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!


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! 🙂

Pyrex Anxiety

It’s been an exceptionally busy time for the Pixie recently, the business has been going from strength to strength, there’s been a lot of exciting Pyrex around, we’ve had contractors in (least said about that the better!) and with all this going on there were a couple of weeks when I didn’t have time to post.  Then, when things eased up I discovered I’d acquired a nasty case of blog anxiety.  For some reason, every time I tried to write, I started to worry that I had nothing interesting to report about the vintage Pyrex world.  Then this evening, after chatting on social media with several of my Pyrex Pals, I realised that those of us with this particular obsession just really enjoy hearing about other people’s Pyrex experiences (that is when we’re not glued to a TV show starring homicidal muppets, just for the fun of playing spot the Butterprint!).  So, I thought I’d bring you up to date with what’s been happening on the vintage Pyrex scene in my part of the world.
I’ve probably mentioned (several times!) before that, in my part of the UK at least, it’s very difficult to find vintage Pyrex “in the wild”.  I’m always seeing on social media that American VP collectors have been to a garage sale and found 25 perfect pieces, which are quite rare and bought them for $5!  That never happens to me and I’m really envious!  So I source a lot of my pieces from vintage dealers and emporium’s – you might think that that would ensure that the sellers had some expert knowledge about what they’re selling but that isn’t always the case!  There is one dealer near me who runs a very ‘chic’ establishment, who spent ten minutes telling me about one piece of “vintage Pyrex”, which was actually Federal milk glass!  I was shopping with my dad, who had told the owner I was a collector.  You could almost feel the guy becoming patronising, due to my age and it was quite amusing to hear him giving me the hard sell on the Federal!  I did buy something (it was Pyrex, although I can’t remember what now) and then the owner of this generally overpriced shop had the nerve to ask if I would mind “popping out to the ATM” as although he had card facilities he would be “charged by the card people” if I used that facility!
There is a really good permanent vintage market in my nearest city, with a lady who does have quite a lot of Pyrex.  She really knows her stuff but deals only from her stall, she won’t answer phone or email enquiries, which is a shame, as it’s quite a hike to get there.  I do sometimes buy from private sellers and other collectors, who for the most part are lovely but there are some eccentric ones!  I recently bought some pieces which I really wanted for the shop from a private seller in London.  I wasn’t going to be in the area and the vendor didn’t want to post, so a friend offered to collect them for me.  It was all a bit cloak and dagger from the word go as the seller insisted they meet under the clock at a famous station (now that sounds like a starting point for a movie if ever I heard one!).  I sent the money to my friend via bank transfer and she very kindly set off to complete the deal in her lunch break.  As she met the lady, she realised that she’d forgotten to get the cash out of the bank for payment and explained that she would just have to pop to the ATM clearly visible about 20 feet from where they were standing.  The seller (who naturally had not yet handed over the Pyrex) insisted on accompanying my friend to the ATM!  I’m not entirely sure what nefarious consequences she thought might ensue if she went alone…!  My friend said afterwards that the whole thing reminded her of those spy movies where they make hostage exchanges on bridges.  The only element lacking was Tom Cruise (which was a shame as it would have made my mum’s day!).  That seller was certainly eccentric but her Pyrex was exactly as she said it was and I have no complaints.
There are two things which really bug me about buying vintage Pyrex.  The first is supposed ‘experts’ who have vintage shops but also sell online.  Originally I thought this was brilliant as it would save me an awful lot of travelling.  That was before I realised that some (and it is only some – there are some brilliant online vintage dealers) put anything good which they have to sell in their physical shop and seem to think that it’s ok to put the not so good stuff on their website and then to be somewhat economical with the truth when describing the piece.  I’m not sure why they would think that a) that was in any way acceptable or b) that people would receive something not as described online and then just shrug their shoulders and accept it.  A couple of months ago I bought a piece from a vintage dealer with a good reputation but I bought from their website rather than their shop which is a few hundred miles away.  The bowl I received was in terrible condition, with a chip and extensive scratching to the pattern.  I was appalled and thought I might have a fight on my hands getting a refund but interestingly, there was no quibble and they refunded me when I returned it, so they clearly knew it was a substandard piece. The second thing which bugs me is similar and I bet some of you have experienced this either if you’ve bought online or travelled some distance to view an item and it’s not quite what you expected.  Actually, I think this might be a concern which the medical profession should look into because there seems to be an epidemic of colour blindness in vintage dealers (when it comes to our particular obsession anyway).  I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve gone to see a duck egg Gooseberry and it’s actually turquoise and vice versa and this is when I’ve been visiting vintage ‘specialists’!  To be honest, I love both colours, so it sort of doesn’t matter but I can imagine how frustrating that could be to a new collector searching for a specific bowl.  That seems to me to be ignorance of the subject, which is not great but is not done deliberately but if you’ve ever bought Pyrex online, I bet you’ve come across the odd piece which has had a lot of colour added to its photograph.  When I was a new collector, I bought a coral Gooseberry 442 online and the colour in the photos was beautiful.  When it arrived, it would barely have passed as a pink and I’m pretty sure it had been on far too close terms with a dishwasher!  I can laugh about it now but at the time I was devastated.  I recently saw a Spacesaver online described as a “coral Daisy” – obviously it was pink but someone had clearly spent a couple of hours  on Google and decided that if they described it as coral it would sell for a higher price. That’s partly why I set up PyrexPartyPixie, as I wanted to create the sort of online store that I would like to buy from.  Quite honestly I can’t see what these people are trying to achieve, as you would think they’d realise that an unhappy customer won’t call again.  Well, that’s my pre-Christmas moan over with!  I do apologise, it’s the thought of having to battle my way through the crowds at the supermarket this afternoon – wish me luck!