Marbles: From Child’s Play to Serious Art5
By Jojo Balogh
Marbles: From Child’s Play to Serious Art
Marbles. You can lose your marbles, not have all your marbles, pick up your marbles and leave. They can be synonymous for brain cells, money, or certain parts of the male anatomy – as in yo, you ain’t got the marbles. Most of us played with them as kids (real marbles that is). If you didn’t shoot marbles, you probably played Chinese Checkers, Mancala, Hungry, Hungry Hippos or Ker-Plunk! There are oilies, aggies, cat’s eyes, commies, puries, tigers, bumblebees and onionskins, to name a few. They were small round balls, usually about ½-inch in diameter and made of glass or agate, and most of them looked something like this:
Handmade glass marbles, however, have become VERY grown-up works of art, with millions of collectors worldwide. They are displayed in art galleries and museums around the world and each can sell for hundreds of dollars, if not more. The sizes vary, with most being around two inches in diameter.
Now sit back, turn off the lights, and feast your eyes on marbles from some of the finest marble artisans in the world.
1. Stan Skipper of Starroots Glass Design in Eugene, Oregon
Artist, musician, student of multimedia design. Glass artist since 1996.
2. Gateson Recko of Universe Marbles in Swedesboro, New Jersey
Former graffiti artist. Co-founder of Hot Soup, Philadelphia’s first public glassblowing facility. Works almost solely on outer space themes. First Prize-2002 Albbuquerque Flameworking Competition.
3. Richard Charles Hollingshead ll of Route 66 Glass Works in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Artist, family man, creator of magnificent hollow marbles wtih a technique where the design is introduced inside a hollow tube, then melted flush to the internal surface, rounded and sealed hot.
4. John Bridges of Eye Candy Arts in Eugene, Oregon
Once worked professionally in electronic engineering technology. Graphic artist, musician, eccentric. Relies on a technique called implosion, creating an otherworldly floatiness in pursuit of symmetry and depth of character.
5. Kris Parke Cortland, Ohio
New kid on the glass marbles block. Fast learner. clean, precise, colorful, but also a master in black and white.
6. Mike Gong of Gong Glass in Portland, Oregon
Formerly of Venice Beach, CA. Attention to detail. Perfectionist. Removes even the slightest flaws. Each piece a master work, his marbles show a sense of humor and wonder, and a love for life.
7. Ben Burton of Ben Burton Glass in Oahu, Hawaii
Degree in Humanities and Art from Hawaii Pacific University. Started as an apprentice, but eventually studied in Murano, Italy. Well traveled. Born surfer. Inspired by nature’s beauty… any wonder?
8. Paul and Aimee Katherman of Katherman Glass in Columbia, Pennsylvania
Married artists that also teach. Favored by collectors. Published writers. Favor a glass style they call People Eaters. Here’s why.
9. Larry Zengel and Brett Young of Hot House Glass in Bowling Green, Ohio
Met while studying in the Glass Program at Bowling Green State University in the late 80’s. After working for other people, formed Hot House in 2003. Like “Walking the fine line between Artist and Pyromaniac.”
10. Akihiro Okama of Glass Studio Hand in Japan
One of Japan’s finest glass artists. Also well known for his intricate beads. Uses a very soft glass with a low melting point.
Marbles, as toys, have been around since ancient civilization.
Here’s a few historic fun facts about these glassy objects of attraction.
- Archaeologists speculate that small clay balls found in the pyramid tombs of Egyptian children were produced for marble games.
- There is evidence that during the middle ages, the village of Saint Gall in England had statutes which authorized the use of a cat-o-nine-tails on boys “who played marbles under the fish stand and refused to be warned off.”
- In 1720 Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, wrote of a marble player “so dexterous an artist at shooting the little alabaster globe… that he seldom missed.”
- Although the Germans dominated the marble industry, toward the end of the nineteenth century Americans began to vie for a share of it.
- In 1846 a German glassmaker invented marble scissors which could cut a rope of molten glass and form balls, or marbles, with the soft pieces.
- Marbles were first mass-produced in Akron, Ohio in 1884 by the Akron Toy Company. In 1891 The American Marble and Toy Company, founded by Samuel Dyke, became the biggest American toy company, producing a million marbles a day.
- By the early 1900’s dozens of companies in Akron were making marbles. Dyke’s factory burned to the ground around this time. In 2002 the American Toy Marble Museum opened on the site of the factory, and many of the unearthed marbles found at the site are displayed there.
- Mibology is Latin for the study of marbles.
- Pontil: The rough spot on a marble where it was sheared off from the iron rod used to shape it.
- 300: The number of years a marble tournament has taken place in Tinsley Green, England on Good Friday weekend.
- Mexico: Where more than 90 percent of the world’s mass-produced marbles come from today.
- Four: The number of factors that determine a marble’s value. Type, size, condition and eye appeal.
Jojo Balogh is something of a pop culture legend in her own mind, and those of her friends. She was number one on their lists of people to use as phone-a-friends on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. In addition to her now defunct personal blog, she also wrote training materials for recruiters and headhunters, as well as love letters, and emails to school teachers and administrators regarding her teenage son in an effort to encourage them not to charge him with truancy.