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    

3 19thc Arts & Crafts James Powell Vaseline Glass Shades For W.a.s Benson LampJohn Ditchfield Glasform Iridescent Lilypad Paperweight With Silver ButterflyJohn Ditchfield Signed Glasform Iridescent Glass Paperweight With Silver FrogJohn Ditchfield Glass Paperweight Egg Stunning Design. *no Reserve* 3"Beautiful Caithness Scotland Etched Dolphins Blue Glass Paperweight - 43 N43Isle Of Wight Studio Glass Azurene Goblet With Coa Signed By Michael HarrisLarge Whitefriars Aubergine Glass Vase Textured Bark Design VgcVintage Isle Of Wight Glass Gemstone? PaperweightSmall Aubergine Whitefriars Glass VaseStudio Glass Iridescent Vase By John Ditchfield At Glasform - Beautiful!Whitefriars Pineapple Glass Vase Willow Green 1969 Geoffrey Baxter RareThomas Webb Pink Diamond Quilted Mother Of Pearl Mop Satin Glass Air Trap VaseHallmarked Sterling Silver Paul Ysart/ Caithness Millefiori Celtic Brooch , 1971Isle Of Wight ? Glass Paperweight, Stevens & Williams Pink Diamond Quilted Mother Of Pearl Mop Glass Air Trap BowlThomas Webb Pink Diamond Quilted Mother Of Pearl Mop Satin Glass PaperweightBeautiful Jonathan Harris Studio Art Glass Paperweight - 43 N43Large Isle Of Wight Glass Iridescent Globe VaseCaithness Paperweight "millefiori Reflections" Designed By William Manson Antique Davidson Brideshead Vase Pearline Glass Vaseline Opalescent Circa 1889Webb Mother Of Pearl Dq Satin Glass Miniature Rosebowl Signed Patent BlueTangerine Orange Whitefriars Bark Glass Vase. 7 1/2" In HeightThomas Webb Blue Diamond Quilted Mop Satin Glass Air Trap Ewer Thorn HandleLovely Caithness Glass Paperweight - Snow Trail - Margot Thomson Isle Of Wight Seascape Perfume Bottle Caithness Paperweight "framboise" - Philip Chaplain - Limited EditionCaithness Scotland Signed Numbered Stars N Stripes 3" Art Glass PaperweightPretty Isle Of Wight Studio Glass Egg Shape PaperweightNice Vintage 1930's Pair Of Davidson 6" High Cloud Glass Column VasesBeatifull Scottish Vasart Bucket Vase Signed No DamageAntique Webb Or Harrach Peachblow Enameled Flower Decorated Art Glass Vase John Ditchfield Glass Ashtray - Signed 1980Art Deco Bagley Glass Wheatsheaf Vase Amber Pattern No 3174 Good 1930's EnglandIsle Of Wight Glass - Large Marble (10cm Dia)Pretty Wedgwood Glass Paperweight Rare Vintage Retro Whitefriars Blue Geoffrey Baxter Bark Design Art Glass VaseJohn Ditchfield Glasform Paperweight Frog Decorated In Iridescent Green.Wedgwood Art Glass Mottled Pink Snail Shell Vase X 2Beautiful Vintage English Bristol Glass Vase With Floral Designs--12" TallRare Langham Glass Beaver Paperweight BoxedTwo Caithness Art Glass Millifiori Top Sewing Thimbles Tool 2* Red PurpleLarge Pair Karlin Rushbrooke 1977 Vintage Studio Glass Peacock Blue Wine GobletsRare Vintage Limited Edition Caithness Paperweight Scottish Art Glass Tristar CgIsle Of Wight Studio Glass Small Blue Swirls PaperweightCaithness Glass Millefiori Earrings And Pendant Set With Their Original BoxVintage Art Glass Mallet Shaped Vase With Frill Decoration.Hallmarked Sterling Silver Caithness Part Millefiori Cufflink , Paul Ysart Stone2 Frederick Carder Steuben Jade Alabaster Uranium Art Glass Wine Glasses Mint!Andrew Stern Studio Glass Seascape BowlCaithness Paperweight "millefiori Reflections" Designed By William Manson Whitefriars Glass Candle Shade BoxAntique Stem Stevens & Williams Or Venetian Polar Bear Unusual & Exceptional !Geoffrey Baxter Whitefriars Glass Goblet Commemorate The Wedding Of Anne & MarkArt Deco Black Pressed Glass Plinth / Display Base Stand For Vase Or BowlChance Glass Handkerchief VaseCaithness Limited Edition Dewdrop Orchid PaperweightScottish Art Glass - Large Strathearn Bowl - With Aventurine Gold FlecksBeautiful Okra Glass Perfume Holder Bottle Brand New Iridescent ArtVintage Davidson Blue Cloud Art Glass - Dressing Table Trinket SetWedgwood Sheringham Candle Holder By Ronald Stennett-wilson 1967 Green 1 Hoop