Mouth-Blown Glass

Do it yourself (D.I.Y.):

When people visit the studio where we paint our glass, they often ask me if we also make our glass.

In the old days, I explained that, no, we don’t make our own.

Instead (or so I used to say), we journey to a glass blower near Birmingham who still blows those subtle tints of antique glass we like to use.

The time it takes

These days, when people ask me if we make our glass, I save my breath.

I take my answer straight from Theophilus, Chapter 4, where he gives a recipe for how to make your own glass.

After several pages, Theophilus concludes:

‘Continue stirring for a night and a day …’

So nowadays that’s what I say, and I let my visitors draw their own conclusion.

The future

Can you imagine that devotion? Stirring for a whole night and day.

Right now, it’s too much for me: modern society and the division of labour still mean there’s a great quantity of other work – specifically: glass painting – for us to do. Therefore, that’s what we focus on. Right now, we don’t need to do those other jobs (like stirring for a night and a day).

All the same, I can see the time coming when I will take things into my own hands and do it all myself. I am not prepared to lose that wonderful subtlety and variation you only get from mouth-blown glass – qualities we lose when we always opt for the convenience and predictability of machine-rolled glass.


Stephen Byrne of Williams & Byrne the glass painters

P.S. It is not just the convenience and predictability of machine-rolled glass which has seduced us, it is also its suggestion of perfection. On this subject, consider John Ruskin: ‘… no good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of misunderstanding of the ends of art‘ (which sentence you will find in Volume 2 of The Stones of Venice, in a chapter called ‘The Nature of Gothic’ – a particularly marvellous and exciting read).