Starting as a Cottage Industry:
After college and wanting to make a difference, Eric Shaikewitz and wife Patricia Breen, went to Poland with MBA Enterprise Corp., similar to the Peace Corps -- but giving help and support to local businesses.
Looking for Polish Glass:
A Post-Dispatch article quotes Breen: "They (Polish Factories) prided themselves on the fact that they were mass-producing things: it was a yardstick, a milestone for them. But there was no attention to detail. I realized a craft was being lost."
Polish Glass Factories:
Designed by Patricia, Sculpted by Eric:
Introduced in 1994:
Today the ornaments are still carried in select Neiman Marcus stores, as well as their catalogs. Gumps and Bergdorf Goodman also carry the ornaments, along with a limited number of retailers across the country. Only twenty different stores currently carry the Patricia Breen Designs.
Very Limited Editions:
For instance in 2001 each store that had a collector's event, had a variation of the Into The Blue Hot Air Balloon ornament for purchase. Of course the enthusiastic collectors usually try and get all the different variations through furious trading or buying on eBay auctions.
Not for the Timid:
Prices: Today vs Yesterday:
The issue prices on these were in the $20. - $35. range, compared to the typical $85. - $130. prices for 2006 ornaments.
It's not uncommon to find collectors who fly across the country to attend several Breen events just to buy a few glass ornaments. It's also not uncommon to order ornaments sight-unseen, a year before they will actually become available.
If you're new to collecting Patricia Breen ornaments, keep an eye on eBay. Many times the early years can be found at bargain prices on eBay. Although these simpler pieces will not have the glitter and glitz of later designs, it's always nice to have a few early works from an artist.
Another tip is to subscribe to Celebrate 365, an excellent magazine produced for Christmas collectors, with heavy emphasis on glass ornament collectibles. A subscription to Celebrate 365 also allows one to join the Glass Links email list, where you'll be able to chat with fellow collectors, many times getting news flashes when ornaments appear online or on eBay.
But the best tip of all is to enjoy the collecting and try not to get too serious about buying it all, missing a piece or making it to all the events. Although it's beautiful glass, it's still just glass!