dinner set over time quite cheaply.  If you plan to use your vintage Pyrex (and there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t, as long as you don’t commit the cardinal sin of putting it in the dishwasher), then you could collect pieces which fit with your style of cooking.  If you would rather retire them from active duty and simply display them, you might like to collect around a specific colour scheme or pattern.  The variety of styles, colours and patterns is huge and it would be virtually impossible to collect an example of every piece ever produced, so it would probably save your bank balance, not to mention your sanity, if you specialised in some way!

Another FAQ is where should I look for new pieces?  You may have heard the expression “hunting for Pyrex in the wild” – this simply means finding it at a charity shop, a car boot or yard sale or as part of a house clearance, as opposed to in a specialist shop (I know, I know, the delightful images the phrase conjures up of little Pyrex dishes frolicking in a meadow somewhere would be a much nicer explanation!).  It is possible still to find pieces like that, although the renewed interest in vintage Pyrex does mean it’s not as easy as it used to be.  Having said that, half the fun of collecting is tracking an elusive item down and whether you find it tucked away in the corner of your aunt’s kitchen cupboard or on Etsy, the buzz is the same.  Asking around your family and friends will often turn up nice vintage pieces as most kitchens in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s had several pieces of patterned Pyrex at least and that can be a nice way to start your collection and perhaps give you a theme or pattern to concentrate on.  When my collection was complete (well…not complete as I haven’t really begun to scratch the surface of worldwide Pyrex yet but I’ve nothing, well, virtually nothing, that I’m searching for personally right now!), I found I couldn’t give up the chase, so started my Etsy shop and such shops are another happy hunting ground for collectors.

The last general question about collecting that I’m often asked is what should I look out for in terms of condition?  When I first started collecting, I was determined that I would never buy a chipped or cracked piece or one with ‘flea bites’ (am I the only person who really detests that expression?!) and I’ve stuck to that, although I do have pieces with small scratches or patches of colour loss, almost inevitable with kitchen equipment half a century old.  That said, I can foresee occasions where I would be prepared to overlook a very tiny chip (I refuse to say it!), as long as the chip was smooth and barely noticeable and it was a piece I really wanted.  To some extent it depends what you are going to do with your Pyrex; if you’re going to use it, you probably wouldn’t want a piece with cracks or chips but if just for display purposes, as long as it’s not really visible, it wouldn’t matter as much.

The world of Pyrex is one of infinite variety and can be confusing when you first start to collect, over my next few posts, hopefully I’ll be able to answer some of the more specific questions collectors have but don’t like to ask as everyone else already seems to know!


The Origin Story – why I first donned my apron…

They must have the stealth of a cat, the vision of a hawk, the patience of a spider, the agility of a gazelle, the tenacity of a dog, the cunning of a fox and the wisdom of an owl.  Whose job description is this; an emergency room doctor, the leader of the free world, a semi-finalist on Strictly?  No, these are all essential attributes for every Pyrex collector (and if you doubt that the average Pyrex addict needs the agility of a gazelle, I can only assume you’ve never been in the midst of a pack of little old ladies at a garage sale when a pristine turquoise daisy space saver has just been put out on the stall – I carried the bruises for weeks!).  Faint heart never won fair Pyrex and if you’re not in it to win it, you might as well go home.

I’ve been a card carrying Pyrex fanatic for some time now and I have to say that the majority of Pyrex collectors are lovely, always willing to share their knowledge or pass on tips about where to find that elusive piece you are desperate to make the crowning glory of your collection but there are a few who have sharp elbows, sharper tongues and wouldn’t look out of place auditioning for a remake of ‘Mean Girls’ and don’t get me started on the secondhand shop owners who have read in the Daily Mirror that vintage Pyrex is worth a fortune and slap huge price tags on every clear Pyrex bowl that crosses their path!

It was in order to deal with the more challenging aspects of Pyrex collecting that I adopted my alter ego of Pyrex Party Pixie (that and I’ve always wanted to be a superhero, with my superpower being an ability to defeat evil geniuses with my baked goods – I’m still working on the finer details!) and it is in this guise that I act as a kind of borosilicate glass Sherlock Holmes, tracking down brilliant pieces of vintage Pyrex for myself and others.  It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

In the interests of full disclosure I should confess that I am way too young to remember patterned Pyrex in it’s heyday, so it has no nostalgic grip on my heartstrings.  I just think it’s beautiful and a masterpiece of design which has yet to be bettered and of course I love the thrill of the chase, nothing gives me more pleasure than running to ground a new gem for my own, or someone else’s collection.  My eternal quest for this most stunning of ovenproof glassware has led to some amusing adventures, which I thought might be enjoyed by other members of the Pyrex community and hence this blog.  I love the Pyrex blogs already out there, they have helped me so much in building up my collection but I thought there was room for a less learned guide, which could pass on the do’s and don’ts of collecting from my hard won experience (I’m especially good at the don’ts, having managed to make most of the mistakes in the book when I first started out!) and hopefully some fun and some recipes, after all, it was cooking that got me into this but that’s a story for another day.  Any fellow collectors out there, please say “hello” and let me know if there’s anything in particular that you think hasn’t been covered in the usual Pyrex gathering places and I’ll see what I can do!


Talking Pyrex With Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

I’m always telling people that vintage Pyrex is not just for display but also for use, not just  in the oven but also to store leftovers in the fridge or freezer and even more importantly, bearing in mind the discarded single use plastic crisis which is currently threatening to overwhelm the entire globe, Pyrex can be used when you go to the supermarket on the deli counter.  You can use use bags for fruit and vegetables but Pyrex is ideal for bringing meat, fish or potato salad home with you.  I use fridgies or mini casserole dishes for the smaller stuff and larger dishes for meat or fish.  I have many beautiful pieces on display which I adore but there’s a special place in my heart for the vintage Pyrex I use day to day.  I must say though that having to hand wash them is a drag (everyone in my house detests washing up!) but well worth it to use such well made dishes and to make a small contribution to reducing the mountains of waste suffocating our planet.

I’m very concerned about the environment and do all I can to make my business sustainable in terms of packaging and administration and I try to do that in my personal life as well.  I’ve been a great fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for ages, I love his River Cottage shows but I’ve been really impressed with the other special projects he has taken on recently.  Hugh attempted to resolve the nation’s obesity problem in Britain’s Fat Fight, Hugh’s Fish Fight saw him trying to reform the fishing industry to make it more sustainable and Hugh’s War on Waste saw him challenging supermarkets and fast food chains to reduce waste – this put a spotlight on disposable coffee cups which led to coffee chains introducing incentives for customers to bring their own coffee cup and the introduction at long last, of recyclable coffee cups.  This year Hugh, along with Anita Rani, started a War on Plastic which highlighted just how much single use plastic sneaks into our homes without us even being aware of it.  Obviously Hugh is a very busy man but he agreed to chat with us and answer a couple of vintage Pyrex questions!

 We asked Hugh do you have any childhood memories of Vintage Pyrex?

I feel like I’ve lived with and cooked with Pyrex all my life. My mum still has a Pyrex pie dish that was always the go to dish for her amazing shepherd’s pie and macaroni cheese. And I’ve had Pyrex measuring jugs in my kitchen cupboard for decades. There is undoubtedly something comforting about this history and continuity, and that means it’s always a pleasure to use.

Vintage Pyrex is a design classic with impeccable eco-friendly and feminist (the idea was a woman’s and women developed the concept) credentials. What do you think is its most enduring legacy?

Durability is clearly the key. I must have used some of my Pyrex thousands of times. It’s amazing that, considering it is technically breakable, it actually hardly ever breaks!

Hugh is indefatigable in his attempts to improve our society both in terms of improving the health of individuals and in raising awareness of the damage to the environment which we all contribute to on a daily basis and as such is one of my heroes.  I was so pleased to find that Hugh has happy memories of his mum cooking with Pyrex (as I suspect most of us do) and that he’s always been a fan of our favourite cookware!

Barefoot In The Pyrex

Since starting my vintage Pyrex shop I’ve come to realise just what a bone of contention our favourite vintage glassware can be in long term relationships.  In fact it may even be among the top ten causes of divorce in the western world (ok, I did make that statistic up but going by the experience of some of my customers it’s certainly up there with eating toast in bed or forgetting your anniversary…and we’ve just lost three readers who’ve had to head out to the nearest 24hr supermarket to buy champagne, chocolates and a “And They Said It Wouldn’t Last” greetings card). It would seem that most (though luckily not all) romantic duos in the vintage Pyrex world consist of one Pyrex addict and one person who is convinced that vintage Pyrex fancying is a cult and that their partner should be kidnapped and deprogrammed – probably by being given small electric shocks every time they attempt to Google ‘Coral Gooseberry Pyrex’!

That said, there are some very supportive vintage Pyrex fan’s partners out there. The other day I read of the wedding ceremony of a lady who loves her Pyrex, where Pyrex was prominent, even being mentioned in the vows.  This was, of course, with the full support of the groom, who I gather has often given his bride fabulous vintage Pyrex gifts.  He understands and encourages her interest.  I suspect many people would happily trade their partner in for such a one and I hope that when medical science makes it possible, this gentleman will give his consent to being cloned, for the benefit of single vintage Pyrex collectors everywhere. I’ve heard of a few other similar couples and also some where one partner is happy to go along with the others collecting, strictly on the understanding that it’s for “investment purposes only”.  A few years down the line it will be fascinating to see how many estrangements take place when one half of the couple decides it’s time to cash in!

There are also couples where one party indulges the other’s collecting but all too often this seems to be dependent on two factors: the amount of space which the vintage Pyrex occupies and remaining blissfully ignorant of how much it costs!  The latter is particularly important if you collect Pyrex from a different country or if you don’t happen to live in one of those fairytale lands where the streets (or at least the thrift shops) are paved with vintage Pyrex!  It may once have been true that you’d be tripping over the stuff in charity shops or at car boot sales but alas that is no longer the case, although some of my customers expend quite a lot of effort to pretend to their other halves that it is.  One of the first things I learned as a purveyor of fine vintage Pyrex was that complete discretion is absolutely essential at all times.  The first ‘line of defence’ that a few of my customers have is “secret” PayPal and email accounts, kept solely for the purpose of sneaky Pyrex transactions.  Several of them also have ‘secret addresses’ where their contraband Pyrex is sent.  They then collect it and smuggle it into their homes (presumably under cover of darkness and after putting the dishes into some form of disguise!).  One lady I know actually unpacks her purchase and then puts it into a shopping bag, taking it home for her partner to admire as a savvy buy from a charity shop!  Another has invented several elderly relatives keen to pass on their cherished Pyrex to “ someone who will appreciate it when I’ve gone.”  Actually, I think that MI5 or the CIA should seriously consider recruiting vintage Pyrex enthusiasts – they’re inventive, cool under pressure and probably able to pass lie detector tests!

Although I’m single, I know from bitter experience that tensions can ensue when your vintage Pyrex collection starts to take up the shared living space.  I still live at home with my mum and sister (and kitten) and have sometimes had to thin my collection a bit when it threatens to take over the whole house.  One of the problems we now have is that enthusiasm for vintage Pyrex can be quite infectious and where there was once one collection, there are now three!  Mine covers everything (I just can’t say no!), my mum’s tends heavily towards US Pyrex and my sister’s is more Snowflake and Gooseberry based.  So far Raffles the kitten has resisted the urge to turn collector, although the other day, when it was extremely hot, he was found curled up fast asleep in one of my Coral Gooseberry 444s, so I’m assuming his taste runs to JAJ, mostly rarities!

If you find yourself romantically involved with one of those weird (come on, we’re all thinking it!) people who aren’t interested in vintage Pyrex, is there anything you can do to make them more sympathetic to your collecting needs?  Well, you could try nostalgia.  Most mums or grandmothers have/do cook with Pyrex and many people have fond memories associated with the designs on the dishes they used.  Again, I sadly have personal experience of this as my mum’s mum apparently had a Tuscany dish which she always used for Shepherd’s Pie.  My grandmother had other dishes in patterns which I personally prefer (I like Tuscany but it’s not one of my favourites, why my Nan couldn’t have bought a Morning Star for this particular recipe I shall never know!) but it seems she always made her Shepherd’s Pie in Tuscany. Consequently Shepherd’s Pie in Tuscany hits all sorts of emotional and nostalgic buttons for my mum, so yes, we now always have to cook that meal in an identical one to the one my Nan used.  Anyway, this emotional resonance which vintage Pyrex has can be used to your advantage if you can find out what pattern dishes your beloved’s mum or granny used.  If this plan fails – “my Mum used to have some Pyrex.  No, I don’t know what sort.  I think it had leaves on it…I’d know it if I saw it…” – you can always try cooking something wonderful in a dish of your favourite pattern and try creating your own nostalgia.

If you’re not lucky enough to find a partner who will support you in your vintage Pyrex obsession and all attempts to convert him or her to the cause fail, you can take comfort from this; at least if you ever break up there won’t be a custody battle for the kitchenware.

The Colour Yellow

Vintage Pyrex really does come in every colour of the rainbow so it’s not difficult if you’re looking at Pyrex as an interior design accessory to find the right shade to compliment your colour scheme.  Collectors, of course, don’t have any restrictions in terms of colour so they can collect all the colours available but do they?  Many collectors like to have an example of each colour produced of a particular piece.  These are the type of collectors who aim for completeness and they don’t consider only having some colour ways as being properly representative of a design.  Other collectors are guided by their own personal tastes and only choose bowls and dishes which they find pleasing to look at.  Obviously we all have our own reasons for choosing specific pieces but I’ve noticed since I began my collection that there is one colour in the Pyrex rainbow which seems to attract significantly less fans than the others and I really can’t think why!  If you’re a vintage Pyrex collector, you probably already know the colour I’m referring to…that’s right, yellow.

When I first started collecting I didn’t really notice this less than enthusiastic attitude to yellow which seems to be shared by so many of my fellow Pyrex fans.  Instead I noticed very positive (for me anyway!) things in connection with it – Spring Yellow Pyrex was often to be found in great condition and (back then at least) in relatively large numbers – if you missed out on a nice yellow spacesaver you would be able to find another before very long.  Vintage Pyrex in general is getting increasingly thin on the ground in the UK these days but even so, I would be willing to bet that yellow is still more frequently available than other colours.

This bias against yellow doesn’t seem to be confined to the UK, although yellow as a main colour was produced for longer in the US, Australia and New Zealand than it was here.  Yellow’s golden age (sorry, couldn’t resist it!) as far as JAJ was concerned was the late ‘fifties and early ‘sixties with the Daisy, Snowflake and Gooseberry patterns.  In these designs yellow was used as the main or background colour, always being teamed with black for the motifs.  It’s easy to see why the yellow version of these patterns was never overlaid with white as most of the others were but I can’t help feeling JAJ could have covered themselves with even more glory with these iconic designs if they’d tried blue motifs.  Ah, what might have been!

image2.jpegBlue and yellow go beautifully together and this ‘50s kitchen illustrates that perfectly.  Yellow Pyrex would have looked gorgeous on the table In here.

Obviously in the ‘fifties and early ‘sixties, Pyrex was only seen as kitchenware, as opposed to a chic, retro interiors accessory and kitchens in those decades were often decorated with a predominantly yellow scheme – in many cases the cabinetry was even yellow.  I should just clarify here that we’re talking pastel or ‘Spring’ yellow, not an acidic or super bright yellow such as the new Gen-Z yellow which is currently popping up in homes across the globe.  The three colours which I always associate with ‘fifties Pyrex are pink, turquoise and yellow and indeed all three of these colours were on trend for kitchens (and bathrooms) in this period.  It wasn’t unusual to see cabinets, tiles and walls in these colours in kitchens on both sides of the Atlantic and if you were lucky enough to live in the United States you could get appliances to match too.  If you had yellow cabinets, yellow Pyrex may have been a step too far, after all it helps if you can find your kitchenware but if you had a pink or turquoise kitchen, yellow ovenware would have been perfect. image1.jpeg

This very vibrant ‘50s kitchen shows that yellow definitely wasn’t unpopular then!
The pink, yellow and turquoise we know from ‘fifties vintage Pyrex are, I believe, just a little too strong to be called pastel.  I call them ice cream colours, not sure why, the combination of those three particular colours just reminds me of ice cream and all the positive associations that go with it!  So our ice cream colours were hugely popular for kitchens and kitchenware up until the mid ‘sixties, when they began to be pushed aside in favour of stronger colours of a more earthy type, such as orange, green or brown and indeed JAJ mostly abandoned all over colour for a white background with a highly coloured pattern confined to the middle third of the pieces.  The most notable exception to this being the green and orange Medallion Fives, particular favourites of mine, although bearing in mind when they were designed, their rather eccentric colour palette might lead you to believe that someone had got hold of some of rather potent psychedelic substances and then decided to design some ovenware!
Pyrex weren’t the only kitchenware manufacturer who featured yellow heavily in their ranges in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, Tupperware also did, as did many others.

These toasters also feature ice cream or “confection” colours…image4.jpeg

as do these other accessories.
So if we accept that broadly speaking back in these decades pink, turquoise (or blue in a similar shade) and yellow were all equally popular, why is it that yellow vintage Pyrex is less popular than it’s fellow ice cream colours?  I can certainly attest to the fact that many collectors love their pink and turquoise but their admiration stops short of including Spring Yellow.  This year ‘70s interior design is in vogue and yellow is heavily featured, although usually in it’s mustard incarnation, which is fair enough if you are trying to replicate the feel of the era but ‘sustainable’ kitchen themes are also popular and yellow, even in it’s most delicate form is found in nature and still ice cream yellow is somewhat shunned!
I have a few theories about why this might be. I think  ice cream yellow is viewed by some as being insipid or wishy-washy and not strong enough to add character to an interior theme.  The period kitchens shown above demonstrate that isn’t the case but who among us would be brave enough to go for yellow cabinetry and appliances?!  Not only would it buck the trend, it might also require the entire family to don sunglasses when hanging in the kitchen and might just be too much to cope with first thing in the morning after a big night out!
Another reason for Spring Yellow’s lack of popularity may lie in the fact that it is very much of it’s time.  The effects of the Second World War were still being keenly felt by many people and the end of the ‘50s seemed to mark a conscious effort to move away from the colourless, ‘utility’ style of living which had been forced onto so many for so long.  The core colours of the JAJ Gaiety Snowflake and Daisy designs as well as the Gooseberry Cinderellas were the ice creams, pink, yellow and turquoise, chosen for their cheerfulness, universal popularity and the fact that they looked so fabulous together.  That is yellow’s strength, it has an uncanny ability to bring out the best in other colours!  I often see vintage Pyrex displays of these designs which just focus on the turquoise or, more often the pink, which is a great shame as you don’t experience the full force of any of them in isolation, they look so much better together.   Spring Yellow was seen, as it’s name would suggest, as symbolic of regeneration, good times ahead and happiness to come.  Maybe we’re just a miserable lot, with the current political uncertainty, climate change and the constant pressure to be “on” 24/7 from social media?
Actually, yellow is a brilliant foil for most colours as it goes with virtually anything.  Some people do count yellow out when creating beautiful stacks to display and that is a huge mistake.  Yellow can really bring other colours out perfectly.  Most vintage Pyrex collectors (myself included, I must admit!) are somewhat obsessed with coral dishes but would probably not team them with yellow in a stack.  I tried that recently and was pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out.  I must say though that I think the Gaiety yellow is at it’s most fantastic when put up close and personal with it’s fellow ice cream colours.  That’s not to say that you can’t make a nice display just using yellow pieces, especially if you add some Spring Yellow Weardale to the mix!
image1.jpegA recent yellow/coral experimental stack – I think they look amazing together.
image2.jpegA very traditional bunch of Daisies! 
image6.jpegThese colours were literally made for each other!

Some lovely yellow – sometimes you just need some undiluted cheerfulness!
If properly displayed and appreciated, the ‘Cinderella’ of the vintage Pyrex world is a beautiful addition to any collection and it’s about time these gorgeous dishes came out of the shadows and claimed their rightful place at the front of our display cabinets.

The Cat and The Pyrex

This time I’m going to deviate just a little from the subject of vintage Pyrex.  It certainly has a part in this unfolding story but for once it’s not centre stage!  We have just become the proud new family of a Tabby kitten, who we’ve called Raffles.  He is fluffy and cute, likes chasing a squeaky mouse on a stick and is generally adorable and I have the photos to prove it!image1 2 Before we went to collect him, we spent some time “kitten proofing” the house; fixed a door to the big cupboard under the stairs so he couldn’t nudge it open (he’d never have found his way out with all the junk in there!), moved electrical leads and blocked off potential areas of exploration which we felt might be hard to get to him in if he got stuck.  That left just one thing – my Pyrex.  We have a large Welsh dresser which is the home to a lot of our vintage Pyrex and I was very anxious about him getting on it and accidentally knocking some off.  Various friends and relatives with kitten experience were consulted and the consensus was that, at first anyway, he wouldn’t be big or strong enough to cause any accidents.  That should have reassured me but I had my nagging doubts.  I’ve driven the rest of the family mad on the subject in the lead up to kitten collection day!  I did a lot of research and finally came up with the solution – aluminium foil and distilled white vinegar! It sounds like the start of a fairly unpalatable recipe but it has totally (well, almost) put my mind at rest.  Apparently kittens and cats dislike the rustling sound which the foil makes under foot – can’t blame them, it sets my teeth on edge too – and dislike the smell of the vinegar.  So I spent a busy afternoon covering our enormous dresser in foil, spraying the area around the base of it with diluted vinegar solution and just in case that wasn’t enough, I put some old glass jars on the shelves with the vinegar solution in too!  So far it’s worked but I don’t think he’s had a chance to really try and get up there yet as he’s got too much else to explore…watch this space!

Raffles has tried to help out with my vintage Pyrex Etsy shop and is proving quite the brand ambassador, although I must admit that that wasn’t what I was calling him the first time he photobombed a shoot for the shop!  You know what it’s like, kittens are nosy and they want to be involved in whatever’s going on… The first time it happened I gave up and got out the feather boa on a stick (he’s very theatrical, it seems!), this happened a second and third time before I had a bit of a lightbulb moment!  I thought, if he’s so desperate to be in the pictures, why don’t I put him in there?!  Problem solved!  Indeed this is the photo with which I introduced Raffles to my followers on social media:image2
The perfect model I hear you cry (along with “awwww” and “isn’t he cute” – he has that effect on people!) and I’d be tempted to agree with you if it weren’t for these:image3.jpeg

Yes, the old saying is true, never work with children or animals (well the animal bit is anyway)!  If you don’t want him there you can’t get him away and if you do, you can’t get him to stay!  He’s definitely showing an interest in Pyrex though and I think he has the potential to be a collector!  He’s also very keen to help when I’m working on my tablet or laptop – that’s what you get for downloading the special games for kittens to play onto your iPad, I may have to get him his own if I’m going to get any work done! So far I’ve resisted my mother’s requests for a vintage Pyrex mini for him to use as his bowl, although I have recently seen an 8oz Lobster on my travels…

Thoroughly Modern Pyrex

Although vintage Pyrex is not often used by collectors these days, even when it has been bought as an interior design piece or an investment, it still tends to be displayed in kitchens or dining rooms so kitchen and dining decor and design trends are very relevant to Pyrex fans.  Our kitchen is a galley, so space is at a premium, which means that my collection is housed in our dining room.  Actually that isn’t strictly true as my mum has her motley little crew of collector’s rejects – too scratched/faded/chipped for donation to the charity shop but apparently just the thing for behind cupboard doors in our kitchen.  Sometimes I think my mum takes the traditional British love of an underdog a bit too far!

So I thought I’d do a little bit of research into some of the upcoming kitchen design trends for 2019.  It would seem there’s something for everyone as the new looks vary quite a lot but the good news is, as you’ve probably already realised if you’re reading this, there’s a vintage Pyrex pattern for every type of decor.

Apparently the big colours for cabinets this year are dark green and black (with navy persisting from 2018).  I can see that all of these could look very smart and attractive, although I should imagine such strong colours would need quite a large kitchen to carry them off successfully. Of course, there is vintage Pyrex to match them all; Clover Leaf, Colonial Mist and white on black Snowflake to name just the most obvious candidates.  That said, I can’t see the ice cream shades of Daisy or the Gooseberry Cinderellas fitting in at all, so those old favourites could be banished to the dining room if you have a scheme like that in mind. This could be where Classics comes into its own, as that would look very sophisticated if teamed with the navy or black and would just about hold its own with green.  However I think these colours would have to be used in conjunction with another big 2019 trend, minimalism – where the ideal would be absolutely nothing out on countertops- another contraindication for Pyrex.  As grown up and on trend as these schemes are, I’m not sure they would be the first choice of many Pyrex collectors, who although they all have great taste (clearly shown by their choice of hobby!) are also quite a colourful and fun loving bunch as a whole and they might just find such dark colours a little too sombre for the ‘heart of the house’.  Let’s face it, anyone capable of the level of excitement and exuberance that the average Pyrex fan shows when they spot a pristine coral Gooseberry 444, isn’t going to be that comfortable in a black, minimalist kitchen!

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Classics would fit in well with the sophisticated darker toned cabinets.

While we are speaking of black kitchen units though, we should give a special shoutout to Ikea for their Kungsbacka kitchen fronts, made of recycled wood and with a skin made of recycled PET plastic bottles.  These fronts are not only saving bottles from landfill (where they could last for 700 to 1000 years) but they come with an amazing 25 year guarantee!  The very best news for those of us who aren’t quite capable of full minimalism in the kitchen just yet is that they also come in white!

The sustainable kitchen is a 2019 trend which I thoroughly approve of with plywood, tin, sustainable natural worktops, cork and recycled floor tiles all being used more and more.  A few years ago (I know because my parents did it) there was a movement towards ‘unfitted’ or ‘freestanding’ kitchens, with no fitted cabinets but instead individual pieces of furniture, often reclaimed, pressed into service in new ways.  We had an Aga, a huge Welsh dresser, a marble topped island (freestanding) a wooden sink surround with a butler’s sink and an old oak desk with castors added to its feet and with its top tiled to produce a work surface (this was my father’s creation, of which he was very proud!) and all these freestanding items stood on a stone flagged floor.  This was a vintage kitchen indeed and I only wish I had discovered vintage Pyrex then (although being only eight or so, I probably wouldn’t have been very taken with it) as it would have looked brilliant in such a setting.  As it was, the only problem was the ultra modern, double doored, enormous brushed steel fridge freezer, which rather ruined the effect!  My dad’s baby really, although my sister and I were quite fond of it too, as it had an iced water dispenser, which was lots of fun to play with!  Anyway, with the upcycled and reclaimed elements that usually form part of freestanding kitchens, they could well make a comeback as part of the sustainability trend – in which case, vintage Pyrex will fit right in.  As an incredibly durable, multipurpose material, which could do a duet of ‘Anything You Can Do’ with plastic and come out on top, vintage Pyrex could form an integral and very beautiful part in the sustainable kitchen trend.

Botanicals are set to be big too, which would tie in nicely with green cabinetry.  Obviously there is great scope for accessorising with vintage Pyrex in a botanical style kitchen, with plant inspired Pyrex such as Crazy Daisy, green Gooseberry casseroles, Forest Fancies, the Hawthorn Cinderellas and perhaps the more colourful Gooseberries, Daisy, Dianthus Folly, Or Golden Pinecones, depending on how colourful you are prepared to go with your accents.

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Green Gooseberry would work fantastically with the botanicals trend.

One trend which is thankfully holding on is late ‘Sixties/early ‘Seventies retro!  I’m not a huge fan of ‘Seventies things in general but it was something of a golden age in terms of Pyrex.  One of my all time favourite patterns is the greatly under appreciated Toledo, which would look absolutely stunning in such a retro setting.  In fact it would almost be worth recreating the decade which taste forgot just to see it in all its glory!  Mustard yellow, that perennial favourite of ‘Seventies designers, has made a comeback for retro kitchens and strangely enough it compliments much of the psychedelic JAJ produced around that time, like Medallion Five (in both colours, although that combined with a mustard yellow background could easily bring on a migraine!), Indiana, Checkers, Morning Star and Iris.  Other patterns equally at home with such a scheme would be the more kitschy ones like Fowl Play, Moran, Harvest, Fiesta, Ham or Lobster.  Lobster, the only Pyrex pattern which is so kitschy it almost comes out the other side to become almost beautiful (seriously, I saw it in photos and thought “that is where I draw the line” but now I’ve seen it in person, I’ve started to become quite attached to it – I defy you to look at it without laughing!).

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The beautifully retro Toledo – I just love it! 

Whatever trends come and go though, one thing is for sure, 2019 is set to be the year of Pyrex, just as every year has been since the very first dish rolled off the assembly line.The beautifully retro Toledo – I just love it! 

Whatever trends come and go though, one thing is for sure, 2019 is set to be the year of Pyrex, just as every year has been since the very first dish rolled off the assembly line.The beautifully retro Toledo – I just love it! 

Whatever trends come and go though, one thing is for sure, 2019 is set to be the year of Pyrex, just as every year has been since the very first dish rolled off the assembly line.

The Colour Of Pyrex

If a vintage Pyrex collector had to make a list of the top ten most annoying things about their hobby (ok, so I know there are probably only five but top ten sounds better!) I reckon issues to do with colour would be right up there.  Leaving aside fade and colour loss, just identifying the colour of a piece can sometimes be a problem.

My own particular bugbear, which you’d think I’d have got over by now but irritates me all over again just about every time I hear the word is… drumroll please…coral.  I know, coral VP is about as gorgeous as it gets BUT I was brought up to believe that coral is a shade of pink.  Deep pink yes but nowhere near the red that we know as coral Pyrex. I’m evidently not the only one who thinks that way either, as I’ve often been told by a seller that their piece is “rare” coral and then had to break it to them gently, that it is, in fact, pink.  They usually then start complaining that coral is pink – what can I say, I didn’t make the rules but I do sometimes wonder if someone in the Design Department was colour blind or at least absent from school the day colours were discussed in art class.  The other day, after having this same whinge with my fellow collectors, I decided to put an end to the debate once and for all, so I Googled “What colour is coral?”.  Guess what it said…orange!  That’s enough about my little peccadilloes though, onto the serious stuff!

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Coral and pink vintage Pyrex really are very different, confusion mostly arises because of differing definitions of the colour ‘coral’.

The other main colour issue I come across (and I bet most people have had this one) is the vexed question “Is it turquoise or is it duck egg?”.  That’s not a question I would find particularly difficult in my non-Pyrex related life (who am I kidding, I don’t actually have a non-Pyrex related life!) but as a collector I’ve struggled with it a few times.  As a rookie collector, I didn’t even know duck egg Pyrex existed and often I think I was better off that way!  Partly because I’m definitely a turquoise girl but also because sometimes it can be difficult to tell your duck egg Cinderella from it’s prettier sister.  I had a turquoise 444 Gooseberry Cinderella first and I love that bowl dearly, I thought it was the most beautiful bowl I’d ever seen and on reflection, I think it still is.  It was after I had this gorgeous classic design piece in my possession that I heard about duck egg, so of course, like any good collector, I set about tracking one of them down too.  Now this took some time, I was still in high school and my budget was very limited (which is a nice way of saying virtually zero).  Eventually however I found one, on eBay of all places!  It arrived, with perfect timing, on a Saturday, so I could open it immediately!  My first thought was “it’s turquoise”, although that panic subsided after a few seconds when I realised it was paler than that.  Only to come back to bite me a few seconds later when my sister helpfully asked “Haven’t you already got one of those?!”  Obviously when I stood them next to each other you could clearly see the difference but it’s not always so easy when you don’t have both colours to hand.  Also, it must be said that a faded turquoise could be mistaken for a duck egg if the loss of colour is extensive.

When you then factor in things like light and filters in terms of photography if you’re buying online or a dealer sends you a photo, it can be very difficult to tell them apart. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a major city with many well stocked vintage stores, or have extensive contacts in the vintage trade, your best chance of finding a duck egg is online. I used to wonder whether an unscrupulous online seller could misrepresent a turquoise as one of the rarer duck eggs.  Recently I found out.  My closest Pyrex friend lives in the United States and she recently noticed something amiss with her full set of duck egg Gooseberries, which she had bought online.   She immediately compared them to her turquoise set and doubts began to set in.  She asked me for my opinion on photos of the two sets.  I know what you’re thinking, dear reader, how would I know, between the settings on her phone and mine, whether I was seeing the colours accurately?  Well I can’t tell you how because I’m a bit vague on the details now but my uncle works in tech and he talked me through how to do it.  Sure enough, I agreed with her, there was definitely something wrong.  Interestingly, there was a misidentified turquoise but also one of the colour on white bowls was a third shade of blue.  My friend had bought her duck egg set quite early on in her collecting career too and like me, hadn’t realised how deceptive the colours can be without an example of each to hand, particularly so on the 443 and 441 in the Cinderella sets (they are the bowls which are mostly white and have the pattern picked out in the colour) as there isn’t a solid block of colour to look at.  My friend was naturally upset to find a couple of imposters in her set but I wonder if the bowl with the unidentified shade of blue might be something special, a mistake in the production process perhaps, a limited run or perhaps a prototype which never quite made it to the final cut.  There you have the excitement of collecting vintage Pyrex in a nutshell – something new is always coming to light.

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The Turtle And The Pyrex

I love the sea.  I’ve always lived near it and would never want to live away from it.  I love it’s beauty, it’s moods and dramas and I love all of the creatures that live in it and near it – well, ok, I’m not very fond of seagulls.  They scare me, at least the ones near my home do – they seem to go round in gangs, bullying smaller birds, that is when they’re not mugging people who are silly enough to hold something edible in their hands for more than five seconds or playing chicken with cars waiting to park at the shops close to the sea.  There’s a particularly malevolent one who is always hanging around in the parking bays by the side door of our local Boots, my mum has had many a battle of wits with him!  Anyway, like lots of people, I’ve been shocked in the last couple of years to learn about the horrific amount of plastic pollution choking our oceans and killing our beautiful marine creatures.  Again like most of us, my family has been recycling for years, cut down on car use, repairing not replacing etc, but the realisation of what is happening to our seas has made us, like many others, kick our efforts to reduce our plastic consumption up several notches.
I must say, all the images of sea creatures being caught in or having eaten plastic by accident have really upset me and the ones which especially tug at my heartstrings are those which feature turtles.  Turtles are brilliant!  The Kings and Queens of the Sea in my opinion but sadly these days they are often the victims of our thoughtless and excessive plastic consumption.  I’ve worked hard on reducing the amount of plastic I use and have sent countless emails and tweets to manufacturers and retailers asking them to change their packaging policies but it still isn’t really enough.  Then one day it occurred to me that I was carrying around quite a lot of plastic every day as part of my phone and my phone case (rumours that I used to have a sparkly one with elephants is completely…true I’m afraid!).  Of course I always recycle my phones but I’ve never known the best way to dispose of the case.  Donating to the charity shop is fine if it’s still usable but what about if it’s reached the end of it’s useful life? 
That got me thinking.  I looked into eco friendly cases but they are quite hard to find and none of the ones I found were quite right for me.  That’s when it occurred to me to design my own.  I found a company which made a case mostly from bamboo but with some natural rubber and a little plastic in them.  All these elements are either natural, biodegradable, recyclable or a combination of the three – the cases sounded like just what I had been looking for!  I’m always on my phone, often as part of my Pyrex hunting work and that is how I keep in contact with my clients, so a phone case which I didn’t have to feel guilty about was an excellent idea.  I was on a bit of a roll as far as brilliant ideas are concerned that day (which doesn’t happen often!) as it then occurred to me that my customers might also appreciate a rather more ethical phone case, particularly if it featured artwork showing vintage Pyrex.  Thus was born a new venture for the ‘Pixie as I decided to put some phone cases in my shop.  Now, as you know, I like to keep the shop separate from my blog,  so don’t worry, this isn’t a commercial!  I had to tell you that so I could get to the good bit!  I thought it would be nice if a part of the proceeds from any ethical phone cases sold went to a marine wildlife charity but a smaller one.  So I did quite a lot of research and found The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre In Canada.  The Centre carries out excellent conservation work with the freshwater turtles in the region and also runs a turtle hospital which cares for sick and injured turtles brought there from all over Canada.  The work the hospital does is absolutely amazing and when I saw the before and after stories and photos of their patients, I knew I had to help them in some way.  You can see the turtle hospital here.  Ontario turtles are freshwater and not marine but they are just as lovely as their saltwater cousins and the expertise of the staff at the turtle hospital is important to seagoing casualties too.  I thought a little help from vintage Pyrex to the world’s turtles would be very apt, bearing in mind they’re both beautiful with a hard outer shell!  Plus, as Timmy fans will know, if you turn Cinderella bowls upside down and put them on top of a wooden spoon with a face drawn on it you could easily mistake it for a turtle!
It was very tempting to immortalise our Timmy on a phone case but he is very wary of publicity having previously had a bad experience when he was “papped” without his shell on but this is a family blog, so the less said about that the better!  Choosing the artwork for the cases was difficult because VP is very photogenic and I must have at least a dozen favourite patterns.  The process of transferring the prints to the cases also altered colours somewhat, so there was a lot of fiddling necessary to get them exactly right.  In the end I went for a set of coral Cinderellas stacked but the other way round (in a position affectionately known at ‘Pixie HQ as ‘the reverse Dalek’- oh come on, don’t tell me you haven’t ever thought a stack of Cinderellas looks like a floral dalek?!), the white on coral 443 serving Cinderella and it’s coral on white counterpart from the coral set on on top of the other, a stack of an Indiana, a green Medallion 5 and a Toledo (believe me, you look at that threesome long enough and you’ll need a lie down, they’ve got such a psychedelic vibe!) and a print of the pastel Gooseberry Cinderellas in a line.  That choice took me a while and I’m just sorry I couldn’t immortalise all vintage Pyrex on phone cases! 
Sorry this blog hasn’t been very Pyrexy but I did want to showcase the fantastic  work of the turtle hospital.  The work they do is so important that it seemed a good idea to tell anyone who would listen all about it! 
Here’s our Timmy, admiring some of his hoard of vintage Pyrex.

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Here’s our Timmy, admiring some of his hoard of vintage!!! 🙂

My mum’s favourite of our new phone cases.

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My mum’s favourite of our new phone cases.
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My Sisters Favourite
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And last but not least my favourite! 🙂