A Brief Profile of Isle of Wight Studio
The work that is produced by this studio of world renown emanates
from the design genius of its founder Michael Harris.
Isle of Wight Studio Glass was started by Mike in 1973 after leaving his original studio,
Mdina Glass on Malta which was set up by him and his financial partner Eric Dobson, in 1968.
Sadly Mike died in 1994 but his lasting influence on the world's studio glass movement cannot
be overstated and many galleries, museums and major retail outlets around the world will stand testament to this fact.
At last the work and designs of this important studio are are being increasingly appreciated
by discerning glass lovers as a most desirable and collectable investment as well as an object of beauty and a joy to own.
The studio is still in the hands of the Harris family today and its output of innovative design
finishes is prodigious. This still follows the traditions set in place by one of the country's most accomplished
studio glass designers whose guiding statement is still the studio's byword -
"Our best work will be done tomorrow" .
This is in addition to the Company motto - 'In Pursuit of Excellence'.
This innovative flair continues to be pursued by Mike's eldest son Timothy, the M.D. and
Master Glassmaker at the studio, with equal input by Mike's widow Elizabeth.
Their youngest son Jonathan has in the past been an important integral part of the
team but now runs his own studio, in Ironbridge Gorge, West Midlands, producing what has quickly become recognised as certainly
the most accomplished modern cameo carved glass in the country and which probably has no equal worldwide.
Artius Glass has been promoting the work of Isle of Wight Studio Glass for the
past 25 years and is proud to have a continuing association with them having been appointed as their Official Secondary Market
A Brief Profile of Okra Glass Studio
Glass Studio was founded by Richard P.Golding, glass maker of international renown, since he started the studio
with his partner Nichola Osborne in 1979. Since then his work has been avidly collected appearing in important public and
private collections worldwide.
His technical skill in the production of surface
decorated, and particularly iridescent, glass has him rated as one of the world's top exponents of this accomplished
skill. His designs and production are being compared to work which has seen no equal since the like of Tiffany,
Loetz, Steuben, Pallme Konig and Quetzal amongst others, from the end of the19th and beginning of the 20th century. It
is generally agreed that he easily ranks amongst them. All of Richard's work is proving to be one of the most exiting
and enduring glass investments of the last two and a half decades if not the last century.
Apart from a short period of ownership by Moorcroft, between '97 and 2000, the majority of the production
was from Richard's skilled hands. Since then virtually all production has been completed by him personally. As his first
freelance marketing agent Artius Glass has been proud to be associated with this unique British Master Glassmaker
Mdina Glass : The Early Years
Having been frustrated by the classical and somewhat staid view of glass production
in the U.K., Michael Harris, a lecturer in industrial glass design at the Royal College of Art, felt that there must be another
way to commercially produce what was the province to date of a limited number of artists producing freeformed
hot glass for several decades, mainly in Scandinavia. He had been receiving information from America of the work of a ceramicist, Harvey Littleton and a colleague Dominic Labino, about a new wave
of glass artists - working in much the same way as the massive growth of studio potters did in the early 60's. This fired
Michael's enthusiasm and spirit for the possibility of success for a one man business and so felt there was a wonderful
opportunity to develop and emulate this movement in the U.K. His ideas were accepted in principle by the very rigid and staid
hierarchy of the R.C.A. and they made moves to incorporate some of those American ideas by appointing one of the exponents
in this field, a Sam Herman, from the States. Working with and learning from Sam was the start of the wonderful
free expression of colour and form that became the embryonic designs produced by Michael from that time on. Michael
was impatient to quickly adopt and adapt these principles to his own benefit . This was especially appealing
to him as the long and well established Whitefriars Glass appeared to be succeeding using some of those principles via a peer of Michael's, Geoffrey
Baxter.It did not go unnoticed by Michael that there had been publicity given to the world press and particularly
the U.K. that the British protectorate of Malta was keen to establish security in its new found independence
by building its commercial strength and stability. This the Maltese government felt could only be achieved by attracting new
skills and entrepreneurs from wherever they could. This was the opportunity Michael had been seeking and, apart from the attraction
of an exciting opportunity, the idyllic lifestyle of fulfilling it on a wonderful holiday island was an added bonus. So at the end of 1967 with a colleague from the
R.C.A. Eric Dobson, similarly fired up, and with the necessary marketing experience and the finance, they set about taking
several tonnes of glassmaking equipment and an old, fully loaded Land Rover to Malta at the behest of a
government so eager to have them that they offered a 10 year tax holiday as an added incentive. Who could resist !
So in 1968 after many beaurocratic disruptions to establishing his glass making studio Maltese Glass Industries or Mdina Glass as it became, was born. Now, with a ready made eager buying public in the form of tourists the studio
was an instant success. Michael quickly fulfilled his obligations to the Maltese government by literally taking any Maltese
national with enthusiasm to learn
and taught them to make glass his way. They would have had no previous experience or set way
as to how glass should or should not be made. This they took on eagerly with Michael's guiding statement that 'you
may like what you do today but - our best work will be done tomorrow'! However,
his security was short lived. The Nationalist government headed by Dom Mintoff was keen to expel any semblance of British
influence and due to the instant success of Mdina Glass they felt Michael had fulfilled his role. So he was pressured to leave.
Due to the success of his venture however his influence lived on in his designs
and glassmaking skills and still exists today. Mdina is in fact now run by Joseph Said who was one of Michael's
very first and most accomplished trainees.
On saying that
there was also input from two other very accomplished glassmakers in Vincente and Ettore
Boffo (father and son) who were seconded from no other than Whitefriars. They left due to their dissatisfaction with
staid and repetitive processes which epitomised the thinking dominating studio glass production in
the long established classical glassmaking world including the one they had just left. After all, the glass at these studios, whilst reflecting a refreshing approach to modern design, was in fact no
more than easily produced through-coloured mould blown shapes. Michael's designs were freeformed in the most part
with a free thinking intuitive palette of added colours creating a colourful canvas in glass according to relatively loose
parameters. In truth, at the end, the finished item was a truly unique piece of art glass.
In terms of collecting, there are a few aspects to take into account which can
make building a worthwhile collection an interesting, if sometimes frustrating, experience. The first thing to bear in
mind is that once Michael had left there was little or no more artistic skill input as all the designs, colours and ideas
came from his talents as an artist. Since Mdina Glass was commercially highly successful in all respects,
including export sales, luckily for the studio there was no need of his ongoing input to a large extent. This of course is
where the new collector has a real problem
as these designs and in many cases shapes have been repeated many thousands of times on the basis that 'It sells so why
change it'. Fine, except that
by the nature of intrinsic value you need to know if it was made by Michael 35 years or more ago or by one of the recently
qualified glassmakers last week ! So
the dilemma is - how do we find out. Well, there are pointers, most of which would take far too much to go into now. My
real advice would be to fine tune your knowledge by observation whilst building experience. You will quickly begin to recognise
those items taken home as 'suitcase souvenirs'which
have been made over and over again and sold in thousands to eager tourists. So by simply observing you will quickly
recognise those items which were rather more special and in some cases unique.
In addition of course there are also some iconic shapes which should never be ignored
and include for example shapes such as his famous 'Fish' vase (Michael never called it an 'Axehead'
by the way) , the 'Tricorn' vase, The 'Attenuated Bottle' vase, the 'Japanese' vase, the 'Minaret
(or Onion) Bottle' vase, the 'Chinese' vase and his wonderful freeformed 'Sculptures'. These are all commanding
increasingly high sums and even more so if signed by Michael, something he was always reluctant to do.This now increases the
value by a factor of four or five on average just down to the rarity of his signature alone. All of these are wonderfully
documented in the definitive book by Mark Hill entitled 'Michael Harris:Mdina Glass and Isle of Wight Studio Glass'
The general market place and
enthusiasts are now recognising Michael's unique contribution to the birth and success of British studio glass albeit
that he had to go to Malta to prove it could be successful and prices are rising dramatically as a result. So get in
now and build a worthwhile collection. Use the guidance of those 'in the know' and you will
find you not only will have a collection of true and lasting value but something to give you pleasure every time you look
at it. I
had the honour and pleasure of being one of the first two freelance reps working with Michael from the very early eighties
and at the time had no real conception of his lasting influences in the way I do now. With regards to collecting
- if only I knew then what I know now !! I suggest you don't make the same mistake !! (C)
Ron & Ann Wheeler -www.artiusglass.co.uk
Artius Glass is considered to be the world's foremost and most experienced authority
on the designs
and work of Michael Harris.
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on this website are subject to Copyright (C) and intellectual property rights and cannot be reproduced without our express
& Ann Wheeler