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    

Isle Of Wight Glass Large 'seascape' Perfume Bottle - Made C.1986 - Must See!!!!Early Paul Ysart/monart Star Shaped Paperweight With LabelIsle Of Wight Glass 'satin' Perfume Bottle - Rare Design - Made In 1988 Only!!!!6 Boxed Enamel Harlequin Silver Spoons 1914 London Import Henry J Hubert 64 GramContemporary British Studio Art Glass Iestyn Davies Blowzone Vase Or Cup 2002Early Monart Paisley Shawl BowlIsle Of Wight Glass Large 'new Kyoto' Bowl - Very Scarce Design - Made 1986Isle Of Wight Glass 'bon Bon Allsorts' Perfume Bottle - Quite Scarce - Must SeeVery Beautiful Pink Mottled Glass Bowl - Silver Flakes - Possibly Monart - RareSamuel Herman Signed & Dated 1980 Iridescent Art Glass VaseIsle Of Wight Iridescent Midnight Blue Ribbons Art Studio Glass Vase Pontil MarkArt Glass Hand Blown Scent Perfume Bottle Signed Base MulticolouredWhitefriars Blue Wave Glass Vase 5" DiameterSuperb Wedgwood 2 Ring/ Disk Sheringham Candlestick Stennett-willson Base MarkScarce Iow Summer Fruits Honeyberry Studio Art Glass Perfume Bottle Boxed A1Caithness Seabase Crab Paperweight Limited Edition Number 286 SignedMonart Scottish Glass Vase Royal Wedding Colour With AventurineOrange Davidson Cloud Glass VaseAntique Cranberry And Vaseline Glass VaseVintage Isles Of Scilly Art Glass Millefiori Paperweight Perfume Bottle Sgd 1988Rare Caithness Comet Paperweight Boxed With Certificate Limited EditionDelightful Pair Antique Art Nouveau Stuart Sons Green Swirling Trail Glass Vase1970’s Whitefriars Baxter Pewter Coffin Vase Gorgeous! Antique Blue Vase Stevens & Williams Diamond Quilt Satin GlassJohn Ditchfield Glasform Iridescent Glass Mushroom With Butterfly In VgcWhitefriars Turquoise Glass Vase1960s H Bequet Prancing Horse Belgium Very Kitsch In Good ConditionWhitefriars Vintage 1960-1970's Pewter Twilight Glass Controlled Bubble DuckVintage Isle Of Wight Large Art Glass White And Gold 3 3/4” Paperweight LabelRare Caithness Floating Crown Paperweight Boxed With Certificate Limited EditionBeautiful Pink Scottish Monart Bowl With Silver AdventurineVintage 1960s Whitefriars Glass Ruby Red Molar VaseCaithness Glass Paperweight -- Red CarnationWedgwood? Studio Art Glass Elephant A1Fenton/steven Williams Webb Victorian Satin Cranberry Swirl Vase Piece2 Art Glass Vase - Stevens Williams Opalescent - As Is- Antique Victorian 19th COkra Vase Or Bottle. Spinnerette/pulled Feather? Njo 1982 Nicola Osborne FounderArt Glass - Whitefriars - Small Taper Vase - Textured - 5.5 Inch Orange - RetroAntique Steuben Or Steven Williams Art Glass Blue Opalescent Dessert Berry BowlStevens & Williams Sturbridge Cased Glass Victorian Hand Painted Bowl RimCaithness Glass Paperweight BoxedBeautiful David Wallace Turqouise & Cobalt Ripple Effect Studio Glass VaseVintage-whitefriars-kingfisher Blue-knobbly Vase-made In The U.k.-in V.g.c.Gumps San Francisco Crystal Bowl New With Box William YeowardAntique Art Glass Vase Steven Williams Webb British 10" Ruffled Pink Red OldVintage Thomas Webb Bristol Blue Hand Made Glass Lidded Pots With Label SignedWhitefriars Cased Glass Large Deep Blue Chimney Vase Geoffrey Baxter Submerged Wedgwood Cased Topaz Amber Glass Owl Paperweight By Ronald Stenett Willson 1967Wedgewood Glass Snail Turquiose/blue By R Sennet-wilson&p Miller 1970s Rare With Original Label~chance Glass~chance Brothers~britannia Fruit~plate 19503 Vintage Davidson Cloud Glass Vases Amber Art Deco StyleVintage Dartington Frosted Ribbon Cut Art Glass Vase With Acid Etched Base MarkStevens And Williams Vaseline Vase Cased Glass VaseJobling Glass Fostoria American 3 Handled Sugar Or Dessert BowlAlum Bay (isle Of Wight) Studio Glass Ribbon Sculpture Paperweight4 Pcs Old Vintage Davidson Amber Cloud Glass Bowl Frog Vase TrayAntique Webb Peachblow Handled Basket. Dead Heavy Wedgwood Brown Clear Lead Art Glass Tawny Owl Paperweight 456g 9cmWedgwood Cased Glass Owl Paperweight By Ronald Stenett Willson In 1967Caithness Glass Vase