Vintage Seekers column: Peter Layton - A Future Vintage
Estella Shardlow is deputy editor of Vintage Seekers, the premium online platform curating a heritage lifestyle. In a regular Vintage Seekers column Estella reports on high-end vintage events and news. This time, she takes a closer look at Peter Layton’s glassware as a future vintage classic.
Gazing into the translucent emeralds and rubies swirling across the surface of a Peter Layton ‘Paradiso’ glass vase, it’s easy to imagine you’re basking in tropical waters, watching clown fish play amongst the coral reefs. Then there’s the ‘Chalcedony’ design – which brings to mind sunlight filtering through golden autumn leaves, or with ‘Skyline’, a rosy sunset over a desert island beach. The appeal of these objects is not unlike that of a Rothko or Kandinsky painting, they share the meditative, even entrancing, pull of abstract pure colour. Combine this with curvaceous sculptural forms created by hand blowing red-hot molten glass and you have something truly special.
“Glass is a really insidious, seductive medium. Once you’ve had a go it’s hard not to get hooked,” enthuses Layton. Usually collectors make the pilgrimage to his Bermondsey studio to buy these glass works of art. But now Layton has collaborated with Vintage Seekers to offer four 2011 collections exclusively online.
You may, by this point, have stumbled over the dates – indeed, it doesn’t exactly fall within our vintage timeline of 25 to 100 years old. In fact, Layton’s glass perfectly illustrates a concept Vintage Seekers has coined, called ‘Future Vintage’. We recognised that many of those qualities we so admire in true vintage pieces – namely – are manifest in the work of the best contemporary practitioners.
We’re talking about an Alexander McQueen dress, a limited edition print designed by Florence Welch for the Liberty textiles archive or a bottle of 2000 Dom Pérignon Rosé; these are the pieces that future generations will covet and collect. The hand-blown technique Layton has mastered means that each glass vessel is entirely unique, and he is set in the history books as one of Britain’s pre-eminent practitioners, accelerating away from the tradition of Waterford Crystal and the like to create something at fresh and distinctive. Elton John and the Duchess of Kent have already added his work to their art collections, while BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Judith Miller includes him in her buyer’s guides.
That is not to say Layton is without a vintage pedigree – he’s been a professional artist since the Fifties and has a fascinating biography that began against the backdrop of one of the 20th century biggest tragedies. Born in 1937 to a prosperous Jewish family, as the Nazis swept through central Europe, they were forced to flee their home in Prague. They narrowly made it onto the last train to leave the city when Layton was just two years old. He then grew up in Bradford, where he became a childhood chum of David Hockney, who was a few years older and already a prodigious talent.
Whilst teaching Ceramics at Iowa University in the mid-Sixties, Layton encountered the pioneer of the modern hand-blown glass movement, Harvey Littleton, and joined his studio circle. The ‘Cinderella effect’ and painterly effects of this style of glassmaking captured his imagination. Returning to the UK from Iowa, in 1969 Layton established the first furnace at the Glasshouse in Covent Garden with Sam Herman.
Along with other champions of contemporary glassmaking like Dale Chihuly (his vast acid green chandelier hangs in the V&A foyer), Edward King and Adam Aaronson, we wager Layton’s pieces will be a strong investment for the future – but then is anyone really worried about that when they are so mesmerizingly beautiful in the here and now?
For more information about Peter Layton and his work see www.londonglassblowing.co.uk or www.peterlaytonglass.co.uk