What does a glassmaker do?
Glassmakers in the craft sector create one-off objects out of glass.
Craft glass makers generally produce:
- flat and architectural glass (mirrors, windows)
- tableware (goblets, decanters, vases)
- studio and decorative glass.
Glassmakers create their desired object by heating the materials with scrap glass (also known as cullet). The materials used in making different types of glass range in quality depending on the desired outcome.
Glassmakers are required to carry out a large number of technical and creative functions, such as:
- glassblowing — blowing down a blowing iron, while spinning and swinging it, to form the glass into a rough shape
- bending the glass by placing glass sheets over moulds or shapes and heating them
- lathe-working on large pieces of glassware
- decorating using techniques such as engraving, sand or grit-blasting, stencilling and acid etching
- designing new patterns and styles.
If you run your own business, additional tasks may involve:
- applying for grants and awards
- working with professional associations and membership bodies
- using photography skills and web design to market products
- entering national and international design competitions
- developing a range of computing skills, including website development and graphics packages along with desktop publishing for producing publicity materials.
You’ll need to show:
- an eye for colour and detail
- architectural awareness
- attention to detail, accuracy and patience
- communication and presentation skills
- creative design
- good hand-eye coordination
- fitness and stamina
- planning and problem-solving skills
- team working ability
- technical ability
- time management skills.
If you're self-employed, you'll also need good general business and research skills, self-motivation and the ability to market yourself and your products.
Foreign language skills may improve your chances of branching out into overseas markets.
A degree, HND or foundation degree covering the following subjects will help you develop the skills you’ll need for a career as a glassmaker:
- architectural glass, stained glass, restoration and conservation
- art, fine art or decorative arts
- ceramic and applied arts
- contemporary crafts
- design and applied arts with glass
- glass or glass with ceramics
- 3D design.
You'll need to provide a portfolio of your work for entry on to relevant degree or postgraduate courses, as well as to show to potential employers.
Entry without a degree is possible, and you can train on the job by working in a glass factory. The IQ Level 2 NVQ Certificate in Glass Processing (QCF) and the Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Glass Processing (QCF) are relevant qualifications if you want to pursue a career in glassblowing, scientific glassblowing or glass decorating.
Opportunities also exist to take glass industry apprenticeships. Apprenticeships vary depending on the sector but include roles as a glass maker, craft-class worker and stain glass worker.
Introductory and taster courses in glass design and glass making are run across the UK. To find details of courses near you, see your local adult education centre.
Some independent studios also offer beginners' workshops in the evenings or run short courses during weekends or holidays.
Some universities provide taster and short courses in glass making. Adult taster sessions, classes and courses in glass, as well as a BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics, and opportunities for postgraduate study and research, are offered by the National Glass Centre, part of The University of Sunderland.
Although postgraduate study is not essential, several universities offer Masters courses in glass, providing the opportunity to develop skills further.
Other useful information
Effie Burns is an artist based in North Yorkshire who primarily works with glass. She uses it as a material not merely for its decorative purposes but its expressive ones too. Effie’s practice is continually evolving and it is this process of discovery that is important to her.