Got one of these in the back of a cupboard? Lucky you – get it out and display it proudly because designs by Geoffrey Baxter of the Whitefriars Glass Company Ltd are recognised today as being as quintessentially British as the Swinging 60s themselves. This vase is known as The Drunken Bricklayer!
Baxter came to work for the struggling glass company in 1957 and revived its fortunes after a difficult post war period. His eccentric forms, bold textures, quirky sense of humour and brilliant colours reflected all the freedom of expression of the Swinging Sixties.
Baxter was a graduate of the Royal College of Art and was influenced by the organic forms of Scandinavian design which had its roots in the 1940s and 50s. By the 1960s, however, he began to develop his own very particular style with a focus on texture and colour. He used a range of materials to experiment with, producing deep ridges, dimples and waves in glass, using tree bark, building bricks, wire and the heads of nails to line the glass moulds.
His work also shook up the traditional glass palette of colours with colours such as tangerine and bright blue reflecting the pop revolution and moody aubergine, pewter and green-grey willow the romantic dark side of the era.
If you like the Drunken Bricklayer take a look at some of his other iconic designs such as Banjo, Totem, TV, Coffin and Nuts & Bolts – all of which are increasingly valued and collectable. Do be aware of fakes though – apparently his work is important enough to inspire an increasing number of fraudsters.