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 this.......you do not have to be an engraver. http://www.gge.org.uk/
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 http://www.glassengrave.co.uk/
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.