Higgins Glass is another example of the creative outburst of the mid-century studio crafts movement. Founded by husband and wife, Micheal and Frances Higgins (both students at the Chicago Institute of Design), they brought back the ancient art of fused glass making. They began creating work out of their apartment in Chicago and quickly attracted attention and orders. Soon major retailers such as Marshall Field’s and Georg Jensen were placing orders for their work.
The Higgins soon had to move to larger quarters to meet the demand and in 1957 they formed a partnership with Dearborn Glass Company of Chicago. At Dearborn a line of “Higginsware” was heavily promoted, that included a full range of tableware, ashtrays, lamps and rondelays. This partnership brought Higgins glass to the national market for close to a decade, a big change from the small studio work they had done previously.
In 1966 Higgins parted with Dearborn and went back to their more intimate studio work. They continued to successfully create and sell their whimsical designs for many years. Micheal Higgins died in 1999 and Francis in 2004. Their studio remains active under the stewardship of Jonathan Wimmer, who’s mother worked at the studio in the 1970’s. You can visit the current studio’s website here.
Higgins glass prices went through quite a rollercoaster in the past decade. About eight years ago there was a sudden craze for Higgins glass and people were paying extremely high prices for examples of it. The inevitable articles about it in magazines and online fed the fire. The craze triggered people who had not thought about Higgins glass in years to clean out their mother’s attics and dig through flea markets and soon the market was flooded with Higgins glass and the prices dropped. Now prices seemed to have hit a happy medium, with rarer and early studio pieces fetching the highest prices.
I’ve always been attracted to the design motifs of Higgins glass. Years before I even knew what it was I purchased a small Higgins charger for a $1 at a flea market. Years later when I was researching Higgins work I was surprised to find, upon close inspection, there was a small etched signature on the back reading “Higgins” which I had never noticed before.
HIGGINS SIGNATURES AND MARKINGS
Higgins glass is usually always signed somewhere. The signature will either be done in enamel (paint) on the piece or etched on to the glass. The enamel signatures are pretty obvious and easy to read, clicking on the pink trays up top or the clock tray below you will see the gold signature in the corner. The etched signatures can be harder to find, or at least aren’t as obvious as the painted signatures.
There are various types of signatures, “Higgins,” “Higgins studio” and they also have a little “stick man” they used as a symbol for their studios which appears on some pieces. (If you visit the Higgins website linked above you will see the stick man symbol used prominently at the top of the page as the studio logo.)
Higgins described their work as a “exclamation point” for your decor and they certainly make wonderful accent pieces in a house. I particularly like hanging the fused glass trays and chargers on walls, and using them catch-it-alls near doors and on tables. They created so many different styles it pays to take a good look at their body of work and pick some favorites.
Higgins glass is a lot more accessible than much of the studio or handblown art glass out there. It has a very particular style and look which is the beauty of creations done by individuals. Each of their pieces are an extension of their own individual style and creativity. I think they make cute accent pieces and good examples of their work are still affordable.