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Glass Engraving

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Glass engraving is an exciting art form which is still not as widely known as it perhaps deserves. This is possibly because few people ever get to see really good examples of modern engraving. If you try googling Glass Engraving the majority of sites which appear are what are known in the Guild as "scratchings on glass"!!!

When I began engraving 5 years ago, having received a basic kit for a birthday present, I was excited by being able to draw pleasing designs on very ordinary glass. Family and friends seemed impressed so I joined the Guild of Glass Engravers as a lay member to learn more. Anyone with a love of engraved glass can do do not have to be an engraver.

The Guild holds branch meetings and regular workshops. I rapidly realised I was just a "scratcher" and decided to work as hard as I could to improve. I was assigned a Mentor through the Guild (an internationally acclaimed Fellow of the Guild) and less than a year ago I put work forward for assessment and was elected to Craft Membership. This means I am approved and commissions will be passed on to me by the Guild. I have two more grades to work up through but higher levels of the Guild are by invitation only, after a number of exhibitions.

I use a drill with diamond and various stone burrs for my work. I usually do intaglio engraving which I love for the 3D effects it can give when you view the work through the glass. This is a tricky skill to master as you have to work in reverse and the deeper you go the more it appears to be solid. I normally work wet to save my very expensive burrs and to give a lovely smooth finish.

A really good engraving is one where the glass and the engraving are totally in harmony. The aim in the best engraving is to make it look as if that design was always there and waiting to be discovered. Sometimes compromises have to be made when a client brings their own glass and they have their own ideas of what they want.

My very recent Sea Bowl was originally a commission to write a simple inscription on a decanter but I managed to persuade the buyers that we could do something far more interesting and personal. It is going to be awarded (tonight in fact) to a man who loves the sea and bodyboarding.

My favourite work is on glass I have had made to my own design. Although this is then a joint effort (and I always credit the blower) I think it then becomes something far more satisfying.

I think drill engraving is a very exciting addition to the methods which were used traditionally. It takes many years to learn to do copperwheel engraving and there are few places where it can be learned. I have engraving friends who are stipple engravers. This is the type Laurence Whistler mainly did. That form of engraving is very very slow and it can take months to produce one work. I am not patient enough for that. It is also very difficult to obtain the 33% lead crystal which is best for stipple. The number of really good stipple engravers left are very few indeed and I fear it may be a lost art within a generation. These examples will show you the work of an expert stippler

Some engravers are now experimenting with blowing or slumping their own glass. Fused glass is also popular. Increasingly engravers are using coloured and cased glass. Cameo and graal are also styles you might see at an exhibition of engravings.

Best wishes



Thank you Sue, for very interesting insight into engraving. Welcome to the board. :D

Fascinating, I was surprised at the small number in the Guild and can understand that some skills could die out.

I am struck with the apparant simplicity of the quipoment needed for drill engraving and the end results are impressive. While I have loved stipple engraving since seeing my first Whistler, have yet to acquire a piece.

When my life situation improves, I think I would enjoy commissioning some work by you or others in the Guild.

Thanks for the information.

I'm not sure how many actual engravers are in the Guild Frank.
I know that some of the lay members are collectors or spouses of engravers.
Most of the engravers I have met are serious about their work but not working full time. Very few are making a living at it unfortunately.

Dartington employs its own engraver/s and there are trophy firms doing the computerised lasered inscriptions. That's the "bread and butter" end of the market and I'm not interested in writing "Happy Birthday" etc.

The number of really good and truly original engravers is small but a nice bunch of folks who have been very helpful to me.

I run an online group for engravers of all sorts and abilities and we have about 140 members worldwide but mostly in the States and many of them beginners.

I think most of us have missed our chance to buy a Whistler! Last time I heard of one for sale it went for £40,000

What I find ironic is that I went to school and was friends with one of his sons but I never met Laurence and didn't know then that I'd be interested in glass.

Best wishes

Bill G:
Thank you for the interesting discussion about engraving.

I am familiar with copper wheel engraving which was brought to Sweden from Southern Europe. In the early 20th Century engravers came to Orrefors and working with the glass artists Simon Gate and Edward Hald  created some of the most outstanding engraved works the world has ever seen.
The copper wheel engraving technique was used in the graal and ariel
techniques. Later the electric engraving tool from Germany was used to
create fantastic images in the work of Edvin Ohrstrom and Eva Englund.
Engraving is a dying art in Sweden. I think there are only three or four
engravers left.


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