Posted 6 months ago
On any given day, one can't tell what will appear in an antique shop or a second-hand store. About seven years ago, I came across this vase in a small local shop. Even though it was signed, the seller was unable to attribute the vase, being unfamiliar with the signature. He had been asking $120, but I had been a repeat customer for over 15 years, and he always gave me a good discount. As it was clearly dated, wasn't an antique, and had been sitting around the shop for some time, the owner quickly accepted my offer of $90.
Despite being unable to immediately identify it, I knew I had found something special. The vase is massive in scale, over 14" tall and 7" wide. The base glass is a dark amber color, with decoration in vivid reds, blues and whites. The base is ground flat and level, while the top has a wonderful sculptural quality, with an asymmetrical opening. The decoration has always reminded me of the mushroom clouds of atomic bomb blasts.
I had kept the vase in a cabinet for several years before posting photos on an internet forum, where friends helped me with the correct attribution. Not too surprisingly, the vase turned out to be by Kent Forrest Ipsen, a fellow Virginian. He was one of the early pioneers of the American studio glass movement, and was a founder of the glass program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. I was also pleasantly surprised when my research turned up auction results of a similar, though slightly smaller, work that sold at auction in excess of 15 times what I paid for this beautiful object.
Lovers of contemporary studio glass were saddened to hear of Kent Ipsen's passing in February 2012 due to cancer. He was 79 years old. Fortunately, his legacy lives on in museums such as the Smithsonian, the Corning, and the Vatican.