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The Fenton Decorator

Fenton Art Glass began as a glass decorating firm in Martins Ferry, Ohio in 1905. Our first decorators were Carrie Howell, Lizzie Moore, Bertie Rhumbach, and Carrie Wood. Company founders Frank L. Fenton and John W. Fenton probably designed the decorations (and perhaps they wielded brushes and did some actual decorating, too).

When Fenton built its glass plant in Williamstown, W. Va., and began to make glass in 1907, decorating was an important part of our enterprise. None of the early decorators "signed" their work, so we can only speculate about who painted what.

Public tastes for decorated glassware began to change in the 1920s, and Fenton's decorating department, then under the direction of foreman Otto Goertler, was phased out during the difficult financial times of the 1930s.

Decorated glassware began to return to fashion in the 1950s, and Frank M. Fenton and his brother Bill, who had taken control of the company after their father's death in 1948, wanted to add decorating to Fenton's product mix. After quite a search for just the right person, Frank and Bill hired Louise Piper, a decorator from Westmoreland County, PA, who had many years experience in this field. Within a few months, Louise had hired and trained a staff of decorators and had created several new handpainted designs, including Violets in the Snow and Apple Blossom.

During the 1980s, several Fenton decorators (most of whom had been trained by Louise) became involved in decorating design. Linda Everson created a number of handpainted decorations for the Fenton line or series pieces as well as special items for the Connoisseur Collection. Diane Johnson and Michael Dickinson also developed noteworthy designs, as did Dianna Barbour, Susan Bryan, Beverly Cumberledge, Kay Cunningham, Richard Delaney, Carol Evans, Gloria Finn, Sue Jackson, Susan Johnson, and Robin Spindler. Linda Everson, Dianna Barbour, Susan Bryan, and Diane Johnson are with the company today, and their talents and experience contribute to our tradition of decorating excellence.

Fenton collectors appreciate the skills of our decorators, and some seek items signed by a particular decorator. Since 1996, many Fenton decorators have been featured in our quarterly Glass Messenger newsletter.

Fenton decorators' signatures are often preceded by the words "handpainted by." This phrase may not appear on small items due to space limitations. Most signatures are on the bottom of the piece, but sometimes the decorator signs on the side.

Martha Reynolds

Martha Reynolds was a decoration designer at Fenton Art Glass for more than a decade until her retirement in 2001. She loved to experiment with new materials and styles, and her creations ranged from the simple and contemporary to the ornate look of Victorian glass. Martha was often honored with design awards, including the prestigious Vandenoever Award from the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators, and she was recognized several times by Collector Editions magazine.

For more information about Martha Click Here

At Fenton today, four decoration designers continue to create works of art with glass as their canvas. We value each of them: Kim Barley, Frances Burton, Robin Spindler and Stacy Williams. The challenges of handpainting on glass are many, as one must adapt to both colors and contours while striving toward a result of aesthetic appeal and artistic merit.

Frances Burton

Frances Burton loved sketching and painting with watercolors long before she began working as a Fenton decorator in 1973. She enjoys her job as a designer because it gives her the freedom to create. Frances particularly enjoys painting scenery, and she describes her style as characterized by "big floral designs...with just one type of flower." Much of her inspiration comes from her garden. "I love to grow flowers, and I get many ideas from them," she says. "It lets me see what they look like in nature and how they change as they grow." Frances has won many awards for her creations on Fenton glass, including several Awards of Excellence from Collector Editions magazine.

 For more information about Frances Click Here

Kim Barley

Kim Barley has flourished as an artist since joining Fenton's decorating department in 1979. Her designs have become more intricate and elaborate as she's gained experience. Kim says much of her inspiration comes from her love of water. Since becoming a designer in 1993, she has created many designs with aquatic themes. She also believes her art is heavily influenced by fashions. "Growing up, I loved to sketch. I wanted to be a fashion designer and was always drawing clothes," she grins. Kim often sketches designs on glass before beginning to paint because the marker can be erased if changes are needed. Kim's work has been recognized with awards from the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators as well as the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED).

For more information about Kim Click Here

J. K. "Robin" Spindler

Robin Spindler who is known as "J. K. Spindler" to those who collect Fenton glass, says she is the "serious one" among the four-person Fenton decoration design group. She came to Fenton in 1979 after her family encouraged her to pursue a love for art and painting. Robin's unique designs are always of the highest caliber, and she says much of her inspiration comes from nature. Robin often studies the different shapes and colors in her garden. She is amazed at the different lines and textures there. Her talent has been recognized with many awards, including a Discovery Award for Technical Excellence and, most recently, the Vandenoever Award and the Judges' Award from the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators. She also has Awards of Excellence from the Collector Editions magazine and 
   special recognition by the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED).

   For more information about Robin Click Here

Stacy Williams

Stacy Williams started at Fenton as a decorator in 1993 after attending the Columbus College of Art and Design to pursue her love of painting. She became a decorating designer in 2000. Stacy likes "fun patterns" and loves to design landscapes and seascapes. Her brush deftly sweeps on broad strokes of paint but turns gentle when she creates the minute details. "Sometimes I look at a piece of glass and I just know what I want to paint, she says, "It just hits me." However, she admits she is sometimes challenged and she will scour art history books for inspiration. Stacy's work has been recognized with an award from the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators.

For more information about Stacy Click Here

Fenton Art Glass Decorators

List updated June 20, 2007

Anderson, Vicki

Augustine, Karen

Barbour, Dianna

Bryan, Susan

Cunningham, Chris

Cutshaw, Debi

Cutshaw, Jeanne

Farley, Alice

Fleak, Pam

Fredrick, Dane

Jackson, Sue

Hughes, Shelly

Kibbe, Michelle

Lauderman, Pam

Miller, Sheela

Neader, Tammy

Powell, Julia

Riggs, Christy

Riley, Kitty

Robinson, Donna

Smith, Charlotte

Spindler, Robin

Stephens, Sandy

Waters, Sharon

Young, Mary

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