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Patricia Breen Designs Glass Ornaments

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Patricia Breen Designs Glass Ornaments

Everyone Can Lead

Barbara Crews

Starting as a Cottage Industry:

In the early nineties, an honest-to-goodness cottage industry was born in Krakow, Poland, with products that have grown to be highly coveted and acclaimed by collectors. It was in just two rooms and a bathtub that Patricia Breen Designs got it's start.

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:

Living in Poland, the couple searched for Polish glass for their collection and to give as gifts. They found the old pieces of glass were quite beautiful, but the quality of the new glass ornaments that were being produced was poor and mass-produced.

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:

Breen became interested in designing ornaments and working with the glass factories. Unfortunately, the glass factories were not really interested in working with someone that wanted quality instead of quantity. This turned out to be fortunate for collectors, as Breen and Shaikewitz went to work producing their own glass ornaments and now make their home in Poland.

Designed by Patricia, Sculpted by Eric:

Breen comes up with the wonderful ideas and Shaikewitz (who has a background in art) sculpts the models. From the very fine micro-glitter, to the impressive detail in the painting and embellishments, there is no escaping the fact that these ornaments are more than glass ornaments, but have evolved into miniature works of art.

Introduced in 1994:

Breen sold her first few pieces to the St. Louis Art Museum, and the next year the ornaments were introduced to the rest of the country in the 1995 Neiman Marcus catalog.

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:

Although the molds are limited to 2000 pieces, many ornaments are even more exclusive than that. At the autumn (very limited again!) signings, Breen introduces a few pieces exclusively designed for each "signing" store.

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:

Collecting Patricia Breen ornaments is not for the timid or cautious collector. The very limited number of retailers, as well as the limited number of pieces available, make collecting these ornaments a costly challenge. Knowledgeable and dedicated collectors will often order ornaments a year before they are available, before actually seeing the pieces!

Prices: Today vs Yesterday:

In comparison to current Breen designs, early pieces are much simpler, with limited glitter and painted details.

The issue prices on these were in the $20. - $35. range, compared to the typical $85. - $130. prices for 2006 ornaments.

Bottom Line:

When you talk about dedicated collectors, Patricia Breen collectors are on the top of list.

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!

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