|Glass articles - Caithness Glass Co Ltd|
by Caithness Glass Co. Ltd
In 1961 Caithness Glass was set up in Wick in the county of Caithness. The traditional industries of fishing and farming were declining and a local landowner, recognising the need for new jobs, set up a glass company to take advantage of the abundant supply of sand in Caithness (eventually it was discovered that Caithness sand has an unacceptably high iron content and would have turned the glass emerald green!). As there was no tradition of glassmaking in the area, experienced glassmakers from Austria, Germany and Italy were brought in to train the locals. By 1962 the factory employed 40 people.
During the 1950s and 60s the leading designs in glass were distinctly Scandinavian and the Caithness Glass products followed this trend for a number of years with ranges of vases, bowls and tableware. Unlike much of the glass on the market at that time, Caithness Glass specialised in coloured glass, inspired by the soft colours of the Scottish landscape. Many of the company’s products won design awards and in 1968 the company was honoured with the granting of a Royal Warrant by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
In 1968 the company established engraving studios when experienced engraver Colin Terris joined the company. At that time the company’s training officer was Paul Ysart, a Spanish glassmaker internationally recognised as a creator of traditional paperweights. Colin and Paul got on very well and during his secretive paperweight making sessions outside factory hours, Paul imparted many techniques to Colin. Colin then began developing his own style of paperweights, choosing a modern, abstract route rather than the traditional styles favoured by Paul.
In 1969 Caithness Glass launched its first paperweights. Because of the incredible interest in space at the time, Colin chose ‘The Planets’ as his first subject. The initial set of four featured interpretations of Mars, Mercury, Venus and Saturn. Limited to editions of 500 each the paperweights proved to be a huge success and, once the problem of actually making the weights was overcome through the re-training of glass blowers, new designs quickly followed. The first Planets Set retailed at £40 and in 1998 a set was auctioned in California for $2475.
Success of the first designs was quickly followed and the interest in our paperweights was such that, in 1976, we established the Collectors’ Society. Designed to provide information to collectors, our Society is one of the longest running Societies in the industry and boasts members from around the world.
Paperweight production expanded rapidly and a new facility was opened in Perth in 1979 to cope with the demand. In 1981 we bought the historic name of Whitefriars. Whitefriars had been around since the 17th Century and were renowned for their artglass and millefiori paperweights, which are now very much sought after by collectors of antique paperweights. Caithness Glass continue to produce lampwork paperweights under the Whitefriars brand.
The Caithness Glass Designers
Helen MacDonald is a firm favourite with collectors and is well known for her floral inspired paperweights and her Biblical Series of paperweights. Helen began her life at Caithness as an engraver over 30 years ago but her design skills were quickly recognised and, having relocated from Wick to Perth, she developed her skills under Colin Terris and our Italian maestro, Franco Toffolo. Helen is now our Lead Designer and works on both artglass and paperweights. Helen has appeared at numerous events in both the US and Canada as well as many of the key events in the UK.
Gordon Hendry also came to designing through the engraving route. He first joined Caithness in 1975 as an apprentice engraver but, having left to study art at college, he came back to the company as an artglass designer in 1995. More recently Gordon has expanded his design expertise to paperweights and his popularity with collectors is continuing to grow. Gordon has appeared at a number of paperweight events in the UK and a recent trip to the US was highly successful.
Allan Scott has worked in lampworking since 1975 before joining Caithness Glass in 1983. Lampwork is a highly skilled and challenging technique and Allan’s skills are highly regarded in the paperweight industry. His in-depth knowledge of lampworking ensures that his new designs always exploit new and challenging techniques. More recently Allan has turned his hand to designing abstract paperweights which has brought a new and fresh look to our abstract offering.
Linda Campbell joined Caithness in 2000 and, under the tutelage of Allan Scott her skills as a lampworker have developed at a significant rate. Linda’s first designs were launched in 2001 and since then she has regularly contributed to the Whitefriars range as well as designing more modern styles such as the Tian di Ren collection.
Colin Terris is internationally recognised as ‘the father of modern paperweights’ since he revolutionised the world of paperweights in the late 1960’s. He studied at art college, specialising in glass design, before going on to Norway where he furthered his skills in copper wheel engraving. He joined Caithness in 1968, initially to set up an engraving studio but, as explained earlier, he went on to revolutionise the world of paperweights. Colin was the face of Caithness throughout its history and is hugely popular with collectors.
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