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!
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.
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 an article i wrote recently about Pyrex collecting for Suffolk Magazine. It was published in their January 2019 issue.
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!