Buying Whitefriars glass: from collecting habits to upcoming lots24 September 2020 Several prime examples from Britain’s longest running glass house Whitefriars are coming up for auction on thesaleroom.com.
The Whitefriars factory was purchased by James Powell for his three sons in 1834. It subsequently led fashion and technology in the manufacture of domestic glass for a century and a half.
Among the examples coming up for sale is this James Powell & Sons Whitefriars Minoan glass vase, swollen form, blue threaded on sea green glass goes under the hammer at Woolley & Wallis’ auction of October 6-7 with an estimate of £200-300.
Whitefriars' rise to cutting-edge status was accompanied by the arrival in 1875 of Harry James Powell (grandson of the founder). His scientific approach to glass making occasioned innovations in both colouring and decoration and in heat-resistant glass for scientific purposes.
Lots designed by Harry Powell include – probably – this set of opal glass wine glasses, which have an estimate of £250-300 and are also offered at Woolley & Wallis’ auction of October 6-7.
The factory's designs, now shown at major exhibitions around the world, moved with fashion.
Whitefriars was the glass maker of choice for Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau proponents, while the inter-War period and a move to a new state of the art factory in Wealdstone, West London in 1923 occasioned a series of colourful Art Deco wares.
Later examples coming up include this gold amber cut glass bowl by William Wilson, designed with comets in 1934. It is offered at Tennants on September 26 with an estimate of £200-300.
Perhaps the most iconic Whitefriars productions emerged in the 1960s as the firm battled to return to its pre-War prosperity. It was helped by designer Geoffrey Baxter who joined the factory in 1954 directly from the Royal School of Art. His approach to glassmaking was sometimes radical. He famously used nails, wire and bark to create his prototype moulds, but his style was perfectly in tune with the mood of the late 1960s.
An example of his Textured Range is the Bark Vases (above), offered at Tennants on September 26 with an estimate of £70-100.
A thriving market
Although largely forgotten in the decades following its closure in 1980, since the 1990s glass by James Powell & Sons has undergone a serious academic and market reappraisal. This not only includes the extremely collectable earlier pieces but also the later Textured wares that made an important contribution to late 1960s design. Pieces from outside these aesthetic high water marks can be more affordable.
The great explosion in the market has been for the Geoffrey Baxter wares.
The Textured Range with its distinctive shapes such as the Drunken Bricklayer and Banjo, was released in a range of three colours in 1967. To cinnamon, indigo, and willow were added meadow green, kingfisher blue and vibrant tangerine by 1969. These were daring designs, but the production method was quite traditional: Whitefriars glass was always hand-blown, in this case into a series of cast iron moulds.
An example of the Drunken Bricklayer vase in willow is also on offer at the same Tennants sale. It dates from 1967-74 and has an estimate of £300-400.
Another example of the Textured Range from the Tennants sale is a nipple or onion glass in lilac from 1974. It has an estimate of £200-400.