Mat-Su-No-Ke, (pronounced “Mat-sue-no-kay”) is a decorating style or motif. It is also spelled Matsu-No-Ke and Matsu No Ke. It is not a type of glass in any sense of the word. Japanese decorative styles were the influence behind Stevens and Williams Mat-Su-No-Ke motifs. Mat-Su-No-Ke translates as The Spirit of the Pine Tree.
This section was written to provide glass collectors, mainly rose bowl and fairy lamp collectors, an accurate definition or description of what constitutes a Mat-Su-No-Ke. The term Mat-Su-No-Ke is frequently misapplied to many pieces of glass. There were many glasshouses that tried to copy or emulate the true Stevens and Williams Mat-Su-No-Ke registered design pattern.
Kovels states that “Matsu-no-ke was a type of applied decoration for glass, patented by Frederick Carter in 1922. There is clear evidence that pieces were made before that date at the Steuben Glassworks. Stevens & Williams of England also made an applied decoration by the same name.” Several other articles state: “The decoration was used in 1922 by Frederick Carter at the Steuben Glassworks. He had developed the decoration years earlier while working in England.”
The reality is Frederick Carder (then age 17) joined the firm of Stevens and Williams in their design section as an apprentice in 1880. John Northwood became "Artistic Manager" two years later in 1882. At that time, Stevens and Williams then started producing several innovative and beautiful types of colored glass in addition to their traditional cut and engraved crystal.
In 1885, John Northwood I, father of Harry Northwood (the founder of Northwood Glass Co.), was the Artistic Manager of Stevens and Williams Ltd. of England. He invented and received a patent for spring pinchers and a stamping device (see below) that allowed for quick application of flowers or rosettes, notably for Mat-Su-No-Ke vases and bowls. It is highly unlikely that Frederick Carder was responsible for the creation of the Mat-Su-No-Ke decorating motif. It is more probable he learned about this glass decorating technique while working for Stevens and Williams and later copied it.
The Mat-Su-No-Ke design pattern was registered on October 18, 1884 by Stevens and Williams under the English RD #15353. Stevens & Williams was likely the first and only glassmaker to use the term “Mat-Su-No-Ke” commercially. However, other English glassworks produced similar designs. In some cases, their floral patterns were very similar to S&W’s registered Mat-Su-No-Ke. These English glasshouses include Thomas Webb & Sons Ltd., John Walsh Walsh, James Powel, Hodgett & Richardson, Stuart & Sons, Burtles, Tate & Co., Boulton Mills (possibly), and other fine Stourbridge / Bringham regional Victorian glasshouses. Believe it or not, Stevens and Williams also made pseudo Mat-Su-No-Ke. It is also likely that Bohemian glasshouses produced almost identical or similar designs.
We don’t know if Stevens & Williams had exclusive rights to the term itself, but many within the collecting community believe that they did. It is unclear if John Northwood’s patent only included the tools or the process itself included the term Mat-Su-No-Ke. In our opinion, it is unlikely that the patent included the process since appliqué glass had been around many years prior to the Northwood’s patent. Northwood’s tools simply made the manufacturing process more efficient and cost effective. Perhaps the tools were patented and then the designs were registered since a registry number appears on the pieces. We simply do not know.
Northwood’s patented tools lent themselves to a variety of motifs and were not exclusively used for typical Mat-Su-No-Ke designs. However, we must not forget that Northwood was an artistic designer primarily and then later designed tools to effectively produce the glass designs. It is also logical that the required tools were created after a need was envisioned. In the 1800s, patents in the country of issuance have some merit and strength for enforcement; outside of the country of issuance, they were unenforceable. If any foreign glasshouses thought that their production could be enhanced by the use of knock-off tools, they were in use as soon as they could be made.
As per John Scherz, a fellow researcher and glass aficionado, Stevens and Williams only produced Mat-Su-No-Ke decorated glass for a period of one year, starting in 1894 and ending in 1895. This was due to the high manufacturing costs of this type of glass and inordinately high failure rates in production. Problems included the overall complexity of placing the stylized daisy head blossoms with Northwood’s “syringe” and the application of the highly stylized “rustic” legs and delicate trailing vines. We must remember all work was completed by hand. The glass was in a molten to semi- molten state. The differences in cooling rate between the bowl and the appliqué glass created problems. After final assembly the glass had to survive tempering in the lehrs.
Today, the term, Mat-Su-No-Ke is often incorrectly applied to many pieces of glass that exhibit some parts of the Stevens and Williams Mat-Su-No-Ke style or motif, regardless of the maker. At times, the term is applied to pieces with applied glass decorations that do not remotely resemble the true Mat-Su design.
To the best of our knowledge, there are no written Stevens and Williams’ specifications for the Mat-Su-No-Ke motif. However, the original pattern application and design sketch are still in existence. We have attempted to describe this decorative style or motif by observations of known, confirmed Stevens and Williams’ pieces and their common characteristics, in addition to the English pattern registration. At the bottom of this write-up, we have developed a quick check list for Mat-Su-No-Ke confirmation.
Requirements of a Mat-Su-No-Ke
A registered pattern Mat-Su-No-Ke will have branches or vines for feet normally (there exists a few known examples that have S&W pattern rustic ball feet in place of vines for the feet. This may have been an attempt at simplifying the manufacturing. The vine feet are always in the form of rustic oblique looping design. The vines or branches will scroll up the side of the vase and are covered with numerous small flowers or florets at the end in multiple sprays. All the florets, vines, and branches will be made of clear or frosted glass, never colored glass. The florets may be individual or in groups of two, three or more. They may be in multiple layers of florets stacked overlapping and on top of each other. The Stevens and Williams registration sketch illustrates four groups of florets, one single floret, two florets, a group of three florets, and a group of eight florets. Actual number of groupings and the number of florets in each grouping may differ. Florets are always small with a small center. The number of petals on the florets will vary from 12 to 16. The florets were always originally applied in even numbers.
One source states: “The description by Charles Hajdamach is a liberal extract from the John Northwood II précis of the patent. These flowers were produced in flint and colored whereby the colored flowers often have an opal core cased in colored flint. They were either "matted" or left bright i.e. the natural finish.” Mr. Hajadamach also stated that “however the random shape of Matsu-no-ke indicates that it was done with a simpler tool similar to that used for raspberry prunts, a device similar to that used with sealing wax.” We must point out that in Mr. Hajdamach’s book, British Glass 1800 -1914; there was no mention of Mat-Su-No-Ke vines, branches, or flowers being of colored glass. All examples of a Mat Su illustrated in his book were of clear or frosted flint glass. We know that Stevens and Williams decorated other pieces of glass with colored flowers. These colored flowers were much larger than the Mat Su flowers. The Mat Su flowers were much too small to have an opal core. Only the larger flowers, often of color, had opal cores. These flowers were probably made with pincher and plunger as described in the Northwood patent. The Mat-Su flowers would have been made with a smaller and simpler tool, such as the tool used to make the raspberry prunts. Again, this device would be similar to that used with sealing wax.
The reader will note that rose bowls and other pieces of glass are often mislabeled (by major and well-known auction houses as Mat- Su-No-Ke), even when they are not. Reading the following will help in proper identification:
The piece is NOT Mat-Su-No-Ke:
A. If it was not made by Stevens and Williams.
B. If it does not have the Stevens and Williams registration on the bottom of the piece of glass.
C. If it has larger flowers, leaves, fruit, nuts, birds or animals.
D. If the flowers are colored or have a colored center of the flower-like and opal core.
E. If it has a single vine.
If it has multiple vines and large flowers, it is probably Bohemian.
The piece is a Mat-Su-No-Ke if it has all of these characteristics:
A. Manufactured by Stevens and Williams.
B. Has the Stevens and Williams registration (RD #15353) in longhand on the bottom of the rose bowl in conjunction with a doubled domed extended raspberry prunt.
C. It will normally have multiple branches or vines for feet. There will be only three feet–never four. The vine feet are always in the form of rustic oblique looping design. Occasionally, registered Stevens and Williams Mat-Su- No-Ke are found with Stevens and Williams “rustic pattern ball feet” rather than rustic vine or branch feet– again three only.
D. The vines or branches scroll up the side of the bowl.
E. The branches have multiple sprays of small, numerous flowers or florets. The florets may be individual or in groups of two, three or more. The Stevens and Williams registration sketch illustrates four groups of florets, one single floret, two florets, a group of three florets, and a group of eight florets. Actual number of groupings and the number of florets in each grouping may differ. (Note: See the copy of the original S&W design sketch below.)
F. Florets are always small with a small center. The number of petals on the florets will vary from 12 to 16. The florets were always originally applied in even numbers. Florets are easily damage therefore some may be missing.
G. All vines, branches, stems, and flowers are of flint glass, either clear or frosted.
Stevens and Williams Pesudo Mat-Su-No-Ke:
The writer is aware of the existence of Stevens and Williams rose bowls that have Mat-Su-No-Ke decorations applied but do not have the S&W registration. Therefore, they are not a Mat-Su-No-Ke. An example of this can be found in Mervyn Gulliver’s book, Victorian Decorative Glass British Designs, 1850-1914, on page 69, figure 14, and also on page 127. Both images are of the same rose bowl.
As indicated earlier, there were many English glasshouses, other than Stevens and Williams that manufactured very similar floral motifs. Some of the Mat-Su-No-Ke inspired floral designs produced by other English glasshouses are equally as beautiful as the Sevens and Williams produced items but they are not a Mat-Su-No-Ke.
Stevens and Williams Mat-Su-No-Ke Pattern Design Sketch:
John Northwood’s Patented Spring Pincers and a Stamping Device patented in 1885
Photos of a Stevens and Williams Registered Pattern Mat-Su-No-Ke:
Please note the color in the vines and flowers is from the background cloth not in the glass.
Photo Courtesy of the Candice and John Scherz Collection
Photo Courtesy of the Candice and John Scherz Collection
Please note the color is altered to enhance the registration, which is hard to see, it is left and below the top center foot and above the raspberry prunt.
Photo Courtesy of the Candice and John Scherz Collection
© 2008 the antiquarian, All rights and media reserved