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    

Alum Bay Glass Isle Of Wight Cat PaperweightBristol Blue Glass Lead Crystal Goblet With Allium Design Bristol OnionWhitefriars Geoffrey Baxter Textured Orange Tv Glass Vase, Excellent ConditionRare Vintage Paul Ysart H Cane Harland Studio Art Glass Hand Blown Paperweight Stevens And Williams Purple Gold Rigaree Snowflakes Three Leg Vase Antique Stevens & Williams Cased Applied Flowers Art Glass VaseImportant & Rare John Northwood Stevens & Williams Intaglio Art Glass VaseRare Whitefriars Tangerine Tv Vase 1960's 70's Space Age Vintage Whitefriars Aubergine Pineapple VaseMt Washington Pairpoint Blue Satin Mop Enamel Glass Diamond Quilted Vase Sowerby Ivory Milk Glass Triangular Wall PocketA Whitefriars Glass Coffin Vase In Meadow Green Colourway - Geoffrey BaxterBeautiful Signed Thomas Webb Clear Twisted Glass Vase W/pink CrestAnthony Stern British Studio Art Glass VaseWhitefriars Meadow Green Vase, Textured Range, Zig Zag Design.Okra Hand Blown Studio Glass Vase "nocturne" Initialled D. J.Whitefriars Tangerine Bark Vase Whitefriars Baxter Amber Gold Dilly Duck Glass Paperweight 1960's BubbleVintage Baxter Whitefrairs Clear Glass Owl Figurine Paperweight Original StickerRetro Glasform Blue Iridescent Vase W/ LabelOkra Metallic Blue & Green Hand Blown Studio Glass Perfume BottleWhitefriars Aqua Ring Tree With Original Paper Label Langham Glass Handmade Art Glass BirdLovely Royal Doulton Advertising Paperweight Whitefriars Knobbly Vase Aquamarine Colour.1970s.Whitefriars Geoffrey Baxter Kingfisher Blue Textured Vase, Good ConditionCaithness Scotland Art Glass Paperweight Flower In The Rain Bubbles Marked 1291Caithness Spooky Hands Paperweight 476-650 (868)Will Shakspeare British Studio Art Glass Vase Modernist Eames CasedSiddy Langley Studio Glass Round Blue Vase. Signed 2001 Whitefriars Glass Kingfisher Blue Tricorn Vase Pattern 9570 9.5”Pair Of Caithness Glass Wine Goblets - Canisbay - BlueCaithness Glass Paperweight Mooncrystal 3 Shades Of BlueFine Vtg Caithness Myriad Pink Controlled Bubble Art Glass Paperweight MibCaithness Scotland Glass Paperweight Globe Flower In The Rain 1970s Art GlassDartington Glass City Of London 800th Anniversary Tankard By Frank Thrower (ft1)Unusual Vintage Collectable Nailsea End Of Day Glass Posy VaseVintage Wedgwood Amber Glass - Rabbit Formed Paperweight - Unusual! Vintage Wedgwood Amber Glass - Bird Formed Paperweight - Nice!Vintage Wedgwood Amber Glass - Squirrel Formed Paperweight - Lovely!Royal Brierley Studio Pink Iridescent Glass Posy Vase SignedAntique Victorian Davidson Glass Sugar Bowl - Daisy & Greek KeyThomas Webb & Sons 'bronze' Iridescent Vase C1880 Arts & Crafts AestheticStevens & Williams Rosaline Art Glass Rolled Rim Vase With Alabaster FootLarge Vintage Caithness 'sentinel' Glass PaperweightCaithness Glass 'cg' Millefiori Reflections Paperweight W/ Central Raised - A29Beautiful Caithness Glass Pink Display Bowl - Handmade In ScotlandDelightful Caithness Glass 'desert Spring' Paperweight M65153 - A29 Caithness Glass Perfume Atomiser With Puffer Gorgeous Caithness Sand Sprite PaperweightSowerby Bullrush Large Fruit Dish Bowl Vintage Uranium Walter And Sohne (?) Glass Sundae Glass VasesVintage "bristol" Cobalt Blue Bud Vase "signed"Unusual Chance Glass Blue & White Handkerchief VaseBagley Jetique Black Glass Red/white/yellow Polka Dot Posy Pocket/wall VaseLovely Caithness Glass Paperweight - CauldronIsle Of Wight Studio Glass Perfume BottleDartington Crystal Lily Of The Valley Wibble Vase Flowers Or CandleWhitefriars 9293 Lobed Bowl Large Whitefriars? Controlled Bubble Ruby Red Glass Paperweight