The Joy of Wallowing in Willow

by Leonette Walls
Volume 29 No. 8 - September/October 2003

With the gift of a Willow Punch Bowl Set to the National Glass Collection Program of the National Depression Glass Association, my volunteering to do an article on Willow seemed appropriate. It also Willow Punch Bowl allowed me an opportunity to update my report first made in 2000. Very nice visits with members of the donor family, Eddie and June Cathy (Houston, TX) and Albert and Ina Bray (King City, CA), along with photos of their collections, spurred my interest even more. There seem to be a limited number of avid Willow collectors, but all of love the pattern passionately.

Since research of unidentified and unpublished patterns is a passion for me, I am happy to share what I have learned to date. The most difficult and frustrating part of research is almost always the wait for results adequate enough to make a definitive report. In this case work began in 1998. The unique ways that documentation is gathered are indeed awesome; it seems that some invisible magnet draws the pieces of the puzzle into place.

Research began in the identification of a pattern that continues to be seen more frequently in malls, shops and shows. There are three ever-present questions: what is this pattern? Who made it? When was it Decorated Willow items made? in May, 1998, the question of "Who?" was answered when a large console bowl was seen in an antique mall in Springfield, Ohio. The bowl bore the original label, indicating that this patten was made by Indiana Glass. As so often happens. researchers money supplies are often limited or the price prohibits purchasing. Both situations were true in this case, after a great buying trip which had already gotten out of hand, as many dealer and collectors have experienced.

Even though the glassmaker had been identified, this was only a fraction of the information needed. In February, 1999, I met Melissa Miller. Through a series of e-mails, the teamwork between us began to develop. Photographs were sent via e-mail from Ms. Miller, who had reported that she had heard that the name was "Oleander." This seemed an appropriate name for the leaf cut design. Through a cooperative research relationship with Dunkirk Glass Museum in Dunkirk, Indiana, I received Indiana Glass catalogs that contained an example of the pattern in question. The only problem was that despite the great documentation, there was no pattern name given. It was only listed as a promotional item. To further cloud the correct naming of the pattern, I saw two examples of the pattern labeled "Oleander" in a Northwest Arkansas antique mall. Within two days, a piece was seen at a glass show labeled "Willow." In questioning tho dealer, Denise Germer from Houston, Texas, she told about coverage in an issue of the Daze, February, 1979, that featured "Willow." Ms. Germer was kind enough to send that article, supplied by Mrs. Virgie Ott, a Willow (Oleander) collector from Gretna, Louisiana. Published in this article was a note from Arthur L. Hardeman, Assistant to the President of Indiana Glass. Mr. Hardeman related that the Pattern was line #lOO8 - having been introduced in the 1930s in crystal only, being hand made, and continued in production for a number of years. In viewing what are obviously sketches from a catalog, it is noted that a number of pieces had ground bottoms. For those who examine many Indiana Glass items, the Willow with platinum characteristic of heavy glass is present, but finding pieces with ground bottoms will surprise many. Also, the elegance of many of the items will catch the eye of Depression Era glass lovers. One of the perplexities is the paradox of Mr. Hardeman's statement about only crystal items being produced and the frosted items that have been seen. The question will be pursued in further studies, but there is a possibility that these items were produced in the 1970s. For example, some footed items appear in a 1978 Tiara catalog.

More pieces are being seen at shows, antique malls and other venues. The bulk of the pieces seen are crystal. I located a footed comport in Colorado in Milk Glass. I will speculate that this is a Tiara product. At the present, sugar and creamers abound, with other larger, more interesting items being seen. Cranberry and yellow flashing in the cuttings and platinum decorations have also surfaced. The frosted items are seen occasionally, but I normally pass those by. Some of these frosted items have flashed color in the leaf cut. These pieces do not excite me, but some collectors enjoy them. One of the collectors that I have met collects nothing but crystal. One of the most beautiful colors Willow in Tiara green is an Emerald Green which I believe will prove to be a Tiara product as well. My rationale is based on the fact that other patterns items in this color appear in Tiara catalogs, and that Mr. Hardeman does not mention any items other than crystal in the aforementioned Daze article. A number of items in this gorgeous green color have been collected including: footed candy dish with cover, small footed candle bowl, sugar/creamer/tray, large shallow console bowl, flat bottomed covered candy (three part bottom), rectangular center bowl, footed comport (footed candy without a lid).

The reports of the pattern by both Willow and Oleander had been puzzling, especially after receiving the article verifying the name as Willow. While in the Tulsa flea market, I spotted a page in a scrapbook belonging to Nancy Goddard of Eufaula, Oklahoma. Graciously, she sent a copy of a Montgomery Ward catalog page clearly calling this pattern "Oleander." In my report in 2000, no date was available for the catalog page. Thanks to Sharon and Patrick Ervin, I now possess a copy of a page from the 1951 Spring and Summer Montgomery Ward catalog, offering "Oleander items for sale." This is an additional page than the first one showing the punch bowl set. On an accompanying page is a lazy Susan in the Laurel pattern by Indiana Glass that certainly would fit as a very nice "go with." Similarities in the two patterns often can lead to confusion.

One of the most common errors seen in shops and malls is to label Willow as a Fostoria product. To date, there has been no ready reference available for identification and pricing. It is my personal opinion that accurate pricing will only occur after significant items are marketed and a track record is established. Inclusion in a book for the first time will give us some guidance, but only time will tell what the "real" price range will settle into eventually. Current pricing in the market place does not appear to have settled on a median price. At this time, I still decide on purchasing a piece of Willow based on my comfort with the price and my past experience with similar items. We have on occasion paid more than the item seemed to be worth because of our desire to have the item. Oftentimes, the dealer may not be totally convinced that I know what I am doing and may be unwilling to "deal." A pair of double candlesticks have been in the same location in a booth for over three years with a price that is not in line with what I have been paying. Despite attempts to contact the dealer, no communication has occurred, yet. Drooling takes place every time I pass by them. Sad to say, but I have walked away from pieces that I would love to have because of out of line pricing. My saddest story is the Willow vase that I found, but somehow just could not bring myself to pay $7O. Oh, well.., the search goes on. As more information comes to light, Willow will be one of the shining stars for the future!

Copyright, 2003, Glass & More Publications, Dr. Leonette, Walls, Owner
For a complete list of Willow pieces, email Leonette at leonettewalls@hughes.net