The Glory Years of Loetz
Phenomenon, noun: a remarkable person, thing, or event.
Phänomen–phenomenon, in English–was a remarkable type of Loetz glass that was equal parts visually impressive, economically successful, yet short-lived. It was born, as so many great creations are, out of a quest for originality. In 1897, owner of Loetz glassworks Max von Spaun visited an exhibition of Tiffany Studios glass organized by Siegfried Bing at the North Bohemian Industrial Arts Museum. Struck by the popularity and marketability of Tiffany’s lustrous wares, von Spaun desired to create more affordable yet equally beautiful alternatives. Loetz had patented an iridescent glass with “metallic shimmer” around 1895-96 (just a year or two after Tiffany) but von Spaun, in response to allegations of plagiarism from critics and with the help of his director of operations, Eduard Prochaska, embarked on a process of experimentation with iridescent glass and trailing threads that led to the Phänomen series of décors.
Phänomen décors were characterized by variations of trailing and combed threads with colored glass and bands of metallic iridescence. The development of the series led to the company’s collaborations with some of the most renowned designers and artists of the time, including Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, and Franz Hofstötter. The latter’s designs were instrumental in Loetz’s success at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, where they won a coveted Grand Prix award. Phänomen’s popularity lasted until 1903 at which point it experienced a sharp decline, and by 1905 the company had moved on to other styles. Loetz would operate for another forty years but, like lightning in a bottle, would never again capture the success they experienced between 1898-1905.