Back in May, along with my friend Kay, I was lucky lucky lucky enough to spend a week on Murano, the home of Italian glass, in Venice. We took classes with Davide Penso and Kristina Logan, we made friends with lampworkers from many countries around the world, we ate, slept and drank glass for a glorious week - but we didn't get to see any glass actually being made or rods being pulled. (f you want to see more of my Venice pics, I have an album on Facebook.
So when I got home I kept thinking about this and had one of those lightbulb moments! About 45 minutes north of me is the midlands town of Stourbridge, which I suppose you could call the British equivalent of Murano (without the sunshine, Spritz and pizza - it does have a canal though!).
Every other year, at the end of August, Stourbridge's historic Glass Quarter comes alive as it hosts the International Festival of Glass. Sadly 2011 is not a festival year - although there will be the 5th Annual Stourbridge Bead Fair on 28th August. (yep, I'll be there!)
So I made a few phone calls, polished up my organisational skills, gathered a group of glassy friends and knocked up an itinerary for last Wednesday, 13th July.
9am Meet at Plowden & Thompson
9.30-11.00 Factory Tour, Plowden & Thompson
11-00-12.30 Guided Tour, Red House Glass Cone
LUNCH at Crystal Tea Rooms, Red House Glass Cone
2.00-3.30 - Guided Tour, Broadfield House Glass Museum
4.00-6.00 - Ruskin Glass Centre
The guided tours were very kindly paid for by Frit Happens Forum - thank you!
It was a very busy day and we all had a wonderful time. Everybody we met at all the venues was so welcoming and generous with their information and I must particularly thank Barbara Beadman of Plowden & Thompson for her help with the planning and her super hospitality.
Incidentally, Broadfield House Glass Museum is running their Beside the Seaside Exhibition until September 4th. The exhibition has been really well put together, its so bright and fun - and I'm very proud to have a few pieces on show there!
Hazel Crompton has written a fantastic post about the Stourbridge venues for anybody thinking of making a trip, and has given me permission to reproduce her information here, - so I shall leave you now with Hazel's brilliant article:
The Broadfield House glass museum, the Red House Glass Cone and the Ruskin Glass Centre, which are all open to the public - are BRILLIANT and well worth a trip. Plowden & Thompson and the beautiful cut crystal shop which is also onsite is equally brilliant - especially as they are a working factory...I would recommend a visit there on an open day, which I understand they have from time to time. PLUS - they are currently redesigning their website and have Reichenbach glass in stock...yes, 104 too! A very quick review of P&T, plus links to the others follow...
Plowden & Thompson / Dial Glassworks
A friendly family run company based at historic glassworks, still up and running and producing lots of interesting stuff. They produce specific blown glass components for all sorts of things (examples onsite), situated in a completely original glass cone (with the top removed some years ago). When we visited they were making glass components for large scientific instruments which had to be made with extremely precise measurements and with very specific glass recipes - highly skilled stuff. Their new website is currently being re-designed, as it's quite basic at the moment. They have open days occasionally and I would recommend a visit then. They also have a shop onsite selling cut crystal, all beautiful! There are bonus items in the shop from some world class beadmakers (Kate Drew-Wilkinson's bead really caught my eye). They also sell rods for lampworkers, made onsite, plus another range imported from Reichenbach. This is very much a working glass factory. I have said more about P&T because their website as yet isn't able to do justice to what is there....hopefully this will give you a small indication
The Red House Glass Cone
Incredible, historic and fully restored glass cone, with loads to see onsite including demos. LOVELY tea rooms - bonus!
The Ruskin Glass Centre
Newly refurbished, crammed full of artists and craftspeople, lots to buy or just to watch being made. This is also an educational facility and so everyone is very approachable and often willing to share lots of information about what they do.
Broadfield House Museum
Lots of historic (and some priceless) glass pieces, fascinating trying to work out how things were done. LOADS to see, beautiful!! Some rather famous (or infamous) beadmakers featured in the current temporary exhibition (of the Lush variety)...I think there are other FHF'ers there too, although I was so overwhelmed I wasn't taking everything in properly by this stage.
All the museums have guided tours available for an additional charge, I think they all have audio tours too.
Finally an interesting link to the site about the whole of the 'Glass Quarter' in Stourbridge.
(Hazel Crompton, July 2011)
Aaaagh - but I still didn't actually see any rods being pulled!