By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
Ever hear the name Georges Briard? He was a famous designer of water glasses, bar glasses, trays and ceramics who was active from the 1950s to the ’70s.
You would find his creations in the nation’s most well-appointed department stores from Neiman Marcus to Bonwit Teller — and once upon a time on New York’s 57th Street at the shop of Carole Stupell, where fashionable hosts and hostesses selected the perfect martini shaker from among the selection of barware and accessories for the coffee table and dinner table.
I love the look of Briard’s art on glassware, especially his mid-century and atomic designs, along with what I would call kitsch patterns.
With Christmas approaching, his glassware with images of nutcrackers, toy soldiers and holly glassware spring to mind. My family always used his nutcracker glassware on our dining table when we gathered to celebrate, and should you be lucky enough to be the owner of such a set, you are well on your way to having a whimsical holiday.
Briard was not a master of the glass form, like Dale Chihuly or Richard Jolley, artists whose skill at creating fantastical shapes in glass never ceases to amaze me. And Briard’s work was certainly not of the classic Murano style.
Let me tell you a little of Briard’s story.
Ukrainian born, he was originally named Jakub Brojdo and came to America in 1937 to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned a master of fine arts degree.
He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and later worked with Max Wille designing trays before he branched out to create glassware designs under the name that made him famous. Georges Briard soon became known as a top designer of household tableware, although he continued his work as an artist under his given name.
I am particularly interested in the designs Briard created in the 1960s. His Firenze pattern features the look of stained-glass designs, while his butterfly pattern on clear glass is stunning.
But Briard was very much an across-the-eras designer. His European patterns of the 1970s have an Art Nouveau look with greens, purples, blues along with a touch of gold. They are extraordinarily handsome.
I've also seen George Briard designs in blue and silver that would be right at home on a table set to celebrate Hanukkah.
Times being what they are, the winter holidays may mean that families this year remain socially distanced -- and maybe even hundreds of miles away from each other -- as they celebrate.
Even so, Georges Briard glassware can bring a spirit of fun and happiness to a holiday table, no matter how many may be gathered around it.