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