Glass Discussion & Research. NO IDENTIFICATION REQUESTS here please. > New Zealand & Australia Glass

Tony Oliver illustrated glasses

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These wine glasses intrigue me. The vessels themselves are uninteresting, being obviously machine-made in a standard shape about 14.5cm high. They are unexpectedly weighty and give a high-pitched ring, which when combined with the clarity of the material suggests a high lead content.

Of greater interest are the illustrations etched on them, in this case Australian birds in naturalistic settings. Most of the images are signed Tony Oliver and some are also dated 1980 or 81. Information on the artist is readily available online.

Tony Oliver (1940-2005) was a Sydney-based illustrator famous for his detailed depictions of Australian plants and animals. He illustrated over 40 children’s books, including several national and international prize winners. His notable book illustrations include the series In the Wild with Harry Butler – remember them? He also provided many illustrations for Australian Geographic magazine, including for their wall posters and wildlife calendars. (However, he is not to be confused with the Melbourne-based painter and gallery owner of the same name.)

These glass items are not at all rare. We also have a carafe to go with the wine glasses and a set champagne flutes with a different set of six bird images (taller images to match the taller vessels). We’ve seen other examples in antiques and collectables shops, including a splendid set of whiskey tumblers with a matching decanter, all illustrated with more robust looking birds that might be taken for hunter’s quarries.

My intrigue is with the production and distribution of these items. How is the design applied? It looks like acid etching to me, but I’m not sure the process can be done finely enough. Who made them? The vessels are probably imported (from Czechoslovakia in the early- to mid-1980s I guess), but was the etching done in the original factory or afterwards? Who sold them? Department store outlets like David Jones is a possibility, another is the Australian Geographic shops or perhaps they were sold as direct offers by the magazine.


 :) Finally back on line.

I have a carafe with same gold rim as appears on one of your glasses. 
[This is amongst the 'accumulation' due to no grog use for it, 'machine' made clear glass... but it was cheap and interesting illustration.  Quality glass thats for sure, clear ring to it and clarity.

 The illustration is highly detailed, none more so than the feather detail of the in flight parrot.
The production method I'd wondered about too. Very consistent thin depth of etch on this, across the whole work, which rules out and abrasive blast I would have thought. 
There appears to be NO fold or breaks in the design that would have resulted from a flat printed decal mask applied to the curved surface on round tapered body.
One thing I did notice under lens is a few non design etch spots [omission of mask] but no unetched spots [excess mask]. This is of course assuming an acid resist mask was applied. Maybe not given observation below.

So, of note: There is one area in design best described as being at an outer margin... call it the most Westerly point in the artwork.  Here the feather appears to be clipped in a very straight vertical line - Aprox 5-6mm of design [feather tip] missing. 
Does your carafe have the same parrot in flight with most Easterly point being reed foliage?

In any case, do you also see any omission in the design like this, at what could be a sheet margin?

Sheet margin.... meaning no mask applied but reverse, a form of printed decal sheet applied where a reactive acid used instead of ink.. such detail would be possible. Still the problem of flat sheet trying to conform to the complex curved form though, unless stretch in sheet so it could

Another method may have been a photo sensitive acid resist mask was applied over all glass outer surface, then this mask photo contact printed [UV light], mask dissolved and then glass acid etch process done. Mask then removed.  I used a similar process to etch copper on electronic Printed Circuit Boards years ago.

Other than that... around 1980 - I don't think laser was being used to surface etch glass.... abrasive water blast was, and being used to such fine tolerance. 

Perhaps the retail outlet you suspect might know who produced these and how?   Was some time ago... maybe everyone who worked in retail sector is gone or forgotten by now.  Wish I could forget some of the 80's.

Perhaps the publisher of the illustrated books may have a lead to follow?

Perhaps Tony is still around to inquire?


Hi misha. Good to see you back online! Thanks for your insights on this topic. Very informative.

Unfortunately Tony Oliver died in 2005. I agree there would be little chance of any product memory being retained in a retail outlet, even if I knew which one to ask.

On your question about the image on the decanter and a possible imperfection, I regret I cannot locate the decanter at present, and I don't seem to have a photo of it. I will have a good look for it.

There's an ice bucket with an etched Australiana image by Tony Oliver on at the moment, item 281975753662. I said such things were not uncommon. There's also a lot of other stuff illustrated by him on there: china plates, many kids books, watercolours (or more likely prints of watercolours), ...


Better late than never.  Bit grubby too.

The 'clipped wing feather' imperfection photo.
I don't think it was intended as all other tips are not affected this way.

More I think about how these may have been produced the more I suspect a photo-resist mask was used and then acid etched.  It's not a deep etching and very uniform depth across the whole surface.

The glasses are Bohemia "Claudia" and I suspect they are the goblet size by the shape.



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