Glass engraver Tracey Sheppard has won Maker of the Year in the 2021 Heritage Crafts Awards supported by the Marsh Charitable Trust, which was presented at a prestigious Winners’ Reception at the House of Lords on 2 February 2022, sponsored by Swaine Adeney Brigg.
The result was one of four revealed at the COVID-delayed ceremony hosted by Heritage Crafts Vice Presidents Baroness Garden of Frognal and Lord Cormack. Other recent successes were also celebrated, including seven national honours and the awarding of the second annual President’s Award for Endangered Crafts, set up by Heritage Crafts President HRH The Prince of Wales and won in 2021 by watchmaker Rebecca Struthers.
The Heritage Crafts/Marsh Maker of the Year award was won by glass engraver Tracey Sheppard, who took up glass engraving at evening classes in the 1980s and soon reached the pinnacle of her craft, receiving commissions from Historic Royal Palaces to present to Her Majesty the Queen, and to be part of the Downing Street Collection of engraved glass. She has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Guild of Glass Engravers and is now their President, alongside being Master of the Art Workers Guild.
The Heritage Crafts/Marsh Trainer of the Year award went to Greg Rowland who runs a wheelwrighting workshop in Devon with his father and fellow master-wheelwright Mike. Greg was nominated by his current trainee Sam Phillips who is being trained through the Livery Companies Apprenticeship Scheme as well as a Bench Joinery apprenticeship with Exeter College. As well as training apprentices of his own, Greg was also instrumental in the development of the apprenticeship standard in collaboration with the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights.
The Heritage Crafts/Marsh Trainee of the Year award went to violin maker Niam Chauhan. Niam is studying at the Newark School of Violin Making, but began learning violin maintenance from the age of 13, before starting an informal apprenticeship with the late luthier and clock-maker John Bedingfield at the age of 16. Violin maker Melvin Goldsmith said: “[During my 30 years as a professional violin maker,] I have had some excellent students of the craft visit my workshop but of them all Niam is the outstanding example.”
The Heritage Crafts/Marsh Volunteer of the Year award
went to violin maker Colin Garrett, who has been a member of the British Violin Making Association for over 20 years and in that time has served many roles including Chairman and BVMA Enterprises Secretary. For the last 18 years he has also been Treasurer of the Rowan Armour Brown Trust, a charity that helps supports student luthiers with financial grants, wood distribution and work experience placements. He is also Treasurer of Luthiers Sans Frontiers, a charity that offers free training to some of the poorest countries in the world.
The finalists were as follows:
Heritage Crafts/Marsh Maker of the Year
- Fabian Bush – boat builder
- Rachel Frost – hat maker
- Tracey Sheppard – glass engraver
Heritage Crafts/Marsh Trainer of the Year
- Deborah Carré – shoemaker
- Delyth Done – blacksmith
- Kevin Millward – potter
- Greg Rowland – wheelwright
Heritage Crafts/Marsh Trainee of the Year
- Kieren Berry – papermaker
- Niam Chauhan – violin maker
- Francis Lloyd-Jones – potter
- Anna Olafsson – hand engraver
Heritage Crafts/Marsh Volunteer of the Year
- Colin Garrett – British Violin Making Association
- Jane Kerr – Wooden Boatbuilders Trade Association
- Debbie Richardson – Braid Society
The next round of nominations open on 1 March 2022.
The abrasion of a glass surface, through engraving, etching or sand-blasting, to leave a mark. See also copper wheel engraving.
|Historic area of significance
|Stourbridge and Dudley, West Midlands; London
|Area currently practised
|Origin in the UK
|Current no. of professionals (main income)
|See ‘Other information’ for further details
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required
At its simplest, engraving involves using a tool to abrade the surface of the glass in order to leave a mark. There are many ways to do this, and many tools available to do it, ranging from the simplest diamond-point hand tool to complex machinery.
Glass engraving dates back to Roman times and has been done in one form or another since then. Modern engraving was revived in the twentieth century by artists like Laurence Whistler, and the Guild of Glass Engravers (GGE) was established in 1975. In modern times the use of drill engraving has made the craft something anyone with a small hobby drill could take up and try.
Point engraving/line engraving: using a hand-held diamond or tungsten carbide point to scratch the surface of the glass, making a contrasting white line which sparkles in the light. Very few practitioners left.
Stipple engraving: tapping a very hard sharp point, either diamond or tungsten carbide, onto the surface of a crystal glass to produce tiny dots which together make a design. A range of tones can be produced by varying the density of the dots. Stipple engraving is done entirely by hand. Very few practitioners left.
Drill engraving: using a rotating bur in an electric drill which can cut into the glass more deeply than by hand to create the illusion of three dimensions.
Copper wheel engraving: using copper wheels varying in width, diameter and profile, powered by an electric motor, to make different types of cut in the glass. A slurry of carborundum grit, oil and paraffin is applied to the turning copper wheel and the glass is held against the wheel to make the cut. Coarse grit is used for rapid and large scale cutting, fine grit for more polished, delicate work. Very few practitioners left.
Sandblasting/sand engraving/sand carving: projecting fine grit onto glass at high pressure. This is an industrial technique commonly used for mass-produced designs but also used by individual artists.
Graal: a combination of engraving and glass blowing skills which originated in Sweden. A glass bubble made of one or more layers of coloured glass overlaid on clear glass is engraved, cutting through the layers to reveal the different colours. It is then reheated on a blowing iron and re-blown to the final shape of the object.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
Shortage of training opportunities: ‘Have a go’ sessions are very popular but there are far too few opportunities for people to learn the craft. A few people teach courses when they can or teach students at home but opportunities to do this are reducing. Colleges are not offering engraving as part of their glass courses and this is a real missed opportunity. Students are being encouraged to learn blowing, slumping and fusing, then coming out of college to discover that they cannot afford to run their own studios and cannot continue with glass. However engraving can be done at home in a small space and is affordable. It can be done as a hobby (as most members of the GGE do) or as full-time or part-time professionals.
Lack of recognition: People (even in the glass world) who have not seen contemporary glass engraving are unaware of how exciting it can be, and many seem to think that the craft is only about writSocietyeramics yet.
Shortage of raw materials: For most engravers there is not really a shortage of materials except for the stipple engravers who need 33% lead crystal (which is really difficult to find).
Market issues: Engraved glass is a luxury item and people are not willing to spend the money when a cheaper version will do.
Ageing workforce: concerned that they are getting older and will soon move from being critically endangered to near-extinct.
Craftspeople currently known
Current membership of the Guild of Glass Engravers is around 200, with approximately 100 people of the various skilled grades (Craft Member, Associate Fellow and Fellow) and 80 lay members who have not undergone any examination to get to higher grades in the Guild. The number of engravers outside of the GGE, working for companies such as Dartington as paid employees or running their own businesses, is not known but is thought to be relatively low.
Graham, Boyd, Engraving Glass.
Dreiser, Peter and Matcham, John, The Techniques of Glass Engraving.
Mocatta, Charmain, Lettering on Glass.
Palmer, Stuart and Palmer, Shirley, Glass Engraving: Drill Techniques.