Asian Art Museum

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Designer Glass Through The Ages


Glass blowing is an art form that has been around for a long time – since around 50BC in fact, when the Roman Empire made the incredibly important discovery and changed the face of glass production forever.

Once vessels could be made by blowing the glass instead of forming it around a core (usually clay or dung around which molten glass was wrapped and shaped on a smooth surface), the possible shapes of vessels became almost infinite.

Glass became much more of a household object during the reign of the Roman Empire as glass blowing was more efficient than core-forming, therefore glass became available to more people.

Glass production of common use objects such as glasses and bowls continued, but glassblowers were also experimenting, making some lavish glass objects that we would now call glass art. The glass was augmented with inlays of gold and brilliant colours, increasing its beauty.

Many of these vessels were used to hold rare and expensive ointments, perfumes and cosmetics.

During the Dark Ages in Europe glass blowing and glass production almost disappeared but as the continent came out of that age it started up again, mainly in the production of coloured glass for the gothic architecture of the time.

During the Renaissance in the 17th Century a book was published called L’Arte Vetraria (The Art of Glass) by Antonio Neri, revealing the secrets of glass production and glass blowing. Venice became the centre of the glass blowing world.

However, places in Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, England and Sweden were developing their own glass industries in what were known as forest glass houses, including Kosta Glasbruk (still in existence today and known as Kosta Boda), a Swedish glassworks founded by two foreign officers in Charles XII's army.

In 1676 there came another breakthrough in the glass industry. George Ravenscroft developed a formula for making glass using lead. The new lead glass stayed workable for much longer than other types of glass. Its weight and clarity led to glass makes using it without decoration, creating beautiful pieces with the glass alone. More attention was paid to the form of the glass itself, not what was adorning it.

The next major revolution in glass occurred in the 20th century when designers and artists became an important part of the glass houses. Louis Comfort Tiffany, of Tiffany’s, was inspired to begin designing glass, leading to the type of products you now see from the world famous jewellery store.

Following a drop in interest, the art of glassmaking made a comeback in the 1960s as glass artists began to work in their own studios, outside of the factory environment.

All of the artistic experimentation done in these studios is known as the studio glass movement. The studio glass movement is international and still developing. It started out as and American movement, and quickly spread to Europe, Australia and Asia.

The demand for designer glassware and glass art - especially to be given as gifts - is still growing and it’s the likes of Kosta Boda that are leading the way in its production.

London Celebrates Asian Art (Wall Street Journal)

"Asian Art in London" celebrates Asian culture from the ancient to the
present, with special gallery shows, auctions and museum events underlining
the city's rich offerings in the sector.

Wall Street Journal

asian art museum

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Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (Canon 550D)
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