An update for IOWSG/Artius Glass Collectors and Enthusiasts
Firstly let me introduce myself – my name is Richard Harris and since February this year I have been the managing director of the new Isle of Wight Studio Glass
Ltd. My place in the Harris dynasty is that I am the younger brother of the late Michael Harris, who founded the original company in 1973. That makes me Timothy Harris’s uncle and Liz Harris’s brother-in-law. Although not then involved with the company, I was a regular attender at the Old Park IOWSG Open Days, so my face may be familiar to some of you. We are planning to re-instate the Collectors Club during 2014 and I will be the link between individual members and IOWSG.
What a year! Just before last Christmas Timothy telephoned me and told me the company was in difficulties. Sadly there seemed no alternative to liquidation, and this painful process commenced in January. It seemed abhorrent to me that manufacture of this very special and iconic product, for so long associated with my family, was about to cease and I offered Timothy my support to enable him to continue as an independent glassmaker.
After a great deal of thought and exploration of various alternatives Timothy and I set up a new company in March, and we were fortunate in being able to purchase the name, much of the unsold stock and some equipment from the original IOWSG. Maintaining Timothy’s artistic and creative freedom felt very important, and we thought that our best way to achieve this was to keep the business entirely family-owned. Our business plan also involved relocating from Old Park, beautiful though it is, to somewhere more central, so the first task was to move out, salvaging what we could, and to safely store the stock and equipment until we had found a suitable venue for our new studio.
The possibility of a location at Arreton Barns Craft Village arose quite early on, and we certainly liked the site, but it took weeks of nail-biting uncertainty before the arrangement was finalised. That was in June, and since then Timothy and Roger Pike (former glassmaker at IOWSG) have worked tirelessly to convert what was a grain-drying barn into a state of the art glassmaking studio and retail area. Having watched the whole project unfold, I am full of admiration for the innovation, workmanship and sheer tenacity that those two have demonstrated over the past months. As Timothy (a man not given to overstatement) is reputed to have said: “Mmm… not bad for a couple of glassblowers!”
The current situation (December 2013) is that the retail area is complete, with stock from the old company on the shelves, and we are now open for sales! (Please see footnote for opening times). This is a last opportunity to purchase glass made at the Old Park Studio from new. As the expression goes: ‘When it’s gone it’s gone’ – and some nice pieces are still available.
In the glassmaking area the new furnace is nearing completion and the pipework for the ultra-high volume supply of natural gas (which as I have painfully discovered, comes very expensive!) is in the building. When furnace and gas pipe meet we will be able to melt glass and start manufacture. I am hesitant to speculate on the actual date of ‘first blow day’ – I haven’t bought the Champagne yet – but it is likely to be early 2014, possibly even January. We will certainly let you know.
Everyone associated with the new company –Timothy, Liz, Roger, Ron and Ann Wheeler has worked tremendously hard this year because we believe that one of the finest glassmaking teams in Europe is worth preserving. It is our hope that what you see emerging from the new studio will interest you in renewing or becoming an IOWSG Collector – there is little doubt that Isle of Wight Studio Glass will become more collectable than ever. The benefits of membership are:
- Discounts on purchases.
- Exclusive access to Special Pieces and Limited Editions.
- Invitations to attend Open Days and Studio Demonstrations.
- Opportunities to learn more about glass and the art and craft of glassmaking.
I will contact you again when we have commenced production and have something to show you that will hopefully whet your appetite.
We are planning a number of events during 2014 that collectors will be invited to attend, and I will keep you informed of these in plenty of time. For those of you who are not familiar with the Arreton Barns site, even without IOWSG it has a number of attractions that make it an interesting day out, including several other craft workshops, a pub that serves good food and an excellent farm shop. The web link is www.arretonbarns.co.uk .
If you would like to see more of what we have been up to this year take a look at the ‘Latest News’ page on our website (www.isleofwightstudioglass.co.uk ), and there is more on our Facebook Page which is linked to the website.
By the way we don’t seriously think that the scenario depicted in our cartoon is very likely. I guess if it did, most of the ‘collecting’ would be off the floor! It arose out of a chance remark I made to Tim that having spent a year building his fantastic new studio I hoped he could remember which end of a blowing iron to blow down!
Finally, from me and from everyone else at the new IOWSG, may we offer you our very best wishes for the festive season and for 2014.
* If you would like to visit us to see what’s going on we are open 11 am – 3 pm for the rest of the year every day (including weekends) except Christmas Day.
We are open from 11 am – 3 pm every day of New Year Week including New Year’s Day.
To find us go to the entrance of the Maritime Museum and look across the yard to your right. On the Arreton Barns Craft Village Site Map which you will find on display we are marked No. 16.