|Moderated by: Rebecca|
|I sent this to Maria when she mentioned Hartley Wood glass and she thought others might find it interesting:
The final incarnation of the firm that was formed in 1895, Sunderland Glass (which moved to the Sunderland Glass Centre, itself not a great success), closed in 1997, reopening briefly in 1998.
There was a hiatus of a couple of years or so until Mike (can't remember surname at the moment) started up EAG, with original blowers from Sunderland travelling the length of England each week to blow.
Another Mike, Mike Davis (glass historian at Sunderland) wrote this:
In the post war period, considerable quantities of antique were needed to supply the programme of restoration of war-damaged glass. Hartley Wood had to meet this with very limited resources and outdated equipment. The glass was melted in a six pot coal fired furnace, and sited in a traditional bottle shaped cone, which was only demolished in 1958. The introduction of single pot furnaces, new gloryholes and a new annealing lehr helped make the plant more efficient. Production of antique was supplemented in about 1970, with the addition of rolled streaky "Cathedral" and opalescent.
During the 1970s, the expanded production of coloured glass in the United States, and of competitively priced antique in Germany and France, substantially reduced Hartley Wood's market share. The company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Pilkington Brothers plc in 1982 on the retirement of Allen Alder and Hartley Wood. After an ill-fated attempt to create a high quality rolled glass had failed, Pilkingtons closed the factory in the summer of 1989. In a letter to the Secretary of the Victorian Society, (published in the British Society of Master Glass Painters (BSMGP) Newsletter, 1989) Anthony Pilkington noted that Hartley Wood was running at a loss and that antique sales had fallen by nearly a third "as a result of considerable imports from foreign manufacturers". Interestingly, he refers in the same letter to the idea of a "living museum project" being dropped after a protracted discussion with the Local Authority.
In 1990 what was described in the BSMGP newsletter as a "group of British and French businessmen with strong associations with Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and the Middle East" acquired the name "Hartley Wood" from Pilkington and reopened the firm. This regime lasted no longer than that of Pilkingtons. By 1998 the University of Sunderland had, as a desperate measure, stepped in to give temporary employment to most of the Hartley Wood blowing team, in order to try to avoid their dispersal on closure of the firm. They were then taken on by the Sunderland Glassworks in the summer for that year. Now the Sunderland Glassworks too, has gone. We seemed at this point to have come back full circle. Once the existing stock of English antique is used up, handmade sheet will have to be purchased and transported mainly from France and Germany just as it was in the mediaeval period.
Non AGG Member
I live in the UK not far from English Antique Glass. They are a fantastic bunch of people, and yes, it's true, the blowers really do travel the length of England every week to do their stuff. Sadly, the beauty and diversity of the flat glass they produce is not clear from their website, but some of it is truly astonishing. I particularly love their 'vienna' glass, which has an almost reeded appearance.
The factory is quite small, and there is a real sense of something very special happening there.
If anyone is visiting the UK, it's worth making a trip to see them. When I last visited, they were very happy for us to whatch them at work (though it's best to let them know you are coming, as some days they blow cylinders, other days art glass etc.). Once I was lucky enough to see them blowing a bullion, which involves two men, a lot of spinning and more than a touch of abracadabra.
They have a great range of sheet glass there at the factory - just browsing their shelves is like being in wonderland for me. Their art glass is very beautiful too.
Last edited on Mon Feb 23rd, 2009 01:07 pm by Jx
|I used to take some of my students from the college at which I taught and we were always greeted with coffee and chocolate biscuits, and they offered them a shot at glass blowing - it was great. Very friendly and welcoming. (The one time I ever tried blowing glass it ended up splatted on the floor.)
However, a trip there was expensive - I'd go with my little list and my budget then Mike would say "oh, we blew some new one-offs the other day, and I put aside a couple I thought you'd like..." Rats. Budget blown again. I still have some extraordinary pieces.
I thought I'd not be able to get their glass in USA but my husband's company ship stuff over from UK all the time, and as long as EAG pack it properly, they'll include it in their box. More expense.
"just browsing their shelves is like being in wonderland for me" - they let everyone browse, which is great but it does mean that the glasses sometimes get scratched, which can be really irritating - exactly the piece you want with scrape marks across it.