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Revitalized Glass Studio in Southeast Ohio Embarks on a New Chapter

In a boutique located off the bustling main street of Lancaster, vibrant cocktail glasses glisten under the radiance of a chandelier. However, for shop owner David Annecy, the true gem of the store lies in a more understated corner.

Guiding patrons beyond the shelves adorned with dazzling glassware, David directs their attention to a collection of monochromatic photos portraying women meticulously painting on a factory floor, their hair impeccably styled.

“They would select a frosted glass from the stack, hand-paint the intricate design, place it down, rotate the table, and move on to the next glass,” shared David.

These images narrate the journey of a pioneering figure in Ohio’s glassware industry: Fran Taylor.

At just 24 years old, Fran Taylor established her glassware studio in 1939 with a modest $30 investment. Within seven years, upon relocating her enterprise to Lancaster, it had burgeoned into a multi-million dollar venture, specializing in mid-century modern glasses adorned with whimsical hand-painted motifs.

Embracing a spirit of joy and trendiness, she christened her globally acclaimed business as “Gay Fad Studios.”

Original Gay Fad designed glassware with pink, black and gold designs sits in a cupboard.

Kendall Crawford/Ohio Newsroom

Renowned for its mid-century modern aesthetics, Fran Taylor’s glassware company stood out for its innovative designs.

This legacy is but one chapter in Ohio’s extensive history of glassware enterprises. For well over a century, the state has been a hub for this vital industry.

Nestled in southeast Ohio, the city of Lancaster, also known as the “Glass Town,” has attracted a myriad of glassware companies owing to its abundant reservoirs of sandstone and natural gas.

Breaking Barriers

The name of the company captured the interest of David Annecy and his spouse, Jason, following their relocation to Lancaster in 2016. Intrigued, the couple delved into the narrative of Gay Fad.

Their exploration led them to Stephanie Taylor, Fran’s daughter, who recounted her mother’s challenges in the male-dominated corporate landscape of the 1940s.

“She navigated this by dressing impeccably, donning high heels, and exuding poise and control in all her endeavors,” Stephanie remarked. “At a time when female executives were virtually unheard of, especially in Ohio, she held her ground as the chief executive officer.”

A cupboard of bright pink glassware sits next to a wall of black and white photos. The photos show the women employees of Gay Fad Studios through the years.

Kendall Crawford/Ohio Newsroom

Owned by David and Jason Annecy, Gay Fad Studios not only showcases exquisite mid-century modern glass pieces but also houses a petite museum dedicated to Fran Taylor’s artistic legacy.

Despite the odds, Stephanie highlighted her mother’s efforts to normalize her position. A majority of her workforce, including top management, comprised women, and she was fervent about nurturing young female artists.

“She established a daycare facility and a break room that offered evening cocktails, fostering a sense of community,” Stephanie elaborated.

However, this prosperous era came to an abrupt halt in 1962.

Stephanie recounted how a rival company covertly acquired a year’s worth of Gay Fad’s designs during a tour, swiftly launching these products into the market before her mother could respond.

Subsequently, the business floundered, eventually shuttering its doors. Tragically, Fran sustained severe brain damage in a car accident shortly thereafter.

Reshaping Legacies

Determined not to let Fran’s narrative fade into obscurity, David and Jason embarked on a remarkable journey.

With Stephanie’s blessing, they resurrected Gay Fad Studios in 2022, sixty years post its closure. Drawing inspiration from Fran’s vision, Jason, leveraging his artistic background, introduced fresh designs, even uncovering Gay Fad creations that never saw the light of day.

“In a way, we are rectifying the injustices of history and fulfilling the intended destiny…reviving these patterns and finally imprinting them on glass,” Jason expressed.

Two men stand smiling in front of a black and white poster of Fran Taylor, a glassware pioneer of the 1940s.

Kendall Crawford/Ohio Newsroom

Reviving a long-dormant Ohio glassware enterprise, David and Jason Annecy are defying expectations and carrying forward Fran Taylor’s artistic legacy.

More significantly, they are upholding Gay Fad’s mission. They established the Fran Taylor Fund to grant scholarships to budding female artists and prioritize sourcing glass from women-led businesses. In their own unique manner, Jason remarked, they are challenging conventions in rural Ohio.

“By being a gay couple running a store named Gay Fad Studios, we are inevitably sparking conversations given the historical context,” Jason remarked.

To achieve this, David emphasized their adherence to Fran’s guiding principles.

“Often, we find ourselves asking, ‘What would Fran do?’ or reflecting on her past actions,” David shared.

Fran pioneered a groundbreaking annealing technique to ensure the longevity of her designs on glass—a method to immortalize her creations. The Annecys are resolute in safeguarding her legacy for eternity.