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 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!