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”)



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    

Whitefriars Rare Lilac Nipple Vase 60's 70's Space AgeWhitefriars Double Diamond Vase Kingfisher BlueLovely Turqoise Iridescent Art Glass Vase. Isle Of Wight ??1960's Whitefriars Kingfisher Blue Art Glass Coffin Vase - Geoffrey BaxterBeautiful Green Glass Small Wedgwood Bird Ornament / Paper Weight - 277 H41Rare Bagley Glass Art Deco Koala Bear Vase Amber, Nice Condition Fine John Ditchfield Irredescent Signed Glass By John DitchfieldWhitefriars Glass Basket Weave Smokey Large Vase 9667 By Geoffrey BaxterRare Antique 1890s Stevens & Williams 3 Color Rainbow Swirl Art Glass Vase Isle Of Wight Studio Glass Sweet Pea Perfume BottleIsle Of Wight Studio Glass British Museum Globe Perfume BottleVintage Isle Of Wight Studio Glass Perfume Bottle With Original LabelMid-century 1960's Whitefriars Tangerine Art Glass Coffin Vase - Geoffrey Baxter1960's Mid-century Whitefriars Ruby Red Art Glass Coffin Vase - Geoffrey BaxterJohn Ditchfield / Heron Iridescent Paperweight With Lizard Great Condition1960's Mid-century Whitefriars Pewter Art Glass Nailhead Vase - Geoffrey BaxterAllister Malcolm Large Studio Glass Bottle British SignedIsle Of Wight Studio Glass Gemstone Opal Perfume BottleIsle Of Wight Studio Glass Bon Bon Humbug White Perfume BottleThomas Webb & Sons Cameo Hand Carved Perfume Bottle W/ Stopper Signed ExcellentDartington Glass Rare Red VaseC00 Art Noveau Opalescent Glass 7 Horn Epergne Mirror Base~~john Walsh Walsh2 X Studio Art Blue Blown Glass Jug Vase Poss Victorian Christopher Dresser FormVery Rare Davidson Purple Marbled Slag Glass Lion Head Celery VaseWedgwood Sheringham Three Disc Glass Candleholder - Rare Pale Blue ColourFine John Ditchfield Irredescent Signed Glass By John DitchfieldFine Royal Worcester Vase SignedCaithness Mooncrystal Alexandrite / Neodymium Colour Changing Glass Paperweight Wedgwood Ronald Stennett Willson Blue Glass 3 Disc Sheringham C1970sWhitefriars Blue Vase. Kingfisher BlueRare Pair Dartington Crystal Victoria Champagne Flutes Glasses.frank ThrowerSelkirk Glass Space Pearl Paperweight Ltd Edition 483 /500 /1986 Signed To BaseCaithness Glass Scotland 'rose' Paperweight Perfume Bottle Millefiori Canes 1992Davidson Uranium Vaseline Pearline Handled Posy VaseIsle Of Wight Studio/art Glass Vase Azurene Pink Michael HarrisWhitefriars Vase "drunken Bricklayer", Tangerine In Pristine Condition Whitefriars 10 Inch Wave Ribbed Tumbler Vase AmethystStunning Whitefriars Trefoil Glass Paperweight 1975 Perfect Whitefriars CaneA Fantastic Heavy 885g! Vintage Whitefriars Midnight Blue Art Glass Ovoid VaseWhitefriars Glass VaseControlled Bubble Glass Paperweight - Whitefriars? - 12cm - Excellent Condition Hallmarked Sterling Silver Paul Ysart/ Caithness Millefiori Fob , London , 1971Davidson Uranium Vaseline Pearline Handled Posy Vase2 X Dartington Frank Thrower Art Glass VasesWhitefriars Glass Ruby Red Controlled Bubble Dilly DuckStunning Antique Vaseline Opalescent Uranium & Cranberry Glass Ruffled VaseIsle Of Wight Glass VaseCaithness Glass Blue Carousel PaperweightRare Isle Of Wight Glass Large Jellyfish Paperweight Michael Harris InterestSuperb Comical Portmeirion Glass Dog Figurine "blueberry" By Rob ShottanAntique Vaseline Opalescent Uranium & Light Purple Glass Ruffled Trumpet VaseSuperb William Walker Glass Paperweight - Cottage Garden Series - 1986 Small Isle Of Wight Irridescent Glass Pear Shaped Paper WeightLovely Caithness Glass Paperweight - Quicksilver - Colin Terris Isle Of Wight Glass Paper Weight Caithness Paperweight Titania Must SeeBeautiful Caithness - Green Glass Vase - 7ins Tall Whitefriars ? Green Glass Decanter Very Heavy Great Condition No Chips EtcWhitefriars Vase Okra British Studio/art Glass Vase Pink Iridescent Gold Swirls