Malta Indipendant April 23 2004
16 May 2004
second time round
Jonathan Harris has followed in his father Michael’s footsteps and is a glass maker par excellence.
In the ‘60s Michael Harris had made quite an impression on Malta with his Mdina glass. Following the family departure in 1971/2 Mr and Mrs Harris set-up Isle of Wight Glass Ltd in March 1972. The studio was located on the southern side of the Isle of Wight, one of the most southerly points of the UK. Old Park farm was converted and became the base for the company and the family. The business quickly developed and gained an international reputation for producing high quality design led English studio glass. The world wide demand for Isle of Wight Glass led to 80% of the production being exported. Japan, Germany and the USA were the principle markets. The studio also developed into a major tourist attraction bringing 100, 000 plus visitors to the studio each year.
Timothy the eldest son, joined the family business as a trainee glassmaker after graduating from a specialist glassmaking course at Brierley Hill Glass Centre.
Jonathan (who was just two years old when he arrived in Malta with his family and 8 years old when he left) together with his new wife Alison joined IOWG in 1987 after graduating from Stourbridge College with a degree in 3D design, as design coordinator. “I worked through all departments and completed my apprenticeship with the position of managing director,” Jonathan relates. “I was appointed to the post two years before my father passed away – 10 years ago next month.”
In 1999 it was time for change so Jonathan, Alison and their three young children relocated to the Ironbridge Gorge a world heritage site in the centre of the country. In March 2000 they formed Jonathan Harris Studio Glass Ltd., “to fulfill a frustrated desire to explore and experiment with new and complex glassmaking techniques.” Their small, leading edge studio is based within the Coalport China museum.
“We are passionate about our work,” says Jonathan, “and we are keen to impart our expertise and knowledge with others willing to learn this fascinating and ancient craft.”
Their studio and showroom is open to visitors where they can witness the making of these exquisite pieces.
“Cameo and gräal, along with multi-layer ‘hot’ surface decoration form the core of my technical repertoire,” says Jonathan, “enabling tremendous scope for colour, shape and pattern.”
His first pieces of gräal were produced using relatively simple patterns, which he drew by hand onto the surface of the glass and then carved through the layers of colour. “I continued to develop this process, which lead to the refined and detailed designs that I continue to produce today. I introduced the use of 22ct gold and sterling silver leaf into my designs, the first collection of which was launched in 1992 in Harrods and Liberty with tremendous success.”
Going from strength to strength they are a very busy studio designing exclusive glassware for The British Museum, The V&A and the National gallery.
Each piece of Jonathan Harris Studio Glass is crafted entirely by hand using only the finest materials available and is therefore unique and very special.
At the Studio they are constantly experimenting with new techniques, colours, shapes and patterns. The fruits of their labour and their ‘trials’ are by definition one of a kind, the expressions of an idea or development of a new limited edition in the making and are of course signed, dated and marked ‘Trial’. They have many customers who seek their trials as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of their collection.
As an innovative and creative second-generation designer/glassmaker Jonathan’s desire to work with glass is second nature and he is constantly experimenting with new techniques to create unique, detailed, stunning effects. “During the last sixteen years I have researched, developed and refined a wide variety of techniques to combine my fascination with studio glassmaking, technology and graphic arts. Fusing graphic imagery – sometimes elaborate and figurative, with the molten fluidity of hot glass to create both contemporary and classical works of ‘Art Glass’.
November this year will see the publication of their first full colour, hard back book; The Studio Glass of Jonathan Harris, published by Kaleidoscope Publishing.
The Harrises also run a very informative collectors club for their rapidly growing following of collectors.