Friday, February 26, 2010


The ribbon glass is glass of my manufacture, produced with canework.

The pattern is available here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

LC Tiffany Exhibit, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts


February 11 to May 2, 2010

Louis C. Tiffany (1848-1933) is famous for the original and spectacular effects of colour and light that he achieved in his blown vases, stained glass windows and lamps. A Canadian first, this exhibition focuses on Tiffany's outstanding contribution to design and the technology of glass.

Definitely worth the drive!

Honoring Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day died January 30, 2010 - at the age of 93. She was a British designer whose seminal fabric designs in the fifties were inspired by modern art and were a decade ahead of their time! I believe her influence can still be felt. The fabric that inspired the piece below is called "Miscellany" and was produced by Celanese. The spotted glass is of my own manufacture.

The pattern is available here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

William Cooper's Glazier's Manual, 1835

I found this old stained glass textbook... fascinating!

The word Glass has been variously derived, but is still of uncertain origin. The reader may take his choice of the two derivations usually given, and which, of all the others, appear to be the most plausible, namely, glassum, the name given to amber by the ancient Gauls, and glades, the Latin name of ice.

The first discovery of the art of manufacturing glass is of such remote antiquity, as to be altogether beyond the reach of inquiry. It precedes the commencement of history, and is connected with its earliest records, by a tradition which is again lost in the obscurity of time. Glass beads, and other ornaments made of that substance, skilfully manufactured, and beautifully coloured, have been found adorning the bodies of Egyptian mummies, which have been ascertained to be upwards of three thousand years old. There are, besides these ancient relics, many other proofs of this art having long preceded the Christian era.

Glass is distinctly mentioned in the book of Job, and is also spoken of by Aristophanes, in his comedy of the Clouds, four hundred and twentythree years before the birth of Christ.

Pliny, the Roman historian, gives a sufficiently plausible account of the first discovery of the art of manufacturing this beautiful and useful commodity, but it has all the appearance of being merely an ingenious fable; well enough conceived, but undeserving of much credit. He says, that a ship laden with fossil alkali, a component part of glass, having been driven ashore on the coast of Palestine, the sailors accidentally placed their cooking vessels on pieces of the alkali. The river sand on which the operation of preparing their food was performed, being vitrified by its union with the alkali, through the agency of the fire which they used, produced glass; and hence, according to Pliny, the discovery of the art.

The story bears evident marks of having been got up, a posteriori, to suit the circumstances of the case, and its artificial adaptation to this purpose is so palpable, as to destroy all faith in its credibility. There are, besides, many simple processes by which the art of glass-making might be discovered, such as the burning of bricks, which, after undergoing this operation, are more or less vitrified, or covered with an imperfect glass; and, indeed, it has been asserted, that the idea of glass-making originated from this very circumstance.

Whenever, or by whatever means, the art of glass-making was first invented, it is certain that it is of the highest antiquity—of an antiquity so remote, indeed, that it has hitherto defied all research ; and this should be nearly enough to satisfy any reasonable curiosity on the subject.

Although there is much uncertainty regarding the period when this art was first discovered, there is none as to the quarter of the world in which that discovery took place. This was the East, the original seat of nearly all the arts and sciences. Though first discovered there, however, and practised from time immemorial, the art of glass-making was confined for many centuries to the production merely of ornaments, no idea having ever occurred that it might be extended to the manufacture of really useful articles, such as domestic vessels, windows, or mirrors.

The first glass-houses mentioned in history, were erected in Tyre, an ancient Phoenician city, on the coast of Syria. The towns of Sidon and Alexandria, also, belonging to the same people, became afterwards celebrated for the manufacture of this article. To these places the art was exclusively confined for many centuries, and during this time they alone supplied the world with its produce.

From the circumstance of coloured glass beads and amulets having been found in Druidical remains in this country, it has been asserted that the art of making glass was known in Britain before the invasion of the Romans; but this is wholly incredible. It cannot be believed, that a people, who were in a state little, if at all, removed from primitive barbarity, and who, it is known, were entirely unacquainted with any other art, should be found not only versant in the manufacture of glass, a complicated and highly ingenious process, but should excel in it; for the beads and amulets spoken of are of exquisite workmanship, and beautifully coloured in imitation of the rarest and most precious stones. There seems little doubt, therefore, that the ancient Britons procured these in traffic with the Tyrians, who would visit the island as we do those in the South Seas, to drive a trade with its savage inhabitants in toys and trinkets, giving them these in exchange for skins, or other natural productions. By whatever means, however, these ornaments found their way into Britain, it is certain that they were in extensive use, though principally for religious purposes, long prior to the Roman invasion, as they are found in barrows and tumuli of a much older date than that period : one of the former, in particular, at Stonehenge, on being opened, was found filled with them. Another remarkable proof of the high antiquity of the art of glass making, and of the early perfection of which it boasts, is exhibited in a large plate of glass which was found in Herculaneum, an ancient city in Italy, which was destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius in the year of our Lord 79.

From Syria, where, as already mentioned, the manufacture of glass was first established on an extensive scale, or something like system, it gradually travelled west: the Greeks acquired it, and from thence it found its way to Rome; but its march was slow, and for many centuries the Romans were supplied from Alexandria.

The shape in which it was imported thither, however, still bespoke a limited knowledge of its uses. That shape was principally ornamental,— occasionally, and in rare cases, it extended to drinking cups, or glasses, but these were deemed fit only for a king; and though an excellence in colouring glass was attained at this early period, and long before, which is not yet surpassed, the art of producing it free from any colour — the most difficult part of the process of glass-making, since it is readily affected by extraneous substances — was scarcely known; for we are told that the emperor Nero paid six thousand sestertia * for two drinking cups, whose value chiefly arose from the circumstance of their being entirely colourless. The poorest and meanest persons of the present day drink out of glasses in which this property is perfect.

The glass ware imported into Rome from Alexandria, was, as already noticed, principally ornamental, and all coloured; but this colouring was so exquisite, and the workmanship otherwise of these little fragile toys so beautiful, that they were used and valued as jewels, and so employed in adorning the persons of the ancient Roman belles and beaux ; and thus a string of glass beads, which no servant girl would now wear, was considered an ornament to which the daughter of a patrician only could pretend.

The art of making for themselves that article for which they had hitherto been indebted to the Tyrians, at length found its way to Rome. In the reign of the emperor Tiberius, a company of glass manufacturers established themselves in the city, and had a street assigned them in its first region ; but the produce of their manufacture was very early considered a fit subject of taxation, an impost having been laid upon it by Alexander Severus, in the year 220.

Pliny, of whose credibility we have already spoken, relates that a glass-maker, who had invented a species of malleable glass, brought a vessel made of that material to Tiberius. To shew the emperor the singular property of his glass, he dashed the vessel on the floor with sufficient force to dimple it, and impair its shape. He then took a hammer, and, in the presence of the emperor, hammered it into its original form, removing the dimples, and restoring the beauty of its shape. Instead of rewarding the ingenious artist for this proof of his extraordinary skill, Tiberius ordered him to be instantly beheaded —alleging that this discovery, if known, would render gold and silver useless. Such is the story of Pliny, but like many of his other stories, it deserves no credit.

The precise period at which the Romans extended their knowledge of the art of glass-making to window glass, and when they first used it for the purposes for which it is now employed in that form, is not certainly known. Previous to such application of the art, at whatever time it may have first taken place, the Roman windows were filled with a semi-transparent substance called lapis specularis, a fossil of the class of taks, which readily splits into thin, smooth laminae, or plates. This substance is found in masses of about ten or twelve inches in breadth, and three in thickness; and when sliced, very much resembles horn, for which it is to this day often employed by lantern makers. The Romans were chiefly supplied with this article from the island of Cyprus, where it abounds; and so good a substitute is it said to have been for glass, that besides being applied to the purpose of admitting light into the Roman houses, it was also used by them in the construction of hot-houses, for raising and protecting delicate plants from the inclemency of the weather; and by being so employed, we are told that the emperor Tiberius had cucumbers at his table throughout the whole year.

Although the precise period of the introduction of glass into windows is not known, it is yet certain that it was applied to this purpose as early as the year 422; for glass windows are distinctly mentioned by St Jerome, who flourished about that period. They are again spoken of, and represented as being fastened in with plaster, by Johannes Philippinus, who lived in 630.

Bede asserts, that glass windows were first introduced into England in the year 674, by Abbot Benedict, who brought over artificers skilled in the art of making window-glass, to glaze the church and monastery of Weremouth.

Another authority attributes the introduction of this luxury to Bishop Wilfred, junior, who died in 711. As the periods mentioned by these authorities do not differ very widely, it seems probable that glass windows were first introduced into England either about the end of the seventh or the beginning of the eighth century. The use of window glass, however, was then, and for many centuries after, confined entirely to buildings appropriated to religious purposes; but, in the fourteenth century, it was so much in demand, though still confined to sacred edifices and ornamental purposes, that glazing had become a regular trade. This appears from a contract entered into by the church authorities of York Cathedral, in 1338, with a
glazier to glaze the west windows of that structure, a piece of work which he undertook to perform at the rate of sixpence per foot for white glass, and one shilling per foot for coloured. Glass windows, however, did not become common in England till the close of the twelfth century.

Until this period they were rarely to be found in private houses, and were deemed a high refinement in luxury, and a mark of great magnificence. Previous to this era, the windows of houses in Britain were filled with prepared oiled paper, or wooden lattices; and in cathedrals, the latter and sheets of linen supplied the place of glass till the eighth century. In meaner edifices, lattices continued in use till the eighteenth. These were fixed in frames of wood, called capsamenta, from which is derived the word casement, now applied to the framework of a window.

We are told that the manufacturing of window glass was first introduced into England in 1557. But it is evident, from a contract, spoken of by Horace Walpole, in his Anecdotes of Painting, between the Countess of Warwick and John Prudde of Westminster, glazier, whom she employed, with other tradesmen, to erect and embellish a magnificent tomb for the earl her husband, that window glass was made in England upwards of a century before that period. In this curious treaty, which is dated 1439, John Prudde is bound to use " no glass of England, but glass from beyond the seas." But it will be observed that the document, besides shewing that the art of making window glass was known and practised in England in the fifteenth century, seems also to shew that it was of inferior quality to that which could be obtained from abroad.

The art of manufacturing glass, which we have traced from the Egyptians, as exhibited in the decorations of their mummies, to the Phoenicians, and from them to the Romans, lingered long in Italy, where it was brought to a degree of perfection wholly unknown before. Some beautiful specimens of this proficiency of the Roman people in the art are found in ancient tumuli, the sepultures of their dead. These are bottles or vessels called lachrymatories, typically represented as containing the tears which were shed for the deceased by his or her surviving and sorrowing friends. These have been found of various shapes and sizes, but all exhibiting great excellence of workmanship.

The seat of the art, however, in process of time, changed from Rome to Venice, or rather to Murano, a little village in the neighbourhood of that city, where extensive works were established; but the produce was always recognized by the name of Venetian glass. We are told by Baron Von Lowhen, in his Analysis of Nobility in its Origin, that " So useful were the glass-makers at one period at Venice, and so considerable the revenue accruing to the republic from their manufacture, that, to encourage the men engaged in it to remain in Murano, the senate made them all burgesses of Venice, and allowed nobles to marry their daughters; whereas, if a nobleman marries the daughter of any other tradesman, the issue were not reputed noble."

For many years this glass surpassed any that was made elsewhere, and commanded nearly the whole sale of Europe.

The ingenuity of the Venetians in glass-making was especially remarkable in the great improvement which they made in the manufacture of mirrors. This new application of glass was first attempted at Sidon, about the thirteenth century; previous to which period, polished plates of metal were used at the toilette, and, in the rudeness of the first ideas which suggested the substitution of glass, the latter was made of a deep black colour to imitate them. This opacity was farther increased by laying black foil behind them. Thus it was thought that the nearer they could be brought to resemble plates of dark metal, the nearer they approached perfection. The metal mirrors, however, notwithstanding this attempt to imitate them, kept their hold long after the introduction of their fragile rivals; but the latter finally triumphed, and the metallic mirrors at length wholly disappeared,—a result accomplished chiefly by the skill of the Venetians, who effected such improvements in their manufacture, that they speedily acquired a celebrity which secured an immense sale for them throughout Europe and the Indies. Glass mirrors came into general use about the fourteenth century.

From Venice, the art of glass-making found its way into France, where an attempt was made, in 1634, to rival the Venetians in the manufacture of mirrors. The first essay was unsuccessful, but another made in 1665, in which Venetian workmen were employed, had better fortune, though, in a few years afterwards, this establishment, which was situated in the village of Tourlaville, near Cherbourg, in Lower Normandy, was also threatened with ruin by a discovery, or rather improvement in the art of glass-making, effected by one Abraham Theverat. This improvement consisted in casting plates of much larger dimensions than had been hitherto thought practicable. Theverat cast his first plates at Paris, and astonished every artist by their magnitude. These plates were eighty-four inches in height and fifty in breadth, while none before had ever exceeded forty-five or fifty inches in length. Theverat was bound by his patent to make all his plates at least sixty inches in length and forty in breadth. The two companies, Theverat's and that at Tourlaville, united their interest, but were so unsuccessful that, in 1701, they were unable to pay their debts, and were, in consequence, compelled to abandon several of their furnaces. In 1702 a new company was formed, under the management of Antoine d'Agincourt, which realized handsome profits to its proprietors, a circumstance which is attributed wholly to the greater prudence of D'Agincourt.

We are told that, early in the fourteenth century, the French government made a concession in favour of glass-making, decreeing not only that no derogation from nobility should follow the practice of the art, but that none, save gentlemen, or the sons of noblemen, should venture to engage in any of its branches, even as working artisans.

This restriction was accompanied by the grant of a royal charter of incorporation, conveying various important privileges, under which the occupation became eventually a source of great wealth to several families of distinction, whose descendants have, at different times, attained some of the highest dignities of the state.

The exact period when the art of manufacturing glass was first introduced into England is not easily determined. As already mentioned, it is said to have been brought to this country in 1557; but we have stated a circumstance which, we conceive, leaves little doubt that glass was manufactured there at a much earlier date. In 1557, however, it certainly was manufactured in England. The finer sort of window glass was then made at Crutched Friars, in London.

The first flint-glass made in England was manufactured at Savoy House in the Strand, and the first plate-glass, for looking-glasses, coach-windows, &c. was made at Lambeth, in 1673, by Venetian workmen brought over by the Duke of Buckingham.

The date of the introduction of the art of glassmaking into Scotland is more easily determined, because of more recent occurrence. It took place in the reign of James VI. An exclusive right to manufacture glass within the kingdom for the space of thirty-one years, was granted by that monarch to Lord George Hay in the year 1610. This right his Lordship transferred, 1627, for a considerable sum, to Thomas Robinson, merchant tailor in London, who again disposed of it for £250, to Sir Robert Mansell, vice-admiral of England. The first manufactory of glass in Scotland, an extremely rude one, was established at Wemyss in Fife. Regular works were afterwards erected at Prestonpans, and at Leith.

Crown-glass is now manufactured at Warrington, St Helens, Eccleston, Old Swan, and Newton, Lancashire; at Birmingham, Hunslet near Leeds, and Bristol. It is also manufactured of excellent quality on the Tyne and Wear.f Great improvements have recently been made in the manufacture of crown-glass; and we believe this article, as now manufactured in England, is superior in point of quality to that of any other nation.

With regard to the art of staining or painting glass, (an art so blended with the history of the substance itself, that some notice of it becomes indispensable in a sketch of this description,) there is good reason to believe that it is coeval with the art of making glass, since, as has been noticed in another part of this sketch, it is a matter of difficulty to make it without colour. Thus the possibility of subjecting this propensity to the will of the manufacturer must have very easily occurred, although it certainly requires both much art and chemical knowledge to produce perfect specimens of this description of manufacture; yet this perfection, including, of course, all the necessary art and chemical knowledge, seems to have been attained at a period as remote as tradition itself. The tradition relating to this subject bears, that the art of tinging glass was the invention of an Egyptian king; but whether it was so or not, it is certain that the art has been known in Egypt for many thousand years, and the most beautiful imitations of precious stones, blue, green, crimson, &c. of this date are still extant. That the colouring of glass, even when in the shape of domestic vessels, is of high antiquity, appears from the circumstance of the Emperor Adrian having received as a present from an Egyptian priest, two glass cups which sparkled with colours of every kind, and which he prized so highly for tlicir singular beauty and magnificence, that he ordered that they should be produced only on great occasions. The art, however, of combining the various colours so as to produce pictures, is of more recent origin. The earlier specimens of this branch of the art discover a factitious joining of different pieces of glass, differently tinged, and so arranged as to produce the figure, or figures, wanted, and are thus little else than a sort of mosaic work. The various pieces are held together generally by a vein of lead, run upon the back of the picture, precisely at their junction.

Modern ingenuity has superseded this clumsy expedient, and every colour used in painting can now be introduced into one entire sheet. It is asserted that, for a long period, the pictured glass which was used in cathedrals, &c. was merely painted on the surface—the art of incorporating the colours with the glass by fusion, the method now practised, being unknown till about the close of the fifteenth century.

This great and singular improvement is ascribed to a painter of Marseilles, who went to Rome during the pontificate of Julius II; but his discovery went no farther than that of producing different colours on different pieces of glass, and having them afterwards united in the manner spoken of above. This art was, at a later period, greatly improved by Albert Durer, and Lucas of Leyden, the latter of whom brought it nearly to perfection.

The first painted glass done in England was in the time of King John : previous to this, all stained or painted glass was imported from Italy. The next notice of it occurs in the reign of Henry III. The treasurer of that monarch orders that there be painted, on three glass windows in the chapel of St John, a little Virgin Mary holding the child, and the Trinity, and Saint John the Apostle. At an after period, he issues another mandate for two painted windows in the hall.

Even at this early period, however, England boasted of eminent native artists in glass painting, amongst the first of whom was John Thornton,
glazier of Coventry. This person was employed, In tlio time of Henry IV, by the Dean and Chapter of York Cathedral, to paint the east window of that aplondid edifice ; and for the beautiful and masterly workmanship which he exhibited in this specimen of hm skill, he received four shillings per week of regular wages. He was bound to finish the work in less than three years, and to receive, over and above the weekly allowance, one hundred shillings for each year; and if the work was done to the satisfaction of his employers, he was to receive, on its completion, a farther gratuity of Ten Pounds.

From this period, downwards, there have been many skilful native artists, although the Reformation greatly impeded the progress of the art, by banishing the ungodly ostentation of ornamented windows from churches: indeed, so serious was this interruption, that the art had nearly altogether disappeared in the time of Elizabeth. Amongst the most eminent glass painters who first appeared on the revival of the art after this period, were Isaac Oliver, born in 1616, and one William Price, who lived about the close of the seventeenth century. This last person was the only glass painter in England for many years. He is said to have discovered, what has ever since been a desideratum in the art of glass staining, the secret of producing a rich, clear, bright, and transparent red, the most difficult to strike, and the most expensive of all the colours employed in glass painting.

Price having died soon after making this discovery, it is said to have died with him. This artist was succeeded by a person at Birmingham, who, in 1757, fitted up a window for Lord Lyttleton in the Church of Hajely. This glass painter was again succeeded by one Peckite, at York, who attained considerable eminence in the art.

During all this time, however, and, indeed, up to a comparatively recent date, painted glass was considered as too costly and too magnificent an article to be otherwise employed than in decorating religious edifices, or the palaces of nobles; and even in the latter case it was but sparingly used.

Modern improvement has now placed this beautiful ornament within the reach of very ordinary circumstances, and when this is considered, it must excite a strong feeling of surprise to find how little so elegant and refined a luxury is even yet in demand. On this subject we shall say more hereafter under its proper head.

The consequence of this rarity of painted glass was, that even so lately as 1753 it was considered in the light of a curiosity, and never dreamt of as an article which might come into common use for domestic purposes. In the year just mentioned, an Italian, named Asciotti, brought over a parcel of painted glass from Flanders, which he sold at a good price in London. Encouraged by his success, his wife and himself made a regular trade of importing the article, and paid stated periodical visits to the Continent for the purpose of procuring fresh parcels. These were mostly bought up by one Palmer, a glazier, who raised the price from one and two to five guineas for a single piece—an enormous increase upon his first charges; as Horace Walpole, who gives this information, tells us that he had bought from the same man four hundred and fifty pieces, for which he paid only thirty-six guineas, and this specifically included the expense of Asciotti's journey.

Eight years after this, namely, 1761, one Paterson, an auctioneer in the Strand, had a public sale of painted glass, the first time that this article ever appeared in England in such circumstances.