Walking into Barbara Fleck’s house in Te Awamutu, one is met with a key impression – colour.
“That’s true,” she says. “…all the rooms have something somewhere.”
To a large degree, it’s due to her pursuit of a passion first sparked in childhood – now you’d likely be hard pressed to find a comparable collection anywhere in New Zealand.
That collection started roughly 25 years ago, with a “little green vase and a little green butter dish” – now she estimates she’s closing in on 600 unique pieces of depression glass collected worldwide.
Depression glass is glassware which is often clear or coloured translucent.
It was distributed free, or at low cost, in the United States and Canada around the time of the Great Depression between 1929-1939.
“For some reason, I’ve always just loved coloured glass. I just think it’s absolutely beautiful,” Barbara said.
“My earliest memory of that love is of visiting a relative’s house when I was a young girl and seeing they had coloured glass at the top of all their windows and around their front door.
“I was always so impressed.”
These days, be they bowls, cups, vases, or a wide range of other depression glass items in a vast assortment of colours – blue, green, red, pink, you name it – Barbara’s employed a straightforward approach to amassing her now impressive collection.
“If I’m in a particular place visiting, I’ll have a quick look. But honestly, I don’t look really hard for it. I don’t chase it,” she said.
And yet, over the years, Barbara – who has lived in Te Awamutu all her life – has found depression glass in international locations as far afield as Amsterdam and Ireland, and as close to home as here in Te Awamutu.
“Red is my favourite colour of all my pieces,” Barbara said.
“…that’s probably because it’s the rarest colour I have. It’s very hard to find.”
She isn’t sure how her collection compares to any others like it nationwide – but she once saw a similar collector on the news who had about 150 pieces of depression glass in their possession.
“That said, I must say I never dreamed my collection would grow to be this size.”
And, Barbara adds, the collecting will continue because the feeling of “enormous happiness” as she discovers each and every new piece has never wavered.
“I’m always fascinated as I wonder about the story each piece would have to tell,” she said.
Barbara is an avid collector in more than one way – come December, her home is turned into a Christmas celebration.