The Fenton Art Glass Company is an artistic glass company founded in 1905 by Frank L. and John W. Fenton, and it remains one of the foremost companies in art glass creation to this day. It originally got its start in a type of art glass known as carnival glass. What is great about Fenton is that all its glass products have been handmade from the very start. Each product has been hand-crafted with great attention to detail and beautiful artistic touches. It is currently run by third- and fourth- generation Fenton family members, who employ dozens of skilled glassworkers and decorators to make the attractive glassware you can find today.
There are a great many types of art glass, and the Fenton Art Glass Company is known for making a wide variety of them. The Fenton Art Glass Company is famous for being an innovator in new types, colors, and patterns of art glass, because Frank L. Fenton was passionate about keeping Fenton on the cutting edge of the handmade art glass industry. There are many classic types of art glass that the Fenton Company has produced, including carnival, opalescent, Burmese, depression, milk, and hobnail, and also a number of recent ones, like Blue Lagoon glass and others.
The process of art glass creation from start to finish is a very complex one, usually requiring the input of many different glassworkers throughout various stages. It can vary considerably by art glass type, with different combinations of molds, finishes, and chemicals added to the glass batch mixture. Beyond this, some are then re-heated or painted on to enhance the glass.
The pressed-glass technique was a product of the 19th century. In it, there is a mold where the glass batch mixture is poured in and pressed together by a plunger attached to a lever. Once the glass took the shape of the mold, it was removed in full shape of the mold. This type of glass-making technique revolutionized the glass industry, allowing the possibility of numerous art glass companies to spring up and produce some fantastic glass pieces. Fenton mostly makes use of the pressed-glass technique, as did most glass companies, but occasionally it used hand-blown techniques for particularly impressive results.
Carnival glass was the first art glass that the Fenton Art Glass Company produced. It was one of the cheaper glasses to produce, being merely pressed glass applied with an iridized surface. As pressed glass, it was formed in a mold while still molten. Iridized simply means that the glass shows off different colors at different angles. Carnival glass was made by exposing the newly-formed, hot-pressed glass to various sprays, fumes, and vapors from heated metal oxides while the glass is still hot. Carnival glass was also called "dope glass" by workers because the process of spraying the glass with metallic fumes and vapors was called "doping."
Opalescent glass is another type of glass that the Fenton Art Glass Company came out with in its early years. Opalescent basically refers to pressed glass that is either clear or semi-opaque, and that contains a cloudy consistency and subtle coloring inside the glass or around the edges. There are three main types of opalescent glass. One is a blue-tinged, semi-opaque, or clear art glass with milky opalescence inside the glass, which was created by slowly cooling the inside of molten glass, causing crystallization.
A second type of opalescent glass has a milky white edge or a raised pattern. This is on colored, pressed glass and is accomplished by re-heating parts of molten glass right after it has started to cool, because a heat-sensitive chemical called bone ash that the glassmakers added in the glass caused it to become white when reintroduced to the glory hole.
The third type of opalescent glass used two layers of glass and was hand-blown, rather than pressed, with the outer layer deliberately made to be sensitive to heat. After being blown into a mold, the outer layer was heated again and turned a milky white. This created a white pattern around a clear center.
Burmese glass was another type of art glass that the Fenton Art Glass Company produced. They made Burmese glass by taking translucent white glass and adding uranium oxides. The uranium gave the glass a spectrum of bright yellow colors. To get Burmese glass's rosy, pink spectrum, they heated and re-heated pure gold in the glass. The finished product was a piece with a range of color, with shades of yellow and pink all along the outside of its surface. This was particularly admired as a type of art glass.
Another technique the Fenton Art Glass Company used to create Burmese art glass was called coralene. In this process, the glassworker fastened small beads to the surface of the glass with an enamel paste. When bright light passed through the beads and reflected off of the paste, the result was a glowing effect in the art glass piece as a whole.
Depression, milk, and hobnail glass all share a similar background. A lot of depression glass was made from milk glass, and hobnail tended to be on milk glass. Milk glass could be blown or pressed, and sometimes took on an opalescent tone. Hobnail glass too could be blown into a mold or pressed. The Fenton Art Glass Company's business was revitalized as a result of its entrance into the markets of milk glass and hobnail glass.
Fenton art glass creation from start to finish has always been a complicated process, but the fact that they have been dedicated to creating all of their products by hand is a testament to their success. Even though they almost had to shut down more than once, they have managed to come through stronger and with more demand than before. The results of their art glass manufacturing process are still impressive even today, and both collectors and consumers continue to look to Fenton to produce some of the highest quality art glass specimens.