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.

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!

The Pyrex Hunter

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!