20thc British Glass

British-Glass-Image At the dawn of the century British glassmakers, nationally numbered in tens of thousands, could reflect on a period during which they and their forebears had achieved a period of sustained excellence that had endured for over a century. Indeed, between c1770-1900, it is arguable that Britain was home to the world’s greatest glass technicians and craftsmen. A century later, in 2000, their industry was virtually extinct, with perhaps as many as just a few hundred exponents surviving.

Reflecting a trend widespread across British industry, a combination of corporate short-termism, arrogant and incompetent management, lacklustre design and bolshie staff managed to run a once-thriving industry into the ground. An endemic fear of Pink-Strap-series-globular-vase,-designed-by-Michael-Harris-for-Isle-of-Wight-Studio-Glass,-1973 change by both management and labour unions locked the industry into tired fashions and laborious processes that reduced flexibility and increased costs. Where Britain had historically enjoyed substantial trade surpluses, these had evaporated by the 1920s as imports flooded in to fill the creative void. Indeed, the story of 20th century British glass can be summarised in six words: riches to ruins in four generations.

This new talk examines the sometimes glorious but often lamentable story of what was and what might have been.