Introduced in 1927, Catalonian was advertised as “a replica of 17th century glass made in the province of old Catalonia, Spain.” Called ‘bubble’ or ‘blister’ glass, production of Catalonian glass was so innovative that the process of creating bubbles in the glass was successfully patented.
Consolidated Catalonian has uneven surfaces and asymmetric shapes, with elongated bubbles cased between layers of colored or clear glass. While the effect of the glass was old, its appeal was very modren. One early advertisment described Catalonian as “modern artistry… definitively expressed….”
This summer my wife Anne and I went to Barcelona, center of Catalonia Province, and vistied the antique district and several museums. We saw no glassware that resembles Consolidated Catalonian glass. But we did see forms that strongly reminded us of Catalonian. We bacame close friends with a Catalonian family who described their province to us as a vibrant center of modernist design, particularly the striking architecture of Antonio Gaudi, whose parks, apartment buildings and churches brought modern aesthetics into explosive contact with the traditional Gothic style.
During the late 1920s Gaudi was immersed in the construction of ‘La Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia” (the church of the Holy Family). The church is a square block in size with great towers decorated with fruits and other round ornaments. Never completed, the church is exuberant and celebratory in its use of form. To us it seemed as if the design characteristics of Gaudi’s buildings bore close resemblance to the Catalonian glass produced in the United States by Consolidated.
Consolidated’s Ruba Rombic glass echoes another strand of modernist design. Its geometric facets bear a strong resemblance to the Cubism of the 1920s and 1930s. It is clear that Consolidated’s designers were strongly influenced by the most adventurous movements of the time.
Although Catalonian glass became very popular in pre-Depression America, it was never successfully imitated. Perhaps that is because the craft did not lend itself to mass production. Although production of the glass continued into the 1970s the pieces made after the early 1930s lacked the elongated bubbles produced by swinging the hot glass at the end of a ponty rod. Pieces produced during WWII were of clear glass, partially or totally frosted with cranberry color. Later pieces do not have a ponty mark (pontil).
Today, Catalonian glass is enjoyed by an enthusiastic, if limited, market. The main source of information on Catalonian is Jack D. Wilson’s book, Phoenix and Consolidated Art Glass, published in 1989. Prices for Catalonian glassware range from under thirty dollars to several hundred. In some parts of the US, Catalonian collectors are few, making this an opportune avenue for exploration.
Ultimately, Catalonian glass will be recognized for its innovative design. In fact, we plan to send a piece of Catalonian glass to our friends in Barcelona, and are very curious to know their thoughts on it. My guess is that someday Gaudi’s many admirers around the world will discover Catalonian glass; new articles will be written about it, and it will be recognized for its innovative design and techique. It will become “rare” and “valuable”. In the meantime, Catalonian will continue to spark the interest and imagination of collectors like us.- John Regan