The National Glass Collectors Fair

Heading: National Glass Collectors Fair

A Visit to the May 2011
National Glass Fair:
A Collectors' Perspective by Jindrich Parik

My father once said to me that, "The English say that those who can speak English, become half an Englishman." After many visits to England for business and pleasure, I can speak satisfactory English, so, perhaps, I can say I am a quarter of an Englishman!

Czech vase by Beranek Glassworks
Czech vase by Beranek Glassworks

Just as some Japanese people when abroad, sometimes have an irresistible craving for raw fish, like their sushi at home, I occasionally feel the uncontrollable desire to board the ferry and see the rapidly approaching white cliffs of Dover. Having travelled by car for many hours via northern France, its now early Saturday morning, I look out from the ferry after crossing the channel from France and I see the harbour in front of me, this is Dover.

Customs officers seem employed to be equipped with a sixth sense, or perhaps are trained to identify any facial expression passengers that suggest something not quite right, to decide to examine this or that. The lady in uniform seems extra cautious. I'm not a smuggler, but I dread that the nice lady will want to see the contents of my boxes I have in my trunk, make me unpack all my lovely glass and explain what I am doing. This would cause me terrible delays and stress, for no reason. So I am a little nervous.

She asks me formally,

"What is the purpose of your
visit to the UK?"
"What?" - I say.

The time-shift of the long drive leaves me a little slow in translating her question, and I do not understand much.

"Where you go and why?" Repeated the officer clearly and firmly.
"Oh, the town of Solihull near Birmingham, for The National Glass Exhibition there."

My jacket with a white shirt and tie hanging on a hanger on the rear window by chance obscures the view of the customs of the boxes containing some glass and the clothes seem a signal that I'm going to an organised social event. A point for me, that keeps suspicion to a minimum.

"This is your car?" she asks.
"You mean my tractor?"

It seems to me, she saw the humour in this comment, as it is a 4 by 4, not a small town car and looks like it has been down many country lanes.

"How long have you owned it?"
"Well, four, maybe five years ..."

I thought, who remembers exactly how long you have owned a car?

"How long did it take you to get here from the Czech Republic?"

So we continue the discussion about the journey in the tractor..... What is the itinerary for your planned trip?"

"Friday, from Prague to Calais, had dinner and slept the night and on Sunday, today, the ferry to Dover, accommodation in hotel and dinner, the Fair, then Sunday night Dover again, the next night I will be HOME."

Emphasis on the word "home" to encourage her in believing I did not plan to overstay ....Finally she is happy with me.

"So, I wish you a safe journey, enjoy your stay in the UK!". I say, "You bet, I will enjoy it!" I head into the left lane and head north.

Some things can be difficult to describe and are better seen with your own eyes. This National Glass Fair is held at a venue that is usually the National Motorcycle Museum of England. I would say that it is a highly refined glass market in three halls, covering many types of collectable glass, vintage glass from all over the world.

Selection of glass from the May 2011 National Glass Fair
Selection of glass from the May 2011 National Glass Fair

Contemporary makers too are selling their work, hand made glass, I see Vic Bamforth and Adam Aaronson, among many other English glassmakers here. There are about 200 stalls spread through three huge carpeted rooms and everyone is talking about glass, selling, buying, admiring, wonderful. The first thing that literally shocked me was the number of people, both visitors and exhibitors and more sellers. The number of visitors I cannot dare to guess, busy. Another thing that immediately attracted me was the quality of offered goods on every stall. No flea market stuff covered in cobwebs here! The organisers insist on standards that give the Fair a high quality atmosphere wherever you go. Every piece of glass was perfectly clean and polished, often with a sign bearing the name of the author, producer and often cost.

I was advised that the written price can be reduced by about 10%, maximum in discussion, rarely more. Most of the sellers are highly educated and it is not worth trying to lower prices much more without stress and impolite difficulty.

My ego was a bit tickled, in that I found I knew quite a lot of people, both from my website and forum. It was nice to know personally the people with whom I have been talking online to a few years, exchanging experiences and opinions previously only on the Internet.

Of course, I concentrated on Czech and Czechoslovakian glass wherever I could find it. Again I found a very nice surprise. In the competition of great glass: British, French and Italian, I found that Czech glass will never become extinct. It was not necessary to search for it with a flashlight. Of course, the Big Three were represented - Jurnikl, Urban and Vízner. With joy I found a number of vintage Skrdlovice pieces of glass, Exbor and Harrachov, all beautifully presented and attributed correctly.

It is fitting to remember that this is a credit not only to our great glass artists and glass masters, but also is also due to the English writers about Czechoslovakian and Czech glass. This includes Mr Marcus Newhall ( who re-introduced the world to our pressed glass in his book "Sklo Union." Mark Hill (, the author of many books about glass, including the book "Hi Lo Sklo" beautifully illustrated with photographs of pieces from the exhibition of Czech glass from the Graham Cooley collection, that ran a few years ago, that was also located in the UK. Thanks to these men, Czechoslovakian glass has found its way into the viewfinders of collectors and worldwide interest in it continues to grow.

Me, as a Czech citizen, has no choice but to ask myself, "What the hell do we do? Our taxes pay civil servants in the Cultural Government Departments, but the phenomenon of Czechoslovakian glass world must be publicised in England by a few Englishmen, derived from their own private resources?" It makes me so angry, I have to tell you this too!

Selection of glass from the May 2011 National Glass Fair
Selection of glass from the May 2011
National Glass Fair

Although the fair was quite a lot of stalls with contemporary glass work and vintage glass from many countries, Czech glass had one dedicated seller there were represented by only one seller, specialising in modern new Czech glass, "A Heart of Glass" ( Glass products from Zdar were on offer by Princ glassworks. Among other beautiful things on offer, was a version of the famous Vízner Skrdlovice "whirpool" vase, that had written underneath "designed by Princ!!" Because I know Mr Vízner had no agreement with Princ to produce this design, it seems that the commercial practices of the company may be illegal, in taking his design without asking permission, a sad situation that nobody at the Fair could have realised. The rest of the display was filled with very high quality cut pieces filled with amazing colours, very modern art glass.

To compensate for my anger about Princ, I did find some happiness at the end of the day. I bought a beautiful Skrdlovice "Kangaroo" vase, as we call it, designed by M. Veliskova in 1955. The vase has a pouch on the front made of glass as a small extra design feature, a bit like a kangaroo has its pouch. A striking and beautiful piece of Czech design. The seller, however, I made promise, that if he ran into my lady Sonia, he must tell her it was a generous gift from him, not bought! Well, the world is small and planning such an excuse could save me problems!

When a man is going well, running out of time seems somehow faster and so it happened that I was going back to Dover before I knew it, I travelled to the ferry and I made it that dinner in Calais. On Sunday 15 May I certainly drove the fastest tractor in England, and probably also in the UK.

I am not surprised by the fact that they picked me up in British customs, because I drove into the box "something to declare," such was my speed.

"You were in the United Kingdom for pleasure or for business?" said a man in uniform (the usual question).

"Well, Id say both, I was at the National Glass Fair near Solihull," It is never sensible to lie to customs officials.

"Oh, OK," "What's that?" the man pointed to a package wrapped in bubbles.

"This? This is my beautiful Velíšková!" I extracted the package and showed him the "kangaroo" vase showing the colours and shape against the light.

"Well, tell me, isn't this amazing?" I asked him sincerely. He smiled. A smile combining a little compassion, a pinch of understanding, combined with a hint of ironic smile of regret. I know what the man thought, "Poor thing, at first glance looked quite normal, and really he is an unfortunate glass crazy fool ..."

"So long and happy journey!" he said as he waved me on to the boat.
"Goodbye, my friend, I think to myself as I go, I am nearly a quarter of an Englishman!"

This article was written by Jindrich Parik and first appeared on his his website:

The Czech to English translation of the original article was written by Robert Bevan-Jones, British glass collector and expert on Skrdlovice glass.

Visit Jindrich's Picassa gallery to view various images taken on the day of his visit to the May 2011 glass fair:


Please note that the content of this article is the sole intellectual property of the author. No reproduction or reference to the text of this article may be made without the express permission of the author.

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