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.



[1] Novelty rather than improvement is the rock on which our craftsmen

are but too often wrecked.