Beautiful ashtrays, you say? How can something that smelly be beautiful? Well, just because it's going to be a receptacle for ash, doesn't mean it should be ugly. In fact, it really shouldn't. It should be as lovely as possible to enhance the overall experience. Just sayin.'
I will also happily admit to my personal bias in terms of not only aesthetics, but also function--and an absence of 'clutter.' By clutter, I usually mean, visual clutter--so you won't find any ashtrays here that have built in holders for matches, cutters or other accoutrement. Those vintage ashtrays that have a receptacle for ash, but also have attached storage with lids? What the hell. I think about how awkward that would be to clean--without having to displace all yo' shit you got stored in there too. Some of the designs of these are good, but the function is low. So, no.
I love old advertising, hotel & casino ashtrays--but these are more period/kitschy & not necessarily 'beautiful'--which is in the eye of each beholder.
I generally abhor a logo or branded item--generally--however there are some crest-of-arms logos that I find visually pleasing.
I have a bit of 'a thing' for mid-century, which usually means modern furniture, but can include very funky ceramics. So you were warned.
Although there are any number of amazing Americana-inspired ashtrays out there, I cannot see dumping ash on either our beautifully designed flag & its rich history, nor can I obscure the majestic eagle. Sorry gang, that's just another odd quirk--among many, many odd quirks.
The size I grew up with the smaller of the two. My dad had three or four of these scattered about the house. I used to try to balance the bowl, upright--and I still vividly recall the sound that bowl would make as I let go, and it slowly flipped downward with gravity, and rocked back and forth until it settled into true.
A simple twist of the stem, flips the bowl over within the main body--and anything in the bowl dumps into the bottom of the container. Hides mess, covers smell, looks tidy. Amazing.
I will always and forever link that sound and this design directly to my father. Even though I don't smoke, I have one of these originals in my home & it will be on of the last items I would ever part with.
However attractive the design is--it doesn't have a rest for one's cigarette. Frankly, I don't know a lot of cigarette smokers who put them down, but I do know that having a rest for a cigar is critical. Enter Marianne Brandt, active with the Bauhaus gang & like Arne Jacobsen (who followed later), she produced some iconic 20th Century designs.
Here is her 1924 version, predating Arne's. Provides a rest for one's smokes:
Rather than flipping one's ash over, this tray tilts upward & allows the ash to slide down into the container. The bowl doesn't provide much relief for the tip of one's cigar to rest over the ash, but with enough dumping that wouldn't be an issue. MOMA owns this original.
Which brings me to another one of Brandt's Bauhaus designs:
Just beautifully designed. The shape and construction are just perfect. Though this is a static ashtray, it has a deep, elegant bowl and provides a sturdy rest for one's smoke. Ugh. Want.
Which brings me to my next personal foible. I dislike any ashtray that's primarily to be used for cigars, that doesn't provide a decent rest for the stogie. I think it's really important to give that smoke some relief and allow air to move around it. Deep, flat-sided 'trays that don't have a notch to set the cigar securely in? I imagine the cigar rolling off, or into, the ashtray. I want an anchor for it. And my personal preference is for that rest to be raised, as opposed to a trough cut into the 'tray. I know long troughs are popular, often attractive and get the job done. But I think about the business end of that cigar, the one that goes in your mouth sitting in that trough...and just ew.
So, in other words, you're not going to see many, if any, of that style here--and my personal preference is for a slightly longer rest, instead of just a notch cut into the side of the bowl.
This simple metal ashtray is one I like a lot. Bowl is moderately deep, no incidentals included. I enjoy its solid, blocky quality & the four cigar channels. Should the ashtray get jostled, the smokes can't roll off, or into one another.
The trenches are short so as the stogie shortens, less chance of putting your soggy mouth cap on the metal. Attractive, masculine ashtray. 6" x 1.5"
Here's a second square ashtray that I wouldn't mind owning. Part leather, part metal--it cleverly combines rests for both cigarettes & cigars. Nice deep, square bowl--decent sized troughs for the smokes without being too long (Visually, I mean. I just visually can't stand those long troughs).
The bowl wont overflow with ash anytime soon, even if a few friends join you. The inner tray comes out for easy, worry-free cleaning. Love that detail--and the leather portion is in no danger of getting burned. Although this ashtray is a bit masculine for me, I'm really digging the leather/metal combo & the subtle ornamentation. 6.25" x .75"
Ceramic's not everyone's taste, but I'm a fan of this simple, rustic, crackle-glazed ashtray. The crackle is just so attractive. And the smoke rests become part of the design. Nothing overdone, and I personally, like the primitive design, with clay combed corners and the slightly blotchy glaze application.
I'm pro imperfection. As incredibly well-machined as the previous ashtrays have been, and as much as I like crisp forms, I have a soft spot for evidence of the Artist's Hand in things.
A return to clean, machined, industrial bowls. These two are very similar--the Colibri ashtray has its coat-of-arms in the basin & that inner bowl is removable for easy cleaning. The other ashtray is very similar--but slightly larger and deeper. Functionally they'd be the same. Price jump: the brand name is approx $50, whereas the non-logo ashtray is $20 dollars less. I like the looks of both: still very strong designs, very male, yet slightly softer since the forms are round. Like, literally, that's all it takes to soften the impact & figuratively too. Colibri - 7.75" x 1.50"h, plain: 8" x 2"
Here's just a fun, odd ashtray--with the Mack Truck dog front and center. It's funky and fun, industrial and dog-friendly. Also has a little piece of Americana on it: that canine. Appealing design doesn't have to be stuffy or high-brow, nor will everyone agree on "good" design. The Mack ashtray falls into many folks' kitschy zone. But for me, it's cool and oddly attractive--perhaps setting is everything? In my home it would look retro. In my grandfather's garage it would be mechanic-oriented and humorous. Either way, I'd always like it. And I'm sure a bunch of my designer friends would just shake their heads in horror/wonder. 7.5" x 1.5"
Heidi McLain, I love your photos! I love that tree reflected in the polished chrome. Beautiful!
MORE to come ...
So...after a brief hiatus in which life kicked like a mule, we're back with MORE finally.
Continuing the theme of canines (I guess) I have to give a really quick shout out to the masculine combination of men and their dogs...and smoking. Edwin Megargee's lovely illustrative dog portraits make an appearance on the ashtray below. Just love this little painting. And somehow dogs, hunting, smoking all rolls into one big thing.
I think the design is simple, and while certainly a dated, for what it is, this is a pretty terrific example of the sort of thing your grandpa might have had in his den--and the kind of thing in later years you'd be delighted to use as catchall or coin valet. Nostalgic.
Actually, I just realized that I might have an issue. I've suddenly realized that I could easily collect just ashtrays with images of dogs on them. Why? WHY?
And speaking of oddly dated and appealing, just about any of these organic/kidney-ish ashtrays by Sascha Brastoff are a hit with me. I mean, maybe this is the first sign of a brain tumor? But I do really find myself drawn to the innocent sketches Brastoff is known for. His Eskimo and igloos, little towns and kind of Asian-esque inspired designs are pretty delightful. I feel with ashtrays, you can go either ultra modern, or throw-back--and both are legit.
There are huge numbers of glass and crystal ashtrays--and I tend to go for smoother, more modern versions. I have found some astoundingly lovely cut crystal ashtrays--but I trend toward clean lines and simple forms. This Viking Glass ashtray's a perfect example. It has funky personality due to the irregular shape and pale violet color--but is designed for function.
Finally, a couple example of some visually striking ashtrays. I just love the hell out of both of these. Now, I can only afford one, the first one called The Deck. This is also available as an oval and in a couple different wood finished. The unique thing about The Deck is that the cigar holder is a free-standing "X" shaped item, magnetised to the base. So the stand can be dropped anywhere on the 'deck' and it will be secure due to the magnets. So cool!
The second ashtray has a magnificent bone/horn inlay--and it is priced right out of my world. But what I like about both these items, is that they combine old materials with a sleek shape and a modern, tasteful look. Both have an eye toward function. Both look sturdy, professional, indulgent and stylish.