Frances and Michael Higgins both went to art school, taught art and created art before they met at the Chicago Institute of Design. They were married in 1948.
The couple decided to open their own studio to make fused (not blown) glass, a technique used in ancient times. Their pieces were marked “Higgins” to represent both artists. Their glass was like a glass sandwich - one piece coated with enamel decoration, the other placed on top and heated until both pieces were fused together. Their work created a new type of colorful, well-designed glass that immediately became popular in gift shops.
Each artist had a personal style. Frances liked to hand-paint designs; Michael used small pieces of glass to make designs. Michael was born in England in 1908 and died in 1999. Frances, born in 1912, was still working when she died in 2004.
Higgins Glass Studio of Riverside, Ill., continues the couple's tradition of making fused glass. It is run by artists trained by Michael and Frances. Vintage Higgins pieces are popular today with collectors, but because the studio still makes glass for department stores and gift shops, pieces can be found for moderate prices. The work is unique and recognized as artistic, yet early pieces are undervalued by both museums and collectors.
Q: My ceramic angelfish is a little over an inch high. It’s gray with a blue base and is embossed on the bottom “Wade, England.” When was it made?
A: The Wade Group of Potteries was founded in 1810 near Burslem, Staffordshire, England. Your fish is one of the “Wade Whimsies,” little figurines no more than 2∂ inches tall. More than 100 different Whimsies were made. The first were little animal figurines, sold from 1954 to 1958 in sets of five or four to a box. Ten different sets were made. During the 1960s, Whimsies were made only as promotional items. Best-known are the figurines given away with Red Rose Tea and other products.
Another 12 sets of animal figurines were made from 1971 to 1984. Your angelfish is part of Set Nine, made in 1978 as part of the second series of Whimsies. Each Whimsy sells for about $5 to $15.
Q: I bought a house built in the 1890s, and when I renovated the kitchen I found a jug inside a wall. It’s 8 inches high and still has part of the label, which reads “Mohawk Green Creme de Menthe, Made & Bottled by Mohawk Liqueur Corporation, Detroit, Michigan.” Is the company still in business.
A: Mohawk Liqueur Corp. was formed in 1933. In 1966 it was sold to 21 Brands, which became a subsidiary of Foremost-McKesson in 1970. Mohawk was still in business until at least the 1980s.