While some people associate British art glass with that of Scandinavia since the Mid-century Modern aesthetics of the two cultures were so similar, glass making in the British Isles has also been inspired by the Venetians, Bohemians, and Belgians. In fact, during the Victorian Era, many British artisans hand-painted vases that were actually produced in Bohemia and Belgium. On these classic cylinders and trumpet-shaped forms, English artists rendered romantic depictions of flowers and rural scenes. More recently, in the 1950s, a pre-Victorian company called Chance became famous for its handkerchief vases, a staple of Murano glass factories.

One of the founding firms of British glass making was Whitefriars, which was built in London in the late 1600s and purchased in 1834 by James Powell, who would be the first of successive generations to lead the company (Whitefriars was known as James Powell and Sons until 1962). One of the first products made on Powell’s watch, as early as 1848, may have been a millefiori glass paperweight, although art historians disagree on this point. What we do know is that by the 1930s, Powell’s company was well regarded for its paperweights, which were low and wide rather than tall and domed.

Between the wars, a number of non-Powell designers made their marks on the venerable glass company. For example, William Wilson championed a “knobbly” look, achieved by hand-working free-blown surfaces.

Later, in the 1950s and ’60s, Geoffrey Baxter used molds to produce bark-like and textured surfaces on the exteriors of his vases. His most famous design was the Drunken Bricklayer, a vase that appears to be composed of three irregularly stacked squarish bricks. These signature vases were produced by Whitefriars in a range of colors, from relatively common tangerine to rare pewter.

Such surface treatments were being explored simultaneously in Finland and Sweden, which was also the home of cased pieces, which are identified by their thick, clear-or-bubbled bases and sides surrounding a single elongated teardrop of color. Baxter did these, too, often combining them with bumpy surfaces.

Another early English glass center was the Birmingham area, home to Bacchus, which was founded in 1818 and produced paperweights that had mushroom-like millefiori forms in their interiors. Glass makers in nearby Stourbridge also produced paperweights, as well as Bohemian-looking vases with flared and ruffled lips, hot-worked exterior decorations such as ribbons and fruit, and eye-catching interior casings that ranged from bone white to fuchsia pink.

Stourbridge was also known for its carved and cameo glass. Thomas Webb & Sons relied on the best designers of the day to produce masterpieces that were entered in international c...

By 1881, Northwood had defected to Stourbridge competitor Stevens & Williams. Under Northwood’s creative direction, Stevens & Williams produced about 1,000 cameo designs a year. But Webb had already moved on, turning to the design team of George and Thomas Woodall to lead its efforts. Webb cameo glass vases from this period are neoclassical in form and dizzyingly intricate. By the end of the century, as Art Nouveau bloomed, Webb vases seemed to take their cues from the soft-focus, naturalistic designs of Galle and Daum, as well as the precision of Wedgwood Jasperware.

To the north, in Perth, Scotland, a father-son team of Spanish glassblowers sowed the seeds for several firms: Monart (1924), Ysart Bros. (1947), Vasart (1956), and Strathearn (1965). Monart was the partnership between local John Moncrief and Salvador Ysart. The simple shapes of their vases and bowls were the perfect foils for the mottled abstractions and swirling designs Monart was known for. Ysart, Vasart, and Strathearn continued in this vein, expanding to include millefiori paperweights that are at once traditional and fresh, with rich coloration and lush interiors.

In addition to Baxter at Whitefriars, other giants of postwar British art glass include Frank Thrower of Dartington Glass. Thrower started out as a salesman of Scandinavian glass, so by the time he began producing his own designs in 1967, he was steeped in that look. Thrower was also a product of the 1960s, decorating his unassuming squat square vases with simple daisy patterns and radiating suns.

By coincidence, 1967 was also the year Ronald Stennett-Willson got into the glass business when he established King’s Lynn Glass, which was snappped up two years later by Wedgwood. His designs were more modern than Thrower’s, although Thrower actually designed pieces for King’s Lynn when Wedgwood acquired Dartington in the early 1980s.

Another child of the ’60s was Michael Harris, who established Mdina Glass on the island of Malta in 1968 before being forced out by the Maltese government, which had recently gained independence from the crown and was sensitive about appearing too British. In 1972, Miller established a new glass studio on the Isle of Wight. Although he had left the Mediterranean, the colors and surfaces that made Mdina Glass so popular, and collectible today, were continued in the English Channel.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Loetz.com

Loetz.com

This fabulous site is a guide to Bohemian art glass makers from 1885 to 1920. Loetz was the premier Bohemian glass … [read review or visit site]

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Chris and Val Stewart’s impressive attempt to create a complete catalogue of all known cloud glass, a decorative … [read review or visit site]

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

The heart of this website, home of the Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club, is the Identification Project, whe… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Okra Iridescent Glass VaseVintage Caithness Scotland Limited Edition Wild Irish Flowers Paperweight YqzLarge James Powell Whitefriars Blue Threaded Vase 1930s Art Deco Glass (2022)Fantastic Whitefriars Glass Paperweight Date Cane 1975 Window Cut Millefiori Art Glass Paperweight Norman Stuart Clarke SignedIsle Of Wight Glass Blue Irridescent Scent Bottle & StopperArt Nouveau Style Iridescent Glass Solid Silver Overlay Vase - Loetz StyleArt Deco Vaseline Uranium Glass Footed Sweetmeat DishJames Powell Whitefriars Cranberry Threaded Art Deco Glass Table Bowl (2021)Whitefriars 9818 Mallet Vase In An Aubergine ( Purple ) ColourWhitefriars Totem Pole Vase Geoffery Baxter Indigo Good ConditionVintage 'isle Of Wight Studio' Glass Perfume Bottle.. With Stopper...C1890 English Cameo Glass Cabinet Plate Stevens & Williams~~no Reserve~~Beautiful Stevens And Williams Art Glass Peachblow Pillow VaseNeo Art Glass Iridescent Gold Speckled Pebble & Silver Dragonfly Signed K.heatonIsle Of Wight Bon Bon Sherbet Black Small Tapering Bowl Or Votive A1Caithness Metamorphosis Paperweight- Limited Edition 111 Of 650 Philip ChaplainCaithness Magic Roundabout Paperweight- Limited Edition 213 Of 750 Colin TerrisVintage 1960s 1970s Dartington Red Glass Daisy Vase - Frank ThrowerIsle Of WightCaithness Glass Limited Edition Paperweight Castaway 407/750 Neo Art Glass Mushroom Paperweight & Sterling Silver Dragonfly K.heaton NewSigned Webb Burmese Art Glass Fairy Lamp CompleteSuperb Isle Of Wight 20th C Art Glass Vase - Perfect - 5.5" TallOrginal Vintage 16cm Whitefriars Green Dilly Duck Bubble Glass Paperweight 1960sVintage Caithness Terris Moonflower Scotland Paperweight Controlled Bubble YqzBeautiful Whitefriars 1983 Faceted Millifiori Glass PaperweightIsle Of Wight Oval Glass Vase - Meadow Garden Series- Dog Rose PatternVintage Caithness Terris Moonflower Scotland Paperweight Controlled Bubble YqzBeautiful And Cute Langham Glass Hedgehog English Vintage Hand Made Glass XxG Baxter Whitefriars Kingfisher Bark 7.5 Inch Vase PerfectMiniature Strathearn Scotland Coloured Caned PaperweightWhitefriars Glass Amber Bubble Apple Paperweight 9 Cm Retro Geoffrey Baxter Isle Of Wight Studio Glass Firecracker Cylinder Vase By Timothy Harris 1985-86 Bagley, Art-deco, Rocket, Grantham Stepped VaseNeo Art Glass Green Spider Disk & Sterling Silver Spider Signed K.heaton NewEarly Isle Of Wight Glass Paperweight Caithness Moon Flower Scotland Paperweight Whites Sky NoirsVintage Cut Crystal Thistle Small Shot Glass Made In Edinburgh Scotland Neo Art Glass Handmade Iridescent Gold Speckled Bird Signed K.heatonArt Deco 1920s Square Cloud Glass Bowl Purple With SwirlsVintage Ovoid Sapphire Blue Seeded Bubble Glass Vase Whitefriars Heavy Ht 7"Pair Of Wedgwood Brancaster Candlesticks, Medium, TopazVintage Wedgwood Lead Crystal Ring Holder Dressing Table Ladies Jewellery StandG Baxter Whitefriars Tangerine Finger Vase Perfect1930's Whitefriars Glass Barnaby Powell Design Ribbon TrailedLangham Glass Curled Up Black & White CatG Baxter Whitefriars Tagerine Pair Bark Candle HoldersEnglish Glossy Peachblow Vase Handles Gold Silver Butterflies Signed Marked IiiCaithness Overseer Paperweight- Limited Edition 688 Of 750- Alastair MacintoshNeo Art Glass Handmade Frog Ornament Signed K.heaton NewAntique Victorian Stevens Williams English Glass Tumbler Punch Cup 19cVintage Blue Opalescent Swirl Uranium Art Glass Pitcher Enameled Leaves No RsrVintage Wedgwood Art Glass Sea Fern Paperweight Boxed - Ed S58Rare Vintage Small Vasart Cloisonne Red / Orange / Black Vase Neo Art Glass Handmade Iridescent Bird Ornament Paperwight Signed By K.heatonEnglish Webb Peachblow Gold Enameled VaseRare Whitefriars Vintage Large Blue Toby Jug Mug Tankard Collectable Bar John Ditchfield Glasform Iridescent Glass Cylinder VaseVintage Asprey Blown Glass Dog Decanter W/ Spout - Expensive London Glass Maker