I was initially drawn to this set of mid century ashtrays for two obvious reasons: shape and colour. The triangle, a defining shape of the era which is often depicted as somewhat flat yet organic, takes on greater depth when applied to glass. As the light bounces off the surface, more than one triangle appears, which further emphasizes the organic nature of this famous defining shape of the atomic age. In terms of colour, the vibrancy can only really be experienced in person. However, beyond their beauty is a rich history.
Two of the ashtrays have retained their original "Made in Bohemia" gold foil sticker. Once upon a time, Bohemia was a country, which now makes up a large part of the Czech Republic. The history of Bohemian glassmaking dates to c. 1200. According to this article, Bohemia lent itself to a long history of glassmaking, as it not only had an abundance of chalk and potash proliferate, which when combined creates beautifully clear, colourless glass, but was also rich in silica, the main ingredient in the production of glass.
By the late 1940s the Communist Party was in full control of Czechoslovakia, making it difficult for the freedom of artistic output. Through this, however, artists continued to produce their own glass work in addition to the requirements of the state. This feat to persevere culminated at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Milan (XI Triennale) in 1957, where Czech glass was put on the map in terms of exposure in the West. When the Communist Party fell in 1989, glass manufacturing became privatized again and Czech artists were allowed to pursue their own artistic expression.
1956 Spring issue of Popular Home Magazine - Depicting the common triangle shape and popularity of ashtrays in the home.
Bohemian Glass ashtrays can be purchased from here in Found.
Additional reading / resources consulted for this post:
Bohemian Glass: A History of Europe's Treasured Crystal, 23 September 2020. Mayfair Gallery. https://www.mayfairgallery.com/blog/bohemian-glass-history-europes-treasured-crystal
Hi Sklo Lo Sklo: Post War Czech Glass Design From Masterpiece to Mass-Produced, by Mark Hill, Mark Hill Publishing Ltd, 2008.
Sklo Union: Art Before Industry – 20thC Czech Pressed Glass, by Marcus Newhall, Hope Fountain Books, 2008.
Czech Glass 1945-1980: Design In An Age of Adversity, edited by Helmut Ricke, Arnoldsche, 2005.
Bohemian Glass, by Frantisek Arnost, Olga Drahatova and Antonin Langhamer, Crystalex, 1985.
20th-Century Bohemian & Czech Glass Timeline, October 19, 2011. Corning Museum of Glass.
Mark Hill. Antiques and Modern Design. https://markhillpublishing.com/czech-glass-basics/