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 'pink & Blue Swirls' Bell Vase ~ Huge Example ~ Made C.1975!Monart Moncrieff 1929 Sapphire/azure Swirling Gold Aventurine Bowl -a1 PerfectNailsea Style Victorian Hand Blown Art Glass Bowl C1890s Cranberry & Blue CasedRare Stevens & Williams Antique Cameo Art Glass Stourbridge Signed English VaseVasart Multi Coloured Swirl Thistle Glass Vase Signed 20cm High C1950 Isle Of Wight Glass 'seascape' Perfume Bottle ~ Very Sought After Design ~ 1990sPink Glass Lady Frog Centrepiece Schweig Muller Sowerby Walther & SsohneVintage Bagley Art Deco Amber Grantham Set Of 3 Vases 1930'sIsle Of Wight Studio Glass Red Lustre Vase / Perfume BottleWhitefriars 1967 Kingfisher/azure Geoffrey Baxter Textural Coffin Vase - PerfectIsle Of Wight Lg.6.5" Summer Fruits Irridescent Cranberry Cylinder Vase -a1 +labIsle Of Wight Glass Azurene Vase HarrisStevens & Williams (?) Large Green Cut To Clear Engraved Art Glass Bowl RareEnglish Vaseline Opalescent Stripe Claret Wine Jug Decanter Metal Handle SpoutLarge Studio Art Glass Glass Vase Perfect ConditionMonart Large Scottish Art Glass Vase Art Deco Internally CasedVintage Strathearn Small Glass Vase And Trinket Dish. Monart/vasart Possibly.Whitefriars Mobile Phone VaseStudio Glass Sculpture By Gillies Jones Of Rosedale Small Red Whitefriars Bark Effect VaseIsle Of Wight Studio Scarce 1974 Pink & Blue Swirls Squat Vase - Flame PontilIsle Of Wight Glass Gemstone VaseTs Victorian Rainbow Cased Spangled Clear Crested Art Glass Basket! Chance Glass Handkerchief Vase Yellow Lemon ColourLangham Glass Hand Made Koala Small Ornament Figure With Label - VgcIsle Of Wight 1982 Gold/silver Irridescent Azurene Short Neck Globe Vase - A1C1890 Victorian Art Glass Celery Vase~~shaded Blue Satin Enamel Bugs Thomas WebbBlue Frosted Glass Lady Frog Centrepiece Schweig Muller GermanyAntique Blown Glass Cameo Acid Etched Cranberry Parlor Duplex Oil Lamp ShadeC1890 Webb Victorian Art Glass Sugar Pail Sweetmeat Opal Glass Delicate EnamelCaithness Glass Paperweight Scotland Whirlpool 25728Art Deco Amber Cloud Glass Vase By Davidsons C1930Isle Of Wight Glass Charger Massive 15" DiameterVintage Whitefriars Glass - Ruby Red Glass Duck Formed Paperweight - Nice!Whitefriars 1960 Geoffrey Baxter Kingfisher 7.5" Elegant Beak Vase - A1 PerfectAntique Rare Victorian Sowerby/davidson? White Milk Glass Jug/creamer Holly VgcDressing Table Set Green Glass Tray3vanity Bowls.period Style/match CandlesticksVintage Bagley Art Deco Amber Equinox Posy VaseVintage Vasart Vase 1946 To 1963 Black And Silver LabelVintage Studio Glass Paperweight. Possibly Michael Harris.Wedgwood Glass Brancaster Tall Candlestick Alexandrite/pink R.stennett WillsonWhitefriars Kingfisher Blue Glass Hambone Vase.Beautiful Whitefriars Art Glass Red Bark Vase By Geoffrey BaxterAttractive Dartington Glass Vase - Cranberry Colourway Whitefriars Ring Tree Still Has Sticker On Must SeeDartington Glass Vase Large Retro Vintage Chance Art Glass Royal Blue Hankie Handkerchief VaseChance Glass Swirl & Calypto Oblong Platters Antique Stevens And Williams Vaseline Opal Thorn Handled Basket - Large!Rare William Yeoward Crystal 48 Oz Alexis Palm Tree Pattern 48oz. Pitcher C1890 Webb Victorian Art Glass Vase~~peachblow Cased W/rigaree Strawberry PruntLovely Antique Thomas Webb Swirls Cases Art Glass Vase! Fabulous Color YellowVintage/retro Whitefriars Glass Greek Key TangerineVictorian Cranberry Glass Sugar Shaker Sifter Muffineer Nickel Plated TopCaithness Glass Posy Bud Vase Purple5pc Sowerby Style Purple/brown Malachite Slag Glass Pierced Basket Weave Plate Antique Stevens & Williams Red Cased Glass Vase With Applied Flowers Whitefriars Textured Ice Glass Tumblers "icicle" 1974 X 2Whitefriars Controlled Bubble Glass Small Dishes Ornage & Green Sowerby Purple Slag Glass Salt With Embossed Floral Design