I thought it was about time I told you about one of my favourite pieces of Pyrex, one which baffled me when I was new to collecting and led me onto several wild goose chases in the early days but still has a special place in my heart. The spectacular, show stopping, white on coral 443 Cinderella bowl, or to give it it’s official name; the 2176 Serving Bowl with Lid and Stand in Deep Coral! I came across one of these when I first started collecting and immediately fell in love with it. It was the first example of coral Pyrex I saw and I still think it’s the most becoming use of coral in the vintage Pyrex catalogue.
When I first added this little beauty (or at least the bowl part of it) to my collection, I already had a set of yellow Gooseberry Cinderella’s and had seen all the other sets on the Internet, so following the logic of the colouring and sizing of these other sets, I assumed (which seemed perfectly reasonable at the time but I now blush to think about!) that there must be a set of Gooseberry Cinderella’s where the 444 (largest bowl) and 442 (third largest bowl) bowls were coral on white and the others were white on coral. I do hope you’re reading this when you’re alert and fully caffeinated, as with all the numbers and ‘this colour on that colour’ and vice versa, it’s quite confusing. I’m bewildered and I’m explaining it! Thus began a long and completely fruitless search for these glass equivalents to the Loch Ness Monster! It was only when I got my hands on a coral on white 443 that the penny finally dropped – there was no coral set like that – this bowl was a one-off, special edition. Once I’d realised that, my new obsession was to get one of these bowls in its entirety – with a lid and a stand. Little did I know that that would be almost as difficult as finding a set which didn’t exist! For months I kept seeing lovely bowls with no lid and certainly never a stand. Then I found a pretty badly beaten up bowl with a perfect lid, so I decided to buy that to add the lid to the perfect bowl I’d already got, so I was two thirds of the way there!
I’m going to just digress here for a moment. Does anyone else have a problem with disposing of vintage Pyrex which they can’t use but isn’t really good enough to pass on to someone else, or is it just me? I don’t normally go around buying things I don’t need or that aren’t really up to scratch, obviously (!) but occasionally do end up with something in a group lot, or if I want one part of it, such as the coral set. The problem is, I’m opposed to throwing it away (partly because it’s wasteful and partly because it’s vintage Pyrex for heavens sakes!) but our local charity shop is somewhat snobbish and often refuses to take items it deems imperfect (they don’t really seem to have got the hang of raising money for charity, while providing affordable goods to people who can’t afford new things). So, what to do with it is a dilemma. I’ve free-cycled some but still have this problem sometimes. I have to say though, my mum is definitely the winner in all this, as she has a very wide collection of rather the worse for wear vintage Pyrex! All her perfect but characterless bowls and dishes are gradually being replaced with this rather motley crew. She moans about it but I think she secretly prefers them to her old ones, with the exception of her pink Gooseberry Cinderella 444! Most people would be pleased to own such a pretty and iconic piece of kitchen equipment. Sadly, my mother is not most people. Her pink 444 is one with a small, smooth chip and a patch of colour loss – I didn’t need it as I already have one and it wasn’t quite good enough for my shop. It was fine to have out on display, although you would probably put the side with the colour loss nearest the wall.. I gave it to mum, who keeps it in a cupboard and stores new potatoes in it! I’ve tried telling her that there are lots of Pyrex fans who would love to have a slightly damaged pink Gooseberry 444 as a present but it’s no good, she just hates pink! I do hope you’ll excuse me but I feel another digression coming on! When my sister and I were little, we were dressed in every colour of the rainbow, with the exception of pink. Naturally this made pink seem exciting and exotic and it topped our most wanted list. Our Aunty Di (also our Reception – First Grade, I think that would be, for our American friends – Teacher) knew this and every birthday and Christmas bought us a pink outfit each, which mum didn’t have the heart to stop us wearing! This maternal tolerance apparently does not extend to pink vintage Pyrex however and this superstar of the Pyrex world remains firmly banished to the cupboard!
Anyway, where were we? Yes, so I now had the two actual Pyrex parts of the set but still no stand. Eventually, I managed to find one, a little dirty but it cleaned up nicely and finally I had my set. It took a while but was well worth waiting for and I’m glad I made the effort to complete the set (although I know some collectors disapprove of making a complete set up from component parts, although I’m not quite sure why). I think the stand is really cute and when the dish and lid are on it, it looks like a sort of beautiful Pyrex spaceship!
The other thing which this piece illustrates is just how baffling the wide range of vintage Pyrex patterns and colours can be. It’s particularly so when you’re new to collecting but even those of us who have been collecting for a while can sometimes find new things. I’m mainly thinking of JAJ Pyrex here too, so when you factor in American and Agee it becomes a real brain melter! For example, despite liking all vintage Pyrex on principle, it must be said that I’m not as interested in ‘eighties Pyrex and don’t have any in my personal collection and only a few particularly nice pieces in the shop. A couple of weeks ago, I found some Pyrex in a local vintage centre and my sister drew my attention to a casserole dish, which I had dismissed as ‘eighties and so not really my era. She suggested that as it was quite pretty, some of my customers might like it and I should get it for my shop. We got it and when I researched it when we got home, it turned out that it was in fact a rarely seen short run ‘seventies piece! Of course, the wide range of colours and patterns is one of the things which makes vintage Pyrex so appealing but it can be a bit daunting to the collector. I’ve learned to say “never say never” with vintage Pyrex and secretly, deep in my heart, I just know there is a set of coral and white Gooseberry Cinderella’s, with the traditional colour scheme reversed out there somewhere, just waiting for me to find it!
The bit of my job which I think I like the most is tracking down Pyrex for other people – of course I also love finding it for myself but I don’t have a big enough home to accommodate all the vintage Pyrex I’d like, so the next best thing is the vicarious thrill of searching it out for friends and customers! As with collectors of any type of object, I started off buying any Pyrex which looked pretty and it was only as my knowledge increased that I began to hanker after the rarer pieces, to some extent just because they were hard to find. Don’t get me wrong, I love all vintage Pyrex but not equally and there is one rare piece which I’m quite often asked to obtain for clients, which I seriously can’t see the attraction of! The customers who I find this for are always very excited when I tell them it’s mission accomplished and thrilled to bits when they actually get their hands on it but for the life of me I can’t see the attraction and don’t own one myself! I’m not going to tell you which piece it is as it’s probably against the Pyrex Hunter’s Code (and if such a thing doesn’t exist, I really think someone should write one!).
All the time spent traipsing round vintage dealers and forging links with other collectors really pays off when you are in search of that special item which someone needs to complete their collection, as quite often, if someone you know personally doesn’t know where something can be found, they have a friend of a friend who just might. This sometimes involves a bit of travel, which is also fun, as you get to check out vintage stores outside of your usual stamping ground.
Many vintage Pyrex collectors say they are “addicted” to adding to their stash and I’m no exception. The excitement I feel when I’m closing in on what I’m searching for gives me a real high, which is completely legal, if sometimes somewhat expensive! They say that nicotine is the most addictive substance known to man but all I can say is that vintage Pyrex must run it a close second although (unfortunately, I’m sure lots of partners of collectors would say) you can’t get a patch to wean you off it! I spoke the other day to the long suffering husband of a lady who has been collecting for years. He said they had Pyrex in cupboards, the attic, under the stairs, the spare room and even under all the beds! His wife has two and a half thousand pieces in her collection! I imagine that people reading this would have one of two reactions; complete horror or total envy. Although I guess if you’re reading this, we all know which camp you (and I) would be in!
Two things in the world of vintage Pyrex hunting never fail to amaze me. The first one is something we could call Jobling’s Law of Inverse Availability. Under this law, you will spend weeks virtually tripping over a particular piece wherever you go and every one will be pristine. You see so many of them that you become sick of the sight of them. It is guaranteed, however, that within an hour of a customer asking you to find that item for them, they will all have mysteriously disappeared, except for one poor little specimen with half a dozen chips, who has been fraternising regularly with the dishwasher. That’s ok because usually the request is not that urgent (alright, alright, I know the need for need Pyrex is ALWAYS urgent but you know what I mean, it’s not literally life and death!) and you know that in a few days you will manage to sneak up on one somewhere. I’m experiencing this at the moment as a client has requested a set of JAJ Cinderella bowls in an often seen pattern. The buyer is in the United States, so it is much easier for me to find a set than them but if only they’d asked a week earlier!
The second thing is that it never ceases to amaze me just how far really rare vintage Pyrex travels. You would think that you would be most likely to find a rare piece in it’s country of origin but, recently at least, I’ve found the opposite to be the case, with rare dishes turning up where they really have no business to be! Thank goodness that Pyrex collecting is such a sociable hobby and collectors such a friendly bunch, otherwise sometimes even the internet would not be enough to track down these rare items to their far flung locations.
The other thing I love about being a vintage Pyrex hunter is that it’s so educational! Very occasionally, you will be asked to trace something which you had no idea even existed. That’s happened to me twice and the first time I felt embarrassed that there was a gap in my knowledge but since then I’ve come to realise that part of the magic of vintage Pyrex is that just when you think you’ve seen it all, something new comes on the horizon!
Before we get going today, I just wanted to say I’m sorry I haven’t blogged for a while, the long Summer holidays, nail biting wait for exam results and providing long distance moral support to my sister as she wrote her Masters’ dissertation have all taken their toll. I’m back now and raring to go!
Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my vintage Pyrex career. Obviously I have an online shop and I want people to buy things from it but I absolutely shrink from the idea of selling! You know what I mean, I love shopping (in fact it’s my middle name!) but I hate it when people try to sell me things. Don’t you just hate it when you go into a shop and the salesperson pounces on you as you cross the threshold? They then follow you around the store giving the impression that they are either desperate to make a sale or that they think you look a bit shifty and might be a shoplifter, neither of these options being conducive to giving you an enjoyable retail experience! So, I was quite dismayed when I realised that an important part of running a successful shop is promotion. Fortunately we live in the age of the internet, so I can talk to people on social media and am spared the indignity of walking round in a sandwich board or dressed as a giant Cinderella bowl. I don’t like advertising – maybe it’s a British thing but it seems tantamount to showing off, so I tend to try and amuse people with what I post and hope they’ll then be kind enough to visit my shop. That is how Pyrex Party Pixie got its first full-time employee and brand ambassador (posh, huh?!) Timmy the Turtle.
Now I’d like to say that Timmy was the result of a long and thoughtful creative brainstorming session but in fact he only exists because I like doing childish things with my Pyrex! During a photo shoot for my shop, I noticed that an upside down Cinderella bowl looks quite like a turtle shell… I’m very keen on the sea and in protecting it from pollution and turtles, who are particularly vulnerable to plastic waste, have been on my mind a lot. I like to post on social media about marine conservation and I thought PyrexPartyPixie could do with a sea creature mascot. I hadn’t realised that vintage Pyrex turtles are so ambitious though, as after Timmy came into being he decided being a mascot was a bit beneath him and demanded a full time job instead!
We could, of course, have opted to use CGI to create Timmy but as a vintage retailer, we decided that Timmy should be more traditional, so apart from his shell, he consists of a decorated wooden spoon (I hope I haven’t shocked you all, I know you thought he was a real turtle!!!). Rather like Pinocchio, Timmy soon took on a life of his own and demanded a lady friend! So Tabitha, or Tabby was born. She’s almost identical to Timmy, except for her pink ‘shell’ and penchant for bright pink lipstick!
Timmy and Tabby like to do their photo shoots on a Friday, which leaves them the weekend free for Ocean Activism. They also like to get involved in local beach cleans although, moving at turtle speed, they usually only manage to collect to collect one piece of trash each before it’s time to go home. They also enjoy candlelit lettuce dinners for two and doing crossword puzzles. They also enjoy quiet evenings in front of the TV, their favourite shows being The Blue Planet and re-runs of The Great British Bake Off (they refuse to watch the new ones as they are both #TeamMaryBerry!).
We recently had a family day out. Most people go for days out at the seaside or perhaps to a theme park. We went combined vintage Pyrex/Medieval graffiti hunting! That may sound a little odd but I wanted to check out the antique centres in our nearest city and my sister, who is doing a Masters in Medieval History, wanted to examine the cathedral to look again at it’s fine graffiti. Neither of us can drive, so mum came as chauffeur! Things got off to a bad start when not too far from home but just long enough to be in the countryside, the car started making a very weird noise and bumping along as if the wheels were square. Fortunately, there was a service station not too far away, where we limped to a halt to survey our pancake like tyre. After much frantic searching on the internet and conferring with the petrol station owner, we found a lovely man who came out right away from the nearest market town, replaced the tyre and charged us much less than we’d expected! It was lucky he came immediately as we were in the middle of a heatwave in the UK and if he’d delayed, we might have melted!
After that false start we were on our way again, finally arriving at our destination in the early afternoon. I can’t help thinking my sister had the better side of the deal as I’m sure the cathedral must have been a lot cooler than wandering about the antiques centres of the city. Two hours, two cups of tea and a strawberry ice cream later, we were on the way back to the car with a large box of bubble wrapped vintage Pyrex. This was only possible after dragging my mother away from a lot of old Tupperware, that had it not been for my prompt and decisive action, would now have been cluttering up our kitchen.
I rang my sister and she soon met us back at the car, suggesting we all pop back to the nearby indoor antiques market for a drink before heading home. In retrospect, agreeing to this was a huge mistake… My sister, although not technically a Pyrex collector herself, is starting to get into it (inevitable really I suppose) and it didn’t take her long to spot a tiny white with black pattern, Snowflake dish. As you may remember, I don’t collect vintage Pyrex tableware and I believe this is a piece of tableware. It’s very tiny, smaller than a dessert bowl and my sister fell in love with it. She asked me what it was and I facetiously replied that it was a special casserole dish for babies! She immediately went “Awwwww” and went and bought it! Naturally it didn’t have a lid (nor do I think it should have one but more on that later!). This purchased we finally started for home, deciding to stop on the way at our local supermarket to pick up a few things.
The journey back was uneventful, as was the supermarket trip, until we were going round the roundabout outside, finally five minutes from home! Suddenly my mum started going on about baby rabbits, came off the roundabout, drove to the next one and went right round it until we were back at the original one again! She then told my sister and I to keep our eyes on the roundabout and there, right at the edge by the busy main road, was a baby rabbit, nibbling away on a half cabbage which had thoughtfully been lobbed to him by some Good Samaritan! There then arose a spirited debate about what could be done for said infant creature – mother insisting we had to do something, me saying I didn’t see what we could do and I certainly wasn’t going onto a roundabout in rush hour to run around trying to catch a baby bunny (I can hear you all thinking how mean I am but then I wouldn’t need to do it because my sister is always the first one up for such challenges!) and my sister saying she would get it BUT they carry myxomatosis, so she couldn’t possibly! By this time we had actually arrived home but mum was so anxious about the “poor little thing” that we turned round and drove back, having decided to ring the RSPCA if it was still there. Weirdly, when we got back, the cabbage had been abandoned and Bugs had gone. This was a bit of a relief, as I’d had visions of my sister attempting to secure the bunny wearing some sort of hazmat suit improvised from whatever we had in the car!