The working of glass, including techniques such as glass blowing (heating glass and blowing air into it), kiln formed glass and lampwork. See the separate entry for scientific glass working.
|Historic area of significance
|Area currently practised
|Origin in the UK
Glassblowing involves heating glass and blowing air into it, which is known as inflation. It can be used for the making of scientific apparatus, vases, paperweights, and is now used in art and sculptures. Glassblowing was used in the production of sheet glass used for windows. The technique was used by German glass craftsmen in the 11th century and further developed by Venetian craftsmen in the 13th century. These skills spread to England and advanced the bottle-making trade. Glassblowing enabled the production of larger pieces of glass, as well as the production of thinner glass for sheet making. Machinery was introduced by 1887, enabling 200 bottles to be produced per hour, more than three times quicker than traditional blowing techniques. 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 art, design and sculpture glassblowing, often referred to as studio glass.
In the early 1980s, there was very little glass making happening in the UK. It was taught at some colleges, although this was largely targeted towards industrial glass making, and there were a lot of scientific glass makers in universities and colleges. Glass blowing took place in Dartington and similar companies. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that studio glass making began, with the likes of Annette Meech, Norman Stuart Clark, Peter St Clair, Peter Leyton, The London Glass Studio etc.
Kiln-Formed glass became established as part of the Studio Craft movement which began in the 1960’s alongside studio blown glass as an expressive and decorative medium. Over the last sixty years it has grown in popularity world-wide particularly in the UK, which has produced some of the best and well-known exponents, like Colin Reid, David Reekie, and Tessa Clegg. It does have some historical precedents with examples appearing across the ages, from Ancient Egypt to 19 th century France. However it has never cohered into a single movement before, and as a result there are more individuals globally kiln-forming than at any time in its history. Due to its inclusion in Art School curriculums since the mid-sixties, and the constant experiments carried out by generations of makers it has become much more complex and sophisticated technically during the last 55 years, with a growing number of books devoted to its processes and techniques. Part of its appeal lies in the fact that a studio can be set up relatively easily and cheaply, unlike blown glass. Examples by top kiln- formers appear in the permanent collections of museums world-wide including the Victoria and Albert the Corning Glass Museum New York and the Shanghai Museum of Glass.
Techniques of glass work include: hot glass work, warm glass work, cold glass work and lamp work.
Little has altered in the technique of traditional glassblowing, yet the process is quicker due to the introduction of newer materials and technologies. Three different furnaces are needed: the furnace, the glory hole and the kiln. They are used at different stages of the process, all at different temperatures. Glass is placed in the furnace, when ready it is removed with a blowpipe, made of hollow stainless steel. When removed stylistic touches can be added, such as colour, before it is placed in the glory hole. Every step in the process is vital to the outcome of the object. The glass can be freely blown and swung, or blown into a pre-existing cast. The glass therefore, derives its form and texture from the mould, each method giving the glass its unique shape. The final stage of heating takes place in the kiln: when ready, the glass can be removed, and it fully hardens as it cools down.
These are a group of techniques based on the shaping of glass in Kilns. They all exploit the ways in which glass changes its viscosity when heated, with the glass becoming softer the higher the temperature. Using a variety forms of available glass solids, like sheet, rod, ingots, crushed, and a range of temperatures, glass can be fused, bent or cast.
- Kiln formed glass
- Studio based stained glass
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
The Glass Society – the Glass Association and the Glass Circle merged in 2019 to form The Glass Society.
- Guild of Glass Engravers
- Heart of England Glass
Craftspeople currently known