Monday, February 12, 2007

Etched in Perpetuity

Signature Beakers with Sterling Scribe
Michele Oka Doner, 2007
Height 6"
$1,900 Set of Two

This spring, Steuben Glass, one of the most successful American glass companies of the 20th century, will launch a collection of eleven designs by contemporary artists. The collection primarily continues Steuben's long-established tradition of glass animals, but one design, in particular, strikes a decidedly different historical note.

Artist Michele Oka Doner's design plays on a 16th century tradition, in which inscriptions, dates and signatures were scratched with a diamond stylus onto a glass vessel, thereby commemorating a special occasion - a guestbook, of sorts. One such object, an Austrian covered beaker dating to the 1540s, is in the collection at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York (below). The inscriptions on the glass date mainly from the late 16th and early 17th centuries, but 18th and 19th-century signatures can also be found. It may have belonged to a southern German confraternity, as the professions listed with the names denote educated burghers - a surgeon, a district magistrate, a town councilor, a notary, and a lawyer.

Oka Doner, a Miami Beach native now based in New York, is primarily known for the public artworks she has created for courthouses, libraries and airports across the country. But she also produces objects of a much more intimate scale, including furnishings, tableware and jewelry. With this first design for Steuben, she furthers her exploration in functional objects and takes an historicist, if not sentimental, twist, not often expressed in her modernist idiom.

Also available is the Signature Bowl with Sterling Scribe (9.25" diam.) for $1,900 and the Grand Signature Bowl with Sterling Scribe (13.75" diam.) for $6,000.

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