|Glass articles - Books|
Having been involved in Scottish glass for so long it is rewarding to see that others have joined me adding to the once scarce and often inaccurate literature. Mark Hill has filled an important gap with his book, which concentrates on the art glass of Caithness Glass in a small (well 128 pages), but comprehensive volume.
The scene is set by Graham Cooley, whose collection formed the three-venue 2011 exhibition (Broadfield House, Perth Museum and King’s Lynn Arts Centre) and the basis of this book. Graham’s introduction leaves the reader in no doubt as to the importance of Domhnall Ó Broin as a British glass designer of the highest calibre, alongside Thrower and Stennett-Willson. Ó Broin, having been largely dropped from official Caithness company history, has had his importance uncovered by collectors and has been restored as the design force behind Caithness Glass.
Mark offers a detailed history of Ó Broin before the company's history, so now we finally have all of the “lost” history available. Further, the importance of Paul Ysart and Charles Orr to the beginnings of Caithness Glass are are also revealed. One small slip is that Chic Young (mispelt as Chick here) had been working as Paul Ysart’s apprentice at Moncrieff since 1946. So, when Young joined Caithness in 1960, before Ysart, he was already an experienced glassmaker, not the trainee that is perhaps suggested.
The history of Caithness presented here is full of interesting new information with a wealth of detail of Domhnall’s period and a brief tale of where his career took him after leaving Caithness Glass in 1966. Orr, hired as the lead designer following Domhnall’s departure, maintained the style with, mostly, subtle changes but was responsible for the first patterned design, Oban, which became a major success for the company.
The range of jewellery that Ysart had made as gifts was noticed by management and was introduced as a product in 1970. Mark made a small slip omitting the Mrs from the name of the jewellery designer, who got married shortly before the press launch and was mentioned in the local paper by her husband’s name; her maiden name was Polanski and she became Lucia Keiss. Keiss designed the rings, the earrings and the cufflinks, and Colin Terris designed the brooches and the pendants. See my article on the jewellery here.
Paperweights and their importance to the company are mentioned, but are stated as being out of the scope of this book. After brief but detailed sections on engraving and the “Rise of Colin Terris”, the remainder of the introduction explores the design developments in the glassware and company changes.
The next 70 pages of the book show the glassware in ¾-page illustrations with descriptions below. This section is divided into Clear Colour, Stripes & Mottles, Complex Decoration, Cut & Engraved, and Sandblasted. The discussion below each piece mentions related pieces that are not shown and forms the most comprehensive catalogue of Caithness glassware to date.
The final 20 pages cover Colours, Labels and Boxes, a selection of original catalogue pages and brief biographies of four of the other Caithness designers.
This is a delightful well-written study that is essential to any collector of twentieth century glass, Scottish or not.
Frank Andrews – August 2011
The Caithness Glass Loch, Heather & Peat exhibition venues are:
Broadfield House Glass Museum from 15th January to 24th April 2011
Perth Museum & Art Gallery from 7th May to 1st October 2011
King’s Lynn Arts Centre from 12th November 2011 to 25th February 2012.
Additional thanks to J. Keir who donated a the copy of the book for review.
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