© 2019 by Benefield Spencer Glass

ABOUT OUR GLASS

All of our glass is made by hand, without moulds or machinery, using traditional offhand glassblowing techniques. This means that the completed vessel was formed entirely at temperatures exceeding 700C—it was given its shape, made to a specific height, and decorated in a temperature range where glass is still moving and can be affected by gravity, centrifugal force and hand tools. Glassblowing is a continuous process, in the sense that making any particular object cannot be interrupted lest the glass lose temperature too quickly and shatter. Only when the piece is completed, as you see it now, is the temperature allowed to fall to 500C and then put away in an oven to cool slowly to room temperature overnight.

Because of this, there are slight variations between pieces that reflect the fluid nature of glassblowing and the extreme sensitivity of the hot material. You may see tool marks near the lip of a pieces, or notice that the decorative line work may not be perfectly vertical—these slight imperfections, along with the punty mark on the bottom of each piece, are indicative of handblown glass and make each piece distinctive.

The decoration on our work—white stripes of varying widths and patterns—actually forms the body of the vessel: each line was once a separate piece of glass (called a cane) that was joined with other pieces and fused together to form a continuous surface. This means that the patterns “follow” the glass as it is blown and stretched and reflect something of the hot glass process. This is in contrast to "cold" techniques (such as painting, enameling and engraving) that apply decoration to a piece of glass after it has been made in the glassblowing shop.

This technique of embedding patterns directly into the glass was invented by Venetian glassblowers on the island of Murano in the early 16th century. I learned this way of working glass from Lino Tagliapietra, a Muranese master glassblower who represents an unbroken lineage of over 900 years of glassblowing in the Venetian lagoon. All of our glass is made from our furnace on the north Antrim coast, the only artisanal glassblowing studio in Northern Ireland and one of only three private studios on the island of Ireland.