By far the most popular post on the blog that I recently lost was the one about Georges Briard, the nom de design of a brilliant mid-century housewares designer. Briard designs were so numerous and were produced for so many years that it’s difficult to get through an entire flea market without seeing something he designed, which makes them great entry-level collectibles. The “he” here refers to Jascha Brojdo, a man of means and impeccable taste. After coming to the United States in 1937, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned his MFA, had a brief acting stint as a Polish prince, and served in World War II as a Russian interpreter. In 1947, he was discharged from the Army and started working in New York with Max Wille, whom he had met in art school. Brojdo began painting metal serving trays for sale, and evidently Wille came up with the name Georges Briard to mark commercial pieces – Brodjo was also a painter and would use his real name on his art pieces, but Georges Briard became his signature as a designer of these commercial articles, which were wildly popular and numerous. In fact, Georges Briard designs graced everything from bent glass dishes to toleware trays to towels to … basically any houseware used in kitchen, dining, or bar (and beyond). He could take inexpensive and common items and assign to them a lovely and innovative design and create something entirely new, and his name was – deservedly so – one of the most sought-after additions to a housewife’s cabinet. There are more companies he designed for and patterns than I could go over here, but I’ll outline a few. One of the designs you’ll see often is the Ambrosia pattern (below), typically on white enamelware:
As far as I know, almost all Georges Briard pieces are signed. Early signatures include an M and W for Max Wille. Briard designs are loosely gridded, integrating organic shapes with geometric patterns. They have a wonderful sense of proportion and balance, like in this common Coq D’or pattern tray I found at PCC several years ago:
Some wonderful things on etsy right now:
Hyalyn pieces like this, identified by a solid porcelain or bisque with gold façade, are a bit more rare and thus valuable than the more common glass or mosaic pieces.
Forbidden Fruit (below) is another common pattern, often produced on bent glass plates like this one:
Which brings me to one of my favorite pieces:
I found this at the Long Beach flea market a few years ago for about $25. The pattern here is Seascape, and is frequently found on handmade bent glass plates like this one. Glass Guild started selling these lovely plates in about 1957, and they are typically found in opal or clear glass, which is why this blue business caught my eye. In Leslie Piña’s book Designed & Signed, she includes an example of a bent glass plate in “robin’s egg blue” like mine but a quarter of the size, with the notation “made by Glass Guild as a sample and most likely one-of-a-kind.” I haven’t been able to find any other corroborating information about this, and I’ve never seen anything else in this light blue glass. Was this really a sample and not commercially produced, as she suggests? I’m really curious to know if any other blue glass pieces like this exist out there.
Generally, Georges Briard collectibles remain in the realm of very affordable midcentury accessories. They were meant as beautiful but utilitarian objects, so go ahead and use and enjoy them.