Sam Herman Glass

Sam Herman (b.1936) is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential living glass artists and makers in the world today. After studying and helping to develop the new studio glass techniques directly under their inventors, Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino, at the University of Wisconsin, he brought them to the UK in 1965. He worked briefly with Michael Harris at the Royal College of Art, before becoming a Research Fellow there in the same year and then, a few years later, Lecturer in Glass. He went on to co-found The Glasshouse in London in 1969, helping and inspiring hundreds of glass artists, providing them with the tools, support and space to create, and the venue to sell from. In 1974, he was invited by the South Australian Government to bring his unique style, skills and studio glass techniques to Adelaide, where he founded a glass studio at the Jam Factory. On his return to England in 1979, he founded his own studio in Lots Road, Chelsea, and became an Honorary …

Read More
Jonathan Harris Elvis Presley Cameo Graal Vase designed by Mark Hill

Me, Elvis Presley and Jonathan Harris? An unlikely combination, I hear you say. Well, I’d agree, it’s funny how seemingly disparate things can come together for some reason. But, quite often, when they do, amazing things happen. And that’s what happened here. In this instance, it was The British Glass Foundation charity that brought us together. Earlier this year, they set a ‘Doodle Challenge’ and asked celebrities, well-known faces in the glass world and local schools to produce a doodle that would then be translated into glass by a crack team of some of the best glassmasters in the country. Doodles came in from actress Emma Thompson, singers and musicians Frankie Valli, Tony Hadley, Robert Plant and Beverley Knight, chef Raymond Blanc, much-loved and recently knighted comedian Sir Lenny Henry and others. Oh, and BBC Antiques Roadshow specialists and glass addicts Andy McConnell and me. I was delighted when my doodle (left) went to my friend Jonathan Harris, the globally renowned and hugely talented and skilled cameo and graal glass artist. Looking …

Read More

Death, Hype & Collapse?

When an artist or designer dies, or a factory or studio closes, it causes ripples to go through the collecting world and the fairs, shops and auctions of the ‘secondary market’. A form of hysteria often sets in, causing prices to rise rapidly before, as often happens, they crash back down again.It can take some years before these circumstances happen, as with the Whitefriars market which peaked some 20-25 years after the factory closed in 1980. But the effects are usually felt immediately, and the cycle seems to be getting faster and faster. Some have seen these events as investment opportunities – but what do you buy to fare the best? The subject almost doesn’t matter, so I’ll use the most recent time I’ve experienced this.

In January 2013, Isle of Wight Studio Glass closed in the year of its 40th anniversary, having been founded in 1973. Presumably the struggle to balance the rising cost of keeping the furnaces burning all year round against the average spend of tourists and competition from cheaper and poorer …

Read More

Just because something is rare, it doesn’t have to be expensive. High values come from a mercurial combination of condition, age, rarity and the ever-present law of supply and demand. So I was delighted to stumble across this curvaceous Dartington storage jar for £22 at last week’s National Glass Fair in Birmingham. It was designed in 1967 by Frank Thrower, co-founder and sole designer at Dartington Glass until his untimely death in 1987. It’s shown in the very first, hand-drawn catalogue, and is numbered FT18. Dartington numbers were applied to shapes consecutively, which helps to date them to a period or, in the early years, often a year. Frank was inspired by Scandinavian glass of the 1950s & 60s, but also took some inspiration from 18th and 19th century glass and other, highly diverse forms and themes. Part of his brilliance lay in knowing what the market wanted, what it would pay, and taking all these inspirations and combining them with a quirky British twist. But not everything worked or proved popular, and it’s …

Read More

As I was typing this post about this range, I realised what an appropriate time of year it was to be doing so considering the name of the range! Regular readers of my blog or Twitter account will know that I believe that much Victorian glass is both under-rated and under-valued for what it is. Yes, there’s a lot of horrible, mass-produced rubbish out there, but there’s also a large quantity of high quality, uniquely designed glassware that was often very complex to make. Despite the amount of work and Victorian ingenuity that went into it, it’s cheap to buy today purely because it’s out of fashion. Putting my money where my mouth was late last year, I bought a vase which I consider to be typical of this. I know it’s not to everyone’s tastes, but it would have been the height of fashion in the late Victorian period. And just think about how many highly skilled steps it took to make it! The thinly blown pink core was covered with opaque cream glass, the legs were coloured, applied …

Read More

When you’re researching a book, you invariably come across fascinating information which isn’t strictly related to the subject of the book, but really ought to be recorded anyway. When I was researching for my book on Michael Harris and his work at Mdina Glass and Isle of Wight Studio Glass (now out of print), my interviews with his widow Elizabeth Harris revealed Michael’s background. In 1962, Michael was offered the role of Tutor in the Industrial Glass department at the Royal College of Art, a position he held until he left to found Mdina Glass in 1967. What isn’t known as well was that at the same time, he was also part of an entrepreneurial design group called ‘Image Three’, or ‘Image 3’. His partners in the seemingly successful venture were Anthony Stiff and Ronald Mitchell, who were both potters. The group produced a wide variety of designs for retailers, manufacturers and distributors including the smokey grey glass Schweppes ashtrays found in pubs at the time, clocks, ceramic figurines, and a series of pine-framed coloured glass …

Read More

2006 saw the 40th anniversary of Dartington Glass, one of the UK’s only surviving independent glass companies. To commemorate this event, Graham Cooley exhibited hundreds of pieces of Dartington Glass dating from 1967 into the 1990s from his private collection. In conjunction with that, I wrote and published a book with Eve Thrower, the daughter of their chief designer Frank Thrower MBE, who sadly died in 1987. An hour long documentary on the company, the man behind it, and the designs he produced was also filmed, and sponsored by the Glass Association. Filmed by Nigel Edwards of inHouse Productions, who also produced the Fat Lava short film and DVD, it was sold on DVD and has been broadcast three times on Sky Arts. It includes interviews with Graham Cooley, almost certainly the UK’s most important and influential 20thC design collector, Charles Hajdamach, esteemed glass historian and specialist, Franks’ daughter Eve Thrower, Peter Robinson, Dartington’s Sales Director from the late 1960s-80s, glass designer and Frank’s mentor Ronald …

Read More

Mid-century modern and studio glass lovers out there will love the new (March 2012) edition of Homes & Antiques magazine, as I’ve written new article on the beauty of Mdina Glass for it. Already as popular with collectors as it is with those with an eye for retro, vintage, and modern interiors, you can learn how to spot a great piece, as well as the stories behind the company and Michael Harris, the fascinating and talented man who built it and provided the designs. The image above, courtesy of Homes & Antiques, is just a taster of what awaits you. Prices for the best pieces have risen tenfold over the past six years, but there are still plenty of bargains out there to be found. On that note, I’m excited to announce two unmissable opportunities to buy Mdina Glass. The first is a selling exhibition being run by my friend and colleague Mark Newsum, of Newsum Antiques in the picturesque village of Winchcombe in the Cotswolds. Mark kindly supplied all the glass that’s featured …

Read More

Earlier on this year, I launched my fifth book on Caithness Glass. Once again, this accompanied a ground-breaking exhibition of glass from the Graham Cooley collection. The exhibition was launched in January at the renowned Broadfield House Glass Museum in Stourbridge, and Graham and I were delighted to welcome Emer OBroin, the daughter of the company’s co-founder and chief designer Domhnall OBroin, to the launch weekend. You can read a little more about the events that weekend by clicking here. From there, the exhibition travelled to Perth, the ‘home’ of Caithness Glass, where it was on display at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery from May to October. Both exhibitions attracted thousands of visitors, and the Perth exhibition was enjoyed by many current and ex- employees of the company. Below you can see a panorama of the exhibition.

The exhibition has now travelled on to King’s Lynn, where it opened at the re-launched King’s Lynn Arts Centre this weekend. I opened the exhibition on …

Read More

Rave Reviews for Caithness Glass Book

I’m delighted that my new Caithness Glass book has received some great reviews lately. Lesley Jackson, the eminent design historian, curator, and author, has just reviewed it for the Crafts Council‘s prestigious ‘Craft’ magazine and said ‘”Mark Hill has done the design world a valuable service in recording the history of Caithness Glass and the intriguing if hitherto mysterious figure behind this pioneering firm, Domhnall ÓBroin… The best designs date from 1960-66 when ÓBroin was in charge; they stand out a mile. …Hill focuses on the ÓBroin era, although, because the book is aimed at collectors, he documents the firm’s later history and output as well. The text is clear and informative…”. Dr Alistair Mair, the Managing Director & Chairman of Caithness Glass from 1971-2002 said, “It’s a very impressive production…the photography is really first class. Graham Cooley’s exhibition and your excellent book are very impressive memorials to the history of the company. Many congratulations…“. Sticking with those who worked at the company, Gordon Hendry, a leading sandblaster and designer from 1975-2007, said, …

Read More

Last weekend I had the great privilege of being invited to talk at the fourth annual ‘Studio Day’ at Isle of Wight Studio Glass. These days are always incredible fun, as well as hugely educational. Everyone is relaxed, the sun is usually shining, and Elizabeth and Timothy Harris, and the entire studio staff, make the perfect warm and welcoming hosts. This year, my experience kicked off early, as I was booked in the afternoon before to make a paperweight under the guidance of master glassmaker Timothy Harris (above). I know Tim well, but I was somewhat nervous, as I have never handled hot glass directly before. All I can say is that my small audience said that my face looked like that of a child on Christmas morning! I’ll write more about this later on, when my paperweight arrives. It was still cooling when I left, so I couldn’t take it with me. The day began with a warm welcome from secondary market specialist Ron & Ann Wheeler of Artius Glass. The 60 guests then made …

Read More

Last Saturday saw the launch of the first ever exhibition and book dedicated to Caithness Glass and the work of its co founder and first designer Domhnall ÓBroin. Over 300 pieces of glass from the Cooley Collection were beautifully displayed at Broadfield House Glass Museum, covering fifty years of world-renowned design since the company was founded in 1961. The largest display cabinet was devoted to the work of ÓBroin, with later designers such as Colin Terris, Helen MacDonald, Alastair MacIntosh, Gordon Hendry, and others filling the rest. The brightly lit glass-walled corridor to the glassblowing studio was lined with sandblasted vases in a rainbow of colours. The day kicked off with me giving an animated talk on my personal ‘Top Ten’ designs in 20th century glass. Lunch came next, and was followed with a typically intelligent and insightful lecture by Graham on his perspective on Caithness Glass. Over 60 people then joined us as Graham and I gave a private tour of the the exhibition. A very special guest made the day the success it was – we were joined …

Read More