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Table Glass








Few materials lend themselves more readily to the skill of the craftsman
than glass. The fluid or viscous condition of the "metal" as it comes
from the "pot," the way in which it is shaped by the breath of the
craftsman, and by his skill in making use of centrifugal force, these
and many other things too numerous to mention are all manifested in the
triumphs of the Venetian glass-blower. At the first glance we see that
the vessel he has made is of a material once liquid. He takes the
fullest advantage of the conditions under which he works, and the
result is a beautiful thing which can be produced in but one way.

For many centuries the old methods were followed, but with the power to
produce the "metal," or glass of extreme purity and transparency, came
the desire to leave the old paths, and produce work in imitation of
crystal. The wheel came into play, and cut and engraved glass became
general. At first there was nothing but a genuine advance or variation
on the old modes.

The specimens of clear glass made at the end of the seventeenth and
beginning of the eighteenth centuries are well designed to suit the
capabilities of the material. The form given to the liquid metal by the
craftsman's skill is still manifest, its delicate transparency
accentuated here and there by cutting the surface into small facets, or
engraving upon it graceful designs; but as skill increased so taste
degraded. The graceful outlines and natural curves of the old workers
gave place to distortions of line but too common in all decorative works
of the period. A little later and the material was produced in mere
lumps, cut and tormented into a thousand surfaces, suggesting that the
work was made from the solid, as, in part, it was. This miserable stuff
reached its climax in the early years of the present reign.

Since then a great reaction has taken place. For example, the old
decanter, a massive lump of misshapen material better suited to the
purpose of braining a burglar than decorating a table, has given place
to a light and gracefully formed vessel, covered in many cases with
well-designed surface engraving, and thoroughly suited both to the uses
it is intended to fulfil and the material of which it is made. And not
only so, but a distinct variation and development upon the old types has
been made. The works produced have not been merely copies, but they have
their own character. It is not necessary to describe the craft of the
glass-blower. It is sufficient to say that he deals with a material
which, when it comes to his hands, is a liquid, solidifying rapidly on
exposure to the air; that there is hardly a limit to the delicacy of the
film that can be made; and, in addition to using a material of one
colour, different colours can be laid one over the other, the outer ones
being afterwards cut through by the wheel, leaving a pattern in one
colour on a ground of another.

There has developed itself of late an unfortunate tendency to stray from
the path of improvement,[1] but a due consideration on the part both of
the purchaser and of the craftsman of how the material should be used
will result, it may be hoped, in farther advances on the right road.

SOMERS CLARKE.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Novelty rather than improvement is the rock on which our craftsmen
are but too often wrecked.





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Previous: Stained Glass



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