Tales of walking, eating, watching and playing. Vintage treasures and simple pleasures ... the things that make her happy.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bimini & Orplid

Last week I was lucky enough to find these in a mixed jar of buttons that I bought ...

They are 1950's blue glass Orplid (Bimini) buttons in perfect condition with stamped backplates.  If you are interested in the story of Bimini I have written a potted history below:
Fritz Lampl, born in Vienna in 1892 ... dreamer, poet and artist, but with enough savvy to run a successful business for many years.  When visiting an exhibition in Berlin where he saw fantasy shapes blown in glass Fritz was fascinated and enraptured.  Describing the pieces he saw as 'poetry materialised', he decided that he too would produce 'frozen poetry' in glass.

 He employed an out-of-work glassblower, rented a basement and invited his brother-in-law to design the fantasy shapes.  He named his new company 'Bimini', taken from the name of an island in an unfinished fictional German poem by Heinrich Heine.

As the business grew a flowerpot logo was designed, craftsmen employed and a workshop set up.  They began to produce beautiful fluid glass figurines such as these:

The business grew and they won several prizes at the 1925 Paris Exhibition, also exhibiting at various other shows throughout Europe and the US.  However, the rise of Nazism in Austria meant it was no longer safe for Jews to live and work there and in 1938 Fritz was forced to flee with his wife to the UK.  The rise in secret Nazi organisations forced them to distrust everyone and they left in total secrecy.  Fritz's assistant arrived for work the day after they fled to find the premises abandoned.  She later donated many of the glass items to the Applied Arts Museum in Vienna.

In 1938 Fritz relaunched his venture in Soho, London under the new name Orplid (again from a poem - this time by E Morike).  In 1940 Fritz and his wife were interned as enemy aliens (along with thousands of other refugees) and when released several months later he was to find his Soho premises flattened by enemy bombing.

Undeterred, he started again, this time focusing on smaller objects such as buttons, brooches and hat pin tops.  He also employed ceramicist and potter, Lucie Rie, to make small ornaments.  She went on to become a major player in the world of ceramics.  Always grateful to Fritz for giving her work in hard times, a photo of Fritz was the only adornment on the walls of her London studio.
Photo from Wooley and Wallis Auctioneers Saleroom Catalogue

The popularity of Fritz's work was growing rapidly and he was feted in Vogue and other prestigious design and interior magazines worldwide.  He even appeared as the hero of a children's book published in 1945 called 'The Mystery of the Pink Elephants'.

During the mid 1950's however, cheap mass produced imports of glass products from central Europe started to break Orplid's monopoly and Fritz's efforts to compete took their toll on his health.  In 1955 he died of a heart attack, followed months later by his wife.  With no children to take on the business, Bimini and Orplid ceased to exist.  The legacy lives on through the much sought after glass figures that still remain.

Little Birdie Colibri,
Lead us on to Bimini
Fly ahead and we shall follow
In beflagged barges hollow;

On the Isle of Bimini
Reigns eternal ecstasy
And the golden larks are singing
In the Blue their tirili ...


Favourite Vintage Finds said...

They are lovely! A lucky find for sure! Thanks for sharing the story of Bimini! xo

VintageSweetheart said...

They are beautiful! Interesting to hear the history it's a shame there was no one to take over the business.

E :)

KC'sCourt! said...

Lovely find, and interesting history. I wonder if they are Bristol Blue Glass..?
Julie xxxxxx

Liz said...

Very interesting post. Your buttons are lovely.
Liz & Shortbread & Ginger

*Maristella* said...

Hi Marina....che meraviglia i tuoi bottoni, sono una mia grande passione, ne ho dappertutto!!
Un caro saluto e...vorrei essere lì, *Maristella*.

Jen of Country Weekend said...

What a fascinating story--I love his "poetry materialized" concept, and his work fulfills it. That book cover is adorable too!

Rose H (UK) said...

Oh wow! What a great find Marina :o) Never heard of them before - very interesting, thank you for the info.

Mum said...

Thank you for the story. I love the glass figures.
Love from Mum

polkadotpeticoat said...

Wow those buttons are amazing and that book takes the cake!

Brown Paper Packages said...

How cool to learn something new and unexpected. Thank you. What a lucky find - they are so interesting!

vintageandart said...

What a fantastic find they were and if l'd found them l'd never have known how special they were, so thanks heaps for the back history l really enjoyed and appreciated it. Big love for the pink eiderdown in the previous post, and l both laughed and felt bad for the paint pot accident your hubby had.

Laurie said...

How fun is that! I haven't seen Biminis that look like yours -- what a find! Thanks for linking to the Button Floozies blog!

Doni said...

Wow, those buttons are so sweet, but I after reading the history about them, they are truly special. Thanks so much for joining me for Pearls and Lace Thursday! Your contribution is so neat!!
Blessings, Doni

Jo said...

I've just found this blog while researching Bimini glass buttons. I found 3 in my attic while having a sort out. They belonged to my late mum and have the proper marks on the back too. Well chuffed.
Thanks for such an informative & enjoyable blog..... I'll be adding you to my favs.
Jo. xx