CMAG Staff Collections

7 February - 31 May
cabinets of Curosities Open Collection

Party Tumblers

The first party tumblers in my collection came from a junk shop in Koorawatha,
a tiny township between Young and Cowra, in 1985. I was travelling with an old friend with whom I shared the pleasures of country excursions, which necessarily included sniffing out the op shops and treasure troves in towns along the way. The delight for me with this kind of collecting is the marvellous conjunctions of objects that reveal themselves in the corners of shops and market stalls, the way that material culture survives and rises to the surface, often, it seems, randomly. As an art historian and lover of design and objects I regard this kind of fossicking as research. On this occasion I remember I was pleased to find an old white enamel ladle and then spied the glasses – two miniature shot glasses, one with blue birds and one with penguins. That was the beginning.

Since then I have collected probably around 150 ‘party tumblers’. Strictly speaking they are not all tumblers, but this term appears on several of the more collectable of my glasses, the ones with story-book Australian marsupials and birds picnicking and sipping soft drink: the ‘Cottees party tumblers’. Although these are now expensive to acquire the collection is not remotely valuable:
it’s not Bohemian crystal but ordinary household glassware, largely from the 1950s to the 1970s.

My interest grew from the birds and animals to patterned glasses of all kinds. Clearly the collection is not disciplined or rigorous: the sole proviso for inclusion is that is I have to like the glass. Many have been gifts and this is part of the lore of collectors – looking out for the objects collected by friends. Collecting breakable objects can lead to heartbreak, but my glasses are in constant use at home; I have no interest in only displaying functional objects when they can be enjoyed by family and friends. Here’s looking at you kid.

Deborah Clark
Curator of Visual Arts

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