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Celebrating the Handler

No one does baskets like Fenton! The skilled basket handler has a scant 25 seconds within which he must accomplish his tasks: attach a glowing ribbon of molten glass to one side of the basket; deftly twist the rapidly cooling glass and stick it to the other side; impress the base of each side of the handle with his handler's mark; and, finally, fashion the handle into a graceful arch.

In the 1950s, company President Frank M. Fenton and his brother Bill Fenton, who was Vice-President, decided that each Fenton basket handler ought to have a distinctive mark so that collectors could identify the artisan who had created their basket.

These marks, impressed at the base of each side of the handle, also help ensure a good bond between the handle and the basket. Each handler's mark is essentially circular in shape, but the designs within that circle are quite varied. Butch Wright's mark looks like a target with a bull's-eye.

Working closely with each basket handler during production at Fenton is a glassworker called a "handle gatherer." This worker uses a four- or five-foot long steel rod called a punty to gather just the right amount of glass for a handle. Naturally, he needs to know whether the basket is a large one...or one of our mini-baskets...or just in between!

"I do a lot of looking over my shoulder as I reheat the glass," one handle gatherer remarked. "That way I have the handle ready just as soon as my basket handler is ready for it."

The handling operation takes less than half a minute, but it never fails to amaze the many visitors to Fenton who enjoy the "up close and personal" tours which take them in small groups to the Hot Metal area of our plant. There's nothing quite like seeing the team (called a shop) of more than two dozen glassworkers working together to make a fancy Cranberry basket!

To see the marks of the handler, click here.

To read about Fenton's first basket handler, Frank O. Myers, click here.

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