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The International Festival of Glass, Stourbridge, UK – a brief history of everything (or something)

The beginning of the worldwide studio glass movement is recognised as taking place in March 1962 when the Toledo Museum of Art offered Harvey Littleton a storage shed to hold a one-week glassblowing workshop.

In Europe and America there had always been a strong tradition of separating designers and makers of glass, with some exceptions such as Murano, Italy.

Littleton however held the ambition, after visiting Murano and seeing glassmakers demonstrating to tourists outside of the factory wall, to take the manufacture of glass out of its industrial setting and put it within the reach of the studio artist

Sam Herman who studied under Littleton received a Fulbright scholarship to visit England in 1965-66 to study cold glass techniques at Edinburgh College of Art.

At Stourbridge College of Art (West Midlands, UK) where he was teaching part-time, Herman constructed a small furnace with students and encouraged them to start experimenting with making glass themselves and to fully investigate the properties of the material and its artistic potential. Previously, there had only been a small industrial glass furnace used to make prototypes designed by the students as students at that time were trained primarily as designers for the glass and did not generally engage in the actual making process.

Thereafter he visited Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London and helped establish similar facilities.

The work undertaken by Herman closed the gap between the previous activities of artist as designer with highly skilled factory glassmakers producing the end product.  At the time this was a revolutionary proposal which rendered a previously inaccessible medium available to artists.

It is interesting how the seed of the studio movement in England was first planted at Stourbridge College of Art as Stourbridge has been a centre of glassmaking for at least 400 years. Parish records show that Paul Tyzack and his wife Bridget baptised their son John at St Mary’s Church, Kingswinford in 1612, with Paul listing his occupation as glassmaker – this is the first known written evidence of glassmaking in the Stourbridge area.

Originally Huguenot glassmakers settled in the Stourbridge area because of the availability of high quality refractory clay, sand, limestone and coal and a thriving glass industry arose in the ensuing centuries.  Many famous companies such as Webb Corbett, Thomas Webb, Richardsons, Stuart Crystal  and Royal Brierley Crystal exported their products worldwide.





The International Festival of Glass 2015
25 to 31 May 2015
Venues across Stourbridge’s Glass Quarter, West Midlands, UK

The International Festival of Glass is a firmly established event for all glass enthusiasts.  The festival celebrates the unique glass making heritage of the area as well as the dynamic emergence of a whole new era of contemporary glass making drawing large national and international audiences into Stourbridge and the Black Country. Featuring world class exhibitions, including the prestigious British Glass Biennale, Masterclasses and Workshops, demonstrations, open studios, bead fair, heritage walks, family events, lectures, performances, plenty of fantastic retail opportunities and the chance to have a go at glassmaking yourself.  The festival aims to intrigue, innovate and inspire glass makers and the public alike.

British Glass Biennale 2015
The UK’s major exhibition of contemporary glass
May/June 2015
Ruskin Glass Centre, Stourbridge, West Midlands

The prestigious British Glass Biennale, the UK’s premier exhibition of contemporary glass – an exciting showcase of the current trends and techniques emerging within the UK glass scene.  It is the highlight of the International Festival of Glass and with its growing international status, attracts top collectors and enthusiasts from around the world.  All work will be for sale.  The Biennale is held on the stunning and historic site of the former Webb Corbett/Royal Doulton Glass Factory in Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Masterclasses and Workshops
May 2015
Venues across Stourbridge’s Glass Quarter

A truly unique opportunity for experienced glassmakers and novices alike to learn new skills from worldclass glass artists from Europe and the USA as well as the UK.  There are classes suitable for all levels of experience ranging from 1 ½ day workshops for those wanting to try their hand at glassblowing to 3 ½ day masterclasses.  An inspiring and diverse programme.


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