Mouth blown sheet glass making
The making of sheet glass using the technique of mouth-blowing.
|Historic area of significance|
|Area currently practised||Birmingham|
|Origin in the UK||12th Century|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||1|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees||2|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
The technique of producing mouth blown glass sheets dates back to the twelfth century but it is still popular today for stained glass and for restoration projects.
The last remaining company in the UK, English Antique Glass, has one master craftsman and two trainees who are learning the trade.
The molten glass is gathered on the end of the blowpipe and is coloured by rolling in intensely coloured globs of glass known as frit. When the glass is the right size and shape it is gradually blown and shaped, continuously re-heating it, into a long wide bulb. Once the right shape is achieved the hot glass is cut open at both ends so that it becomes an open cylinder or tube which then has to cool and anneal. The cylinder is then cut along its length and reheated, during which it is carefully flattened out to become a sheet of coloured glass.
Most window glass in the early nineteenth century was made using the cylinder method. Unlike modern float glass, each piece is unique, with air bubbles and slight variations in design.
Handmade glass comes in a range of variations including clear, coloured, seedy, crackle (alligator skin appearance), and opal (a slightly obscuring glass).
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
Market issues: Most glass is now manufactured using the float method, or mouth blown glass is imported from other countries such as Poland and Germany.
Training issues: There are no training routes available. English Antique Glass is training two people on the job to try to preserve the skills in the UK.
Craftspeople currently known
Businesses employing two or more makers:
- English Antique Glass – currently employs 1 master craftsman and 2 trainees.
There is only one mouth blown sheet glass manufacturer in the UK, and there are only a handful in the world including companies in Poland and Germany.