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Thar she blows

Last Christmas my husband gifted me with a glassblowing workshop, and it was one of the coolest things I've ever done. But, at about $75 per person, it did seem like a steep price to pay to spend a couple hours doing something that, not too long ago, was a dirty, dangerous blue-collar skill. Glassblowing is a largely obsolete art form now relegated to the ranks of hobbyists and makers of very high-end decorative objects, but once upon a time it was a practical trade that kept its purveyors busy fashioning household items for daily use. Still, they had fun with it.

The item pictured above is called an "end of day walking stick". It falls into the category of a "frigger", or a piece made by glassblowers from leftover glass in their free time after their work days ended. Walking sticks were a popular frigger because they allowed the artisan to test his lung capacity by blowing until the stick reached its optimal length. Since end of day sticks were fashioned from the various pots of molten glass leftover from the day's projects, they were commonly multi-colored like this one.

It isn't hard to imagine that canes made of glass were not especially sturdy, and thus they are quite rare in today's market. They were primarily used in parades and ceremonies during the 19th and early 20th centuries. End of day walking sticks are now regarded as folk art and are highly valued by collectors and museums alike.

The walking stick pictured here is lot #12864 in our December Quarterly Decorative and Fine Arts auction on December 19, 2017.

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