Glassworking (scientific glassware)
The working of glass, including techniques such as glass blowing (heating glass and blowing air into it) specifically to make scientific apparatus (see the separate entries for glassworking and surgical instrument making).
|Historic area of significance
|Sunderland; Stoke on Trent
|Area currently practised
|Origin in the UK
|Current no. of professionals (main income)
|101-200 (see other information)
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
Modern scientific glassblowing started with the advent of Borosilicate glass. In the twentieth century glass became part of the ‘scientific sector’ creating a shift in the industry from a craft to a ‘precise science’ thereby creating a schism between scientific glassblowing and studio glass.
The manipulating of glass, usually in tubing or rod form in an open flame to produce apparatus used for scientific purposes. This task may be carried out by hand or machine. In addition cold working of glass for scientific purposes involves the cutting, grinding and drilling of glass using various abrasive tools. Scientific glassblowing shares similar techniques with glass bead making and paperweight producers.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
Training issues: A fully skilled or competent scientific glassblower is becoming a rare thing these days as there are no longer any schools or colleges teaching scientific glassblowing in the UK. The future of the skill is entirely dependent on university-based glassblowers and a few businesses who are willing to undertake in-house training. The British Society of Scientific Glassblowers has a long established full syllabus for training a scientific glassblower which is respected worldwide by the industry, with student or trainee scientific glassblowers in several countries undertaking its exams. However, there are no government accredited scientific glassblowing qualifications, and the BSSG has not been able to achieve the government accreditation required to move forward in the Modern Apprenticeship programme which simply doesn’t work for this profession. The cost of training is high both in material and time so it’s a very big ask for employers to undertake. There are fewer than ten student scientific glassblowers throughout the country.
Dilution of skills: Very few craftspeople have the knowledge to carry out a wide range of scientific glassware techniques and there is a risk of skills being lost or not passed on.
- British Society of Scientific Glassblowers – currently trying to get their syllabus accredited to allow access to government funds
Craftspeople currently known
- Terri Adams
- Robert McLeod
- Matthew Myles
- Phil Jones
- Julia Malle
- Dan Jackson
- Paul Le Pinnet
- Graham Reed – currently offering training
Status: While the numbers of glassblowers actively involved in scientific glassblowing appear healthy (201-500, with 101-200 skilled craftspeople and 14 trainees), these numbers include those employed in industry who may only ever perform one or two operations as part of an assembly line and their training has been limited to these particular operations.
A useful resource for finding out more about scientific glass can be found here http://www.ilpi.com/glassblowing/glassblowing.html
- Le Pinnet, Paul, Laboratory Scientific Glassblowing: A Practical Training Method