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    

Isle Of Wight Glass Azurene 'fish Vase' ~ Signed By Michael Harris ~ Larger SizeIsle Of Wight Glass Seaward Vase Signed Michael HarrisVintage Scottish Monart Glass Vase - Powder Blue Deep Mauve & Goldstone.Jonathan Harris, Ironbridge Signed And Dated Studio Glass VaseRare Geoffrey Baxter Whitefriars Indigo 9679 Cucumber VaseSigned By Michael Harris: An Isle Of Wight Glass Perfume / Scent Bottle.Isle Of Wight Glass Aurene 'globe Vase' ~ Stunning Example ~ Made C.1975!!!!!!!!Iron Mounted Harry Powell Vase Whitefriars 1890sAntique Victorian Kralik Silveria Rose & Green Glass Vase Mt Washington EraEarly 1973 Isle Of Wight Michael Harris Experimental 'blue & Green Swirls' VasePair Of Rare Jade Green Pressed Glass Urn Vases Davidson? Slag Or Malachite Langham Glass Goose Signed Paul Miller - Slight A/f.Vintage Isle Of Wight Moon Flask Shape Iridescent Glass Elegant Perfume BottleSowerby ~ Opalescent Glass ~ Posy Vase ~ Walter Crane Design. Circa 1879Antique Victorian Stevens & Williams Threaded Cranberry Glass Open SaltWhitefriars Tangerine Cased Art Glass Nail Head Vase Geoffrey Baxter Ptno 9683Whitefriars Glass Small Pewter Bark Vase Geoffrey Baxter 1960s 70s Retro2 Davidson Green Cloud Glass VasesIow Isle Of Wight Art Studio Glass Opalescent Vase Footed Bowl 1996-2014 LabelWhitefriars Dilly Duck In Twighlight. Original Sticker.Scarce Geoffrey Baxter Whitefriars " Streaky " Vase C1971-1973Langham Glass Pink Pig Signed Paul Miller. Art Crystal PaperweightWhitefriars Tangerine Bark Vase 9690 Geoffrey Baxter DesignTwo Davidson Vaseline Opalescent Prince William Juice Tumblers Circa 1893Langham Glass Badger, Art Studio Crystal Glass Animal PaperweightWhitefriars Glass Pewter Nailhead Vase - Geoffrey Baxter DesignTwo Small Signed Sanders Wallace Iridescent Art Glass VasesLittle Isle Of Wight Glass Hand Made Bird Whitefriars (powell) Cloudy Blue/green Tumbler VaseWhitefriars Tangerine Bark Finish VaseVictorian Sowerby Vitro Porcelain Pale Blue Glass Comport / Tazza & 6 PlatesWhitefriars Yellow Swirly Pattern No 9850 Designed By Ray. Annenbery Lovely. 2 Dartington Crystal Daisy Bowls Deep Fruit Dishes Frank Thrower Ft186 New BoxedStunning Dartington Studio Glass 'alchemy' Vase 6 Michael Harris Chance Calypto Glass Sherry Glasses Heron Glass Iridescent Mushroom Medium With Silver Butterfly Perfect Condition 2 Dartington Crystal Deep Daisy Bowls Glass Dishes Frank Thrower Ft186 New Boxed19th Century Gray Bristol Glass Salt With Coralene Berries & Flowers DecorationSteuben Stevens And Williams Pink British Art Glass Rosaline Teacup Saucer SetWhitefriars Cased Red Art Glass Cylinder Bark Vase By Geoffrey Baxter Ptno 9690Isle Of Wight Glass Stemmed Glass Blue Small VintageTeardrop Vase Designed By Geoffrey Baxter. No. 9571 From The 1964 CatalogueHarlequin Pair Whitefriars Style Red Twist Fluted Art Glass Vases Vintage Whitefriars Art Glass Cased Ruby Red Tricorn Vase G Baxter 1964 Pat 9570Tall Retro 1970s Whitefriars Style Ridged Amber Glass Decanter & StopperRetro Isle Of Wight Art Glass Small Paperweight Green Swirl & Bubbles 1970'sDartington Crystal (featured In Luxor Box)Whitefriars Decanter. Hand BlownBoxed Caithness Miniature Millefiori Paperweight Tie Tack / Tie PinStourbridge Thomas Webb Cranberry Applied Rigaree Threaded Bonbon SweetmeatIsle Of Wight Studio Glass Mushroom - Label To Base - Moss Green & Pink Flecks3 Vintage Caithness Blue Budvases, One Has Label Intact, All Retired PatternsSuperb Alum Bay Glass Isle Of Wight Skull PaperweightLovely Davidson’s Cloud Glass Ring Tray , Rare Blue ColourWhitefriars Smokey Grey Art Glass 9647 Tear Drop VaseCaithness Crystal Vase - No DamageCaithness Blue Glass Paperweight Edinburgh CastleBritish Alum Bay Isle Of White Art Glass Marbled Flower Vase England C1970s Sign