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Author Topic: Stuart cutting quality beaconsfield woodchester  (Read 731 times)

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Offline wurlitzer

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Stuart cutting quality beaconsfield woodchester
« on: April 06, 2015, 03:14:52 AM »
Can anyone offer opinion on the cutting quality and it's variation over the time of patterns of stuart  stemware like Beaconsfield and Woodchester?  Do you avoid these patterns from some periods?

Offline Paul S.

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Re: Stuart cutting quality beaconsfield woodchester
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2015, 04:10:06 PM »
regret I can't, unfortunately :)            As you will know, both patterns go back a long way and had very long lives - beaconsfield for example started apparently around 1907 and was still being produced in 1975, although ironically the designer seems to be unrecorded.
Stylistically, they're very different looking patterns - at a guess you'd think that woodchester was the easier to cut, but I could be very wrong.

I believe that prior to c. mid 1920's the cuts would have been finished/polished manually, but later material was increasingly acid polished, and this more recent process, in my opinion, tends to detract from the appearance of all cut glass.

Am intrigued to know why you are asking  -  might it be in some way to use the results as some form of dating guide?             
Have to admit I wasn't aware of people avoiding certain periods for these patterns - but collectors of cut glass appear to be rather thin on the ground here. :)

Offline wurlitzer

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Re: Stuart cutting quality beaconsfield woodchester
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2015, 09:01:53 PM »
Cut glass is rather out of fashion ATM... My query actually stems from the occasional disappoint I have with some pieces. I find if I start collecting a pattern, sometimes it's because the first examples I saw were far better cut than much of the other existing pieces out there. Then as I add to a collection the variation in quality is too noticeable. I'm not particularly interested in the age of pieces as a large percentage of it is already considered vintage or antique. But yes, it seems that the other signs of age (makers mark, wear, and completeness) usually support the hypothesis that the older pieces were cut more accurately. I understand your remarks about acid polishing to, although that is not so much a bother to me as the generally poorer execution of the design. Frankly on some pieces you wonder of they were made by the lowliest apprentice when compared to others. For patterns such as woodchester, which relies strongly on neat parallel cuts, the difference between everything in place and to scale and even small errors can negate most of its beauty. I have avoided what I believe are later examples of Woodchester for years but tend to evaluate other designs individually.

Offline Paul S.

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Re: Stuart cutting quality beaconsfield woodchester
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2015, 08:47:59 AM »
Not so sure that it's just ATM ...........   I've been looking at the GMB for something like 6 to 7 years and wasn't aware that clear British cut glass had been popular anywhere in that time.      It's had a bad press for many years I suspect, caused by the over abundance of unimaginative criss cross mitres that adorn so much of the stuff in every retail and charity shop.

Whilst these comments are true, they are also generalized - and don't apply to all cut material - and apart from British material there's a stack of European cut glass from VSL, Orrefors, Moser etc. that you'd need a mortgage to buy.     And it's that money aspect that probably suppresses the interest in British Art Deco and Post Modernism designed pieces in the U.K. - I don't think demand for them ever wanes - you only have to see the prices they fetch.            But they're scarce and attractive - guaranteed recipe for high shekels.

Don't have your expertise in comparing the quality of the same cut pattern from different eras, but wonder if we are we missing the point here, insofar as the natural outcome of hand cut glass is surely going to be some variation between individual pieces.   
With a design like Woodchester (the fern), its simplicity would show flaws in the cutting easily I suppose, but then again should we worry too much knowing its hand crafted origins.            Presumably you also have examples of Woodchester Spot  -  hardly exciting I know but perhaps less common than just the fern.
Ironically, one of the factors that collectors of Georgian glass consider to be a mark of authenticity (and value), is a lack of precision and symmetry on much of that period's glass........    if it looks too neat and well cut, they get worried.             

But I think your line of investigation is interesting, and although disappointing to see a drop in quality of cutting, shouldn't in my opinion mean that we have to discard everything post 1955, provided a piece has qualities other than just the cutting.          Different backstamps are of value in their own right, aside from helping with dating.
I think most people would offer the opinion that the course of the C20 has shown a deterioration in most craft and hand made work - glass being no exception.       Such skills are labour intensive, uneconomic, and possibly in fact the reason why so many have disappeared, literally.
As you'll probably know, Edinburgh Crystal farmed out their making and cutting to Czechoslovakia in the 1990's (under the name of Edinburgh International), for reasons of cost cutting.

Do you have examples of either pattern, to show here, where a difference in cutting skills might be visible??
 

Offline wurlitzer

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Re: Stuart cutting quality beaconsfield woodchester
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2015, 10:35:32 AM »
Ok. Apologies for the photos.
1. stamp of older
2.  stamp of newer
3. Older glass
4 newer glass

You can see that the fern on the older version is very symmetrical and the spacing is quite even. It's smoothly ground where the cuts are made and the light shows through the cuts crisply because they are quite smooth. The leaves at the top go as far possible to the end of the stem.
 
On the newer glass the whole fern is lopsided. Some leaves in places bunch up or have a larger gap. The end of the stem extends beyond the leaves too far and it looks fuzzy because (much more noticeably in person) it is roughly cut, that is, in the cuts themselves the glass is not smooth.

The difference, at least to me, is far too great to be excused. It is the cause of a lot of frustration at times as I have to buy nearly all my glass online and can not examine it closely. Maybe I'm pedantic. But if you ask me, going to the trouble of making a glass then marking out a design and not ensuring it's final finish is to the same standards to which you've made the glass, is pointless. Am I right in thinking stuart would've marked as seconds anything that contained too many lines or inclusions or bubbles or the sort???? I've seen seconds with faults that would seem trivial when compared to the lazy cutting of other marked pieces. It doesn't make sense.

Offline Paul S.

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Re: Stuart cutting quality beaconsfield woodchester
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2015, 03:13:55 PM »
hi  -  pix of the marks are just about o.k. - hope you won't object to some criticism - said in the most polite way, of course, and quality might be improved a little with the following suggestions :)
Plain and simple backgrounds, without fingers or other un-necessary distractions, are best............ for clear glass you might try using a charcoal or dark grey colour  -  for my money these darker colours are far better than plain white.               
Try a dedicated light source that's fairly close, and if possible angle your camera shot to capture the light bouncing off the glass (area) you want to photograph.     The point of doing this, and moving the camera to avoid massive glare, is to get the reflected light to capture small areas such as backstamps etc.         
I think what in effect we're trying to do is capture the difference in light emission from the etched mark part of the glass, and the other plain shiny parts of the foot - and in the process get the light itself to outline the mark more clearly.          Some folk use talc rubbed on the mark, some use carbon paper or similar.         Otherwise marks can be notoriously difficult to highlight and capture, from the point of trying to show on the pc screen for others to see.
Another wrinkle that came via a lady in Canada, is to place a loupe/lens between the camera and subject  -  in effect you're then photographing an enlarged image  -  it needs care and practise, but the end results can be far better than simply trying to get nearer with a close up setting.           It really does work, and is quite amazing when done well.

I think other more knowledgeable folk here have previously commented that' some care is needed to interpret dates for these backstamps  -  they seem to have had perhaps some overlap in use.

See your point about the difference in cutting of the fern - not that this is real cutting I suspect  -  more akin to engraving, since the lines are very shallow, but nonetheless a difference there is.            Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about this now......   the die is cast etc., and if you don't like the later versions then you have the choice to leave them alone.            I guess though it could be a problem if you're trying to complete sets of these shapes/patterns, and I sympathise when someone is buying on line only, and doesn't have the opportunity to inspect the goods prior to purchasing.

We had this long thread some time back about the  -S-  or  S  occurring on some cut pieces, and thought it might have been a seconds mark, but it has been shown to occur on pieces that were destined for a large mid C20 retail outlet by the name of John Stonier of Liverpool, U.K.             
As far as I know, Stuart didn't in any way specifically mark pieces considered to be seconds - but I might get shot down in flames for saying that...  there are folk here who know much more about some of the larger British factories than me.            Don't know if you've yet come across any Beaconsfield or Woodchester with this upper case S.

Appreciate your disappointment with this tailing off re quality of cutting, but think you are just going to have to live with the problem and accept that it will take longer than anticipated to complete your sets.

Also don't forget to use the Board's 'search facility'  -  very good for reading up on some of the input from the clever people, and from which we all learn much.        A much under-rated benefit of the GMB, which I'm sure a lot of folk simply don't appreciate.

Offline wurlitzer

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Re: Stuart cutting quality beaconsfield woodchester
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2015, 10:34:43 PM »
Yes! I've seen your photos! Thought you might offer a suggestion. Actually I was going to ask before I took the photos but was too lazy and hungry.....

I've seen the problems with back stamp dating. It is confusing, and I wouldn't use it alone. There are well cut examples with what I would call a later stamp but they are easily distinguished from earlier ones. They usually contain fewer leaves on each stem as well. It's interesting that earlier woodchester also seems to be designed this way. At some point the design becomes very fine, in fact there are lots of examples with an even finer closer grouping than the one I gave. But I've noticed that (at least in my experience) it's  always the case that these carry a stamp other than the 'later' one, although I'm sure someone can say otherwise.

I guess ultimately I'm wondering if I'm being unnecessarily pedantic and I'm trying to guage what others would consider acceptable in a piece of handmade glass. The other patterns have their own problems too. People tell me that the variation is good and I say that if you set out to make something by hand, the point is to get it as close to perfect as possible. Otherwise faults become 'built into' the design and that's also pointless in a care like this.

 

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