Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Float To Share

Todd "the Norsknailpounder," sent an email containing a question one day last summer. Todd asked: "Have you ever seen a European float with swirls of color in the glass?" Replied that the only swirling that I had seen in an authentic Euro glass fishing float, was in the 8" brown/amber Williamshutte that came from our German friend. The swirling of darker brown in the glass is not very noticeable until the float is backlit. That ball has so much beautiful "whittle effect" and bubbling in the glass, that its swirls are not noticed without close inspection.

Todd replied to my reply, together with a few photos of a Norwegian float in his collection that has darker green color swirling in the seal button of an otherwise aquamarine colored float.

While "beachcombing," the Ebay auctions on the morning of February 17, 2010, I gasped when I saw the photo of a netted colorless float with blue swirling. Gawking at the auction photo, I saw the float's capnet for what it was-the distinctive two strand style of French fishermens' floats. Quickly, opened the auction, looked at the float photos and read the following:

19th. Century Protection/Fortune Bringing Ball French Witch Collection!!

This stunning ball was part of a collection of artifacts and occult tools that were amassed by many generations of a family of French Celtic Druidic witches. Please see below item description for further details.

The piece first came into the family's possession in the late nineteenth century after they purchased it from the estate of well respected practitioner in the Saint Amand area .

The family then hung the ball in a window directly by the front door of their home.
As far as I can tell from talking to Muriel, the piece was one of a series of objects that were empowered during a very lengthy series of workings that the majority of the orders and solitary practitioners of the area participated in during the mid- nineteenth century, and I have to say that must of been an incredible event to witness to say the least! The family were understably delighted when they had the opportunity to be the caretakers of an object that was so important not just to their own history but also to the witchcraft history of the area!
The tradition surrounding the ball is that it has the ability to protect any house that it is hung in from negativity and will bring wealth, health and happiness to all in the dwelling .

This beautiful item was originally handblown in a stunning clear glass perfectly complimenting the deep rich graduated blue of a wonderful flowing form within the body of the piece. It was then surrounded by a hand knotted blue dyed natural twine netting. The ball has a hand applied glass blob covering the pontil mark which was then hand impressed with the initials "LV".

The piece is in lovely condition with stunning fading to the twine, bubbling and quirks to the glass from handcraftsmanship . There are a series of what looks like partial bubble bursts, knocks or bruises to it's surface, but does not go through the body.

And with the ball measuring just over 5 inches in diameter (including netting) and just over 20 inches from top of net-fixing knot to the edge hanging loop, this is a Must For any Lover of All Things Esoteric !!

This Incredible piece of Witchcraft History was part of a collection of artifacts and occult tools that had been put together by many generations of a family of French witches. I myself was fortunate enough to be bequeathed this piece by Muriel who was the last surviving member of the family line.

The lady herself lived in the same village as myself, Chaumont, close to the city Bourges that was frequented by " Les Bourdelins," possibly the most influential and powerful druidic tribe in PreRoman and Roman France!!

Her family line had a hugely respected reputation for healing and knowledge of the Old ways" stretching back many generations .

I had the honour of knowing her personally at the tale end of her life .

Because of our interest in history, witchcraft and all things esoteric , she decided to give some items of her extensive collection to us, with other items directly relating to the specific craft of the this area (The Cher) being bequeathed to " La Musee de Sorcerie " in Concressault

Now that was an interesting piece of provenance for a float to have! After reading the description, I thought about the "Witch Balls," which were hung in many homes here on the East Coast in the first days of the "Jersey Devil." They were hung to ward away or capture dark and freightening spirits. Also thought about something another French seller had told me about the custom of hanging fishing floats in French kitchens. There is also the story of British fishermen's families displaying hanging floats in a window facing the sea, as a talisman of good luck to bring their sons, husbands and fathers home safely.

Those thoughts somehow punctuated my excitement after looking at the auction photos, and realizing that it was a French-made LV float. Next came a sigh because the auction would not end for a week. How could I contain myself for that long? Would anyone else find it? How many would notice this obscure French auction? Could I actually win this amazing float?

Daily, sometimes a few times during the day and evening, I would look again at the auction to see if anyone else had found it, and to look at the auction photos to make certain that my eyes weren't deceiving me. A couple of bidders who's Ebay initials I did not recognize, bid the first couple of days.

Trying to not set myself up for disappointment was really difficult. Waited day after day, and kept mum. When Nancy and I talked about how our day went, or what kind of thoughts we'd had, it was difficult to not talk about the places my head had been whenever the float came to mind. I'm able to attentively listen to her day-to-day teaching stories concerning her young students, their misbehavior, her successes, and what other teachers are experiencing, as long as she will listen to my stories-many of them glassfloat related. But I can tell when that glassy look comes into her eyes as I begin another float story. She seemed to grasp the depth of my excitement about this float, but until she picks up, and stares at a newly-arrived float the way that I do, one never knows the depth of her emotional commitment.

Slowly the week passed, day by long day. Trying to savor each day for itself was difficult, because I wanted to get to the auction's last day, last hour-minutes-seconds. What an excitement addict I become when there's a float that grabs my attention, and a small voice says, "this float's for Tom." At least that's what I imagine those kind of float thoughts say when a float appears on an auction together with a special feeling of hope. Until that wonderful Ebay phrase comes up on the screen, "Congratulations Sea Hermit, you've won the auction," I'm a mess. I was a mess every waking minute until the week passed. On the days leading up to the finale, I checked every float auction I could find to see if that ball was posted anywhere else. Nope. Just maybe, no other collector knows about it? Gees! I sure hoped so. Then the final day arrived.

Internally, I was a mess. It was so difficult to concentrate on my responsibilities, and keep myself away from the computer all day long. Finally, only an hour remained until the end, then 10 minutes, then three minutes. The countdown began. Glued to the auction, I had to look away when there were still two minutes to go. Finally, I was able to look when I knew there was a minute to go. The counting down had been going on in my head second by second, even though I could not bear to look at the screen. At 30 seconds I typed in my bid, at 15 seconds I entered it, then quickly went back to the auction. Five seconds, and I'm thinking hard, "bid don't change"! Four, three, two, one...then the aucton page stops, and I rush to pull up the auction again to see the outcome. No one had overbid me. That wonderful Ebay winning sentence greeted me. Nirvana!

Rushed into the kitchen to tell Nancy that I'd won, then back to the computer to look once again at the photos. Then the fear. How long will it take to make the Atlantic crossing? Will it get hung up in customs? Will it get broken during transit from France to New Jersey? Ah gees! Tom get hold of yourself.

So I did, by writing the seller to ask if they double boxed fragile items. A very nice return email contained the wonderful information, that in all of their years of selling, they had never had a piece broken. They packed well. Ok. They did not offer to double box it, but they did give me confidence, and ended by saying that they were happy the float would go to someone who truly appreciated it. Really nice seller to share this experience with.

Thirteen days passed from the time the float was mailed until it arrived here. Considering the Wicca history of this float, that seems to me to be a very interesting number of days to cross the Atlantic Ocean and arrive at my front door!

Upon opening the box, discovered that the float was double boxed. Coming from France, the second box-a Cotes Du Rhone wine box, brought a smile. Opened the second box to find the float completely wrapped in bubble wrap then the whole surface covered in tape. That float couldn't have been packed any safer. Thank you. A series of photos were taken as the opening and unwrapping progressed, until finally the float was in my hands, and I looked at every single bit of it. Incredulous that this wonderful and rare example of a French float was now in the collection, and could be shared with all of my float friends and readers, I then took photos of the float.

As time passes, who knows if other swirled Euros will appear? Since Todd's email, I've learned that my friend Bob has a yellow/amber Euro with brown swirls, and Bruce Gidol said that he thought he had a green one with swirls. Waiting for Bruce to locate that float. Bruce, Richard and their wives are coming to visit at the end of next month. Maybe he will bring it with him? If he does, I'll photograph it, and post it to the blog.

Questions are in my mind whenever I look at the swirls in this otherwise colorless float. Could the glassblower have done this on purpose? Was there some blue glass left from a previous object on his blowpipe, which melted into his gather as he twisted the blowpipe in a pot of molton glass? Was this just a stroke of good fortune arising out of a mixed batch of recycled glass, or the result of a dirty batch? I've got to ask our son-in-law Chad-the family's glass artist, how this might have happened.

There is also a consideration. Wouldn't the right thing be to hang the float in a safe and special spot to continue its tradition? I've been thinking about this since the float arrived, but have yet to hang it out of fear of it falling and bursting. Sooner or later, the right spot will come to me.

And a last descriptive item, there are no seams on this ball. It was most likely blown into a mold bowl or firebrick mold similar to the photo of the Aanaes company mold from the "Some Odds And Ends" post.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing the photos and reading the seller's history of this unique float. To end this post I wish all of you at least one great float coming your way this year.

The list of photos starting at the top:
1. The auction photo;
2. Box in a box;
3. Unwrapped showing maker's embossing;
4. The side of the float and
5. The top of the float