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A brief history of the last 40 years of UK glass manufacturing

Founded in 1976, Cumbria Crystal has made its mark by surviving as the last luxury, handcrafted crystal maker in the UK and by aspiring to similar quality standards to some of the most famous & expensive global brands such as Baccarat, St Louis, Lalique and Moser.

We are often asked what happened to the English crystal industry – and the glass industry in general – and why it has changed so dramatically in less than 50 years. Today we will try to briefly discuss, not just the crystal industry, but some of the other glass industries in the UK. A detailed lecture on this subject was recently delivered by David Dalton, Chief Executive of British Glass, who we would like to thank for providing data for this article.

1980

In 1980 there were around 50 sites producing glass for the Glass Container industry. This would have included items such as milk bottles and wine bottles, employing around 8000 workers in the manufacturing process alone and generating a turnover of at least £440M per year.

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

The Flat Glass industry was dominated by Pilkington, based in St. Helens, Liverpool. Sir Alastair Pilkington invented the Float-Glass process between 1953-57 and the company enjoyed a monopoly on this process for many years both in the UK and globally. Float glass will be familiar to you as the type of glass used in large modern windows. It was called Float Glass as it is made by literally ‘floating’ the glass over a lake of molten tin as it is slowly drawn from the furnace. The glass floated on the tin as it spread and flattened. The heat from the tin simultaneously polished the underside of the glass as the flames above polished the top surface. Prior to this glass had to be ground and polished on one of the surfaces, initially by hand & later by machine, meaning large flat sheets of glass were incredibly difficult to make and extraordinarily expensive.  Our modern cities and skyscrapers would not look the way they do today without float glass.

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

The Crystal Glass industry – the category in which Cumbria Crystal sits – was centred in Stourbridge (West Midlands) which was the global epi-centre of lead crystal production (domestic glass and tableware). Lead crystal, sometimes called flint glass, was invented by Englishman George Ravenscroft in 1673 and England lead the way in the world for crystal production. Prior to 1980 there had been in the region of 500 crystal manufacturing companies! In 1980, many of the most famous companies such as Waterford, Whitefriars, Thomas Webb, Stuart Crystal, Edinburgh Crystal, Royal Doulton and Royal Brierly still existed. The vast majority of these closed in the subsequent years.

In 1980, Cumbria Crystal was only 4 years old. Founded by the Cavendish family to bring glass blowing to the Lake District, it recruited glass blowers from Stourbridge and specialised in the production of clear, hand blown, hand-cut full-lead (30%) crystal tableware in a factory in Ulverston.

2000

By 2000 Governments were becoming more aware of the environmental damage industry in general was doing to the planet and began to take serious action to fight climate change. The glass industry was taxed for emissions and the use of Carbon Migration schemes became a reality. Many manufacturers decamped production abroad to save paying high taxes in the EU. This, compounded by two recessions, a huge growth in the use of plastics for packaging and wrapping for supermarkets, a depression in the automotive sector and a general lack of investment meant many UK businesses closed.

At this point there were only a handful of Crystal Glass manufacturers remaining in the UK. The above, compounded by improving Health & Safety standards, increasingly high energy & raw material costs, a change in the gift giving culture, a lack of new designs and failure to train apprentices put the final nail in the coffin for most UK crystal manufacturers.

Cumbria Crystal’s focus on high quality, balanced with a pricing structure that avoided competing with price orientated international manufacturers in Eastern Europe, meant it avoided some of the financial race to the bottom.


2020

Around 6000 people are still directly employed in industrial glass production in the UK and the sector turns over £3B annually. This is a significant sized industry despite there being only 6 glass container manufacturers left. In the Flat Glass industry Pilkington now has only two sites, with a single furnace each, and has three contenders.

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

A few brand names still survive in the crystal tableware market. For example Waterford Crystal – which was a huge marketing phenomenon in the 70’s and 80’s – albeit in a different format. Post 9/11, travel by US citizens to Ireland almost ceased & sales went through the floor. The company was sold and most production is now being made in Slovakia and Czech Republic. They still have an impressive visitor centre. Royal Brierly and Caithness are now owned by Dartington. Caithness no longer produces tableware but specialises in beautiful decorative paperweights.

All is not doom and gloom for the future of glass production in the UK though. TV programmes and documentaries, such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, have raised public awareness of the downside of plastic (sea pollution, difficult to recycle, single use) and are beginning to change attitudes and behaviours. Investment and research into new technologies for melting glass, especially using electricity and/or hydrogen, are being supported actively by the government through the establishment of organisations such as Glass Futures. This initiative connects the glass industry and academia to create an industry cluster to ensure increased productivity and sustainability in the sector.

Glass plays an important role as one of the few materials which can be infinitely recycled; as long as it is not contaminated. Recycling is becoming more efficient and today a typical green wine bottle is 90% recycled.
The government plan is that glass making will become carbon neutral by 2035, meaning that plastic is out and glass will be back.

Cumbria Crystal’s survival today is primarily due to its refusal to squeeze standards and focus on the ‘art form’. A crystal decanter or goblet is not just a piece of glass, it is the product of at least 9 skilled artisans working together using heritage skills honed over decades. Typically a piece of crystal takes 10 days to convert from sand to finished product. Every piece is a work of Art. Today Cumbria Crystal is smaller than in was in the 80’s, with only 23 staff, but it weathered the storms, holds an envious global reputation for quality and is planning for growth.

What does this mean for Cumbria Crystal?

Cumbria Crystal, as the only luxury, handcrafted crystal maker left in the UK is in a strong position to capitalise on its reputation. Investment is being sought to improve e-commerce routes to market and extend its customer base internationally. In time, more efficient furnaces will be required and capacity will be increased. Our collaborations – such as those with Bentley Motors – continue and we will continue to focus on offering the very best luxury crystal, but with more contemporary collections added to the classic so there is something for everyone.

Recent collaboration with Bentley Motors

We are extremely proud with what we have achieved in an industry that has been hit so hard by economical, environmental and cultural changes:

  •  We are 100% British owned.
  •  Each step of the process takes place by hand, from blowing to marking to cutting.
  •  Everything is crafted in our small factory in the Lake District. Nothing is outsourced.
  •  We work with the Royal College of Art to provide educational opportunities and collaborations.
  •  We are one of the best value crystal businesses within the luxury market.
  •  We offer free access to the factory to view glass blowing and diamond wheel cutting.
  •  We provide a wide variety of collections.
  • Our products are regularly chosen for use on the big screen (Downton Abbey, James Bond).
  • Our more contemporary collections are gifted for all special occasions.
  • We are chosen by British Embassies for formal dining globally.
  • We supply to the most discerning clients & those who demand the ‘best of the best’.
  • We achieve all of this as a team of less than 30, from the CEO to the glass marker, and the accountant to retail assistant.

We look forward to serving you soon www.cumbriacrystal.com

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What is lead crystal?

What is lead crystal?

Glass can only be called Crystal if it contains a minimum of 24% of lead oxide in the raw materials. Glass with over 30% is called full-lead crystal. Anything else is simply ‘glass’.

How do we begin to make lead crystal at Cumbria Crystal?

We start with creating our own secret Batch recipe. Batch is the technical term for the combination of different materials which give each glass its particular properties. It includes high quality silica sand; soda, manganese, lime and lead oxide. Due to small quantities required by Cumbria Crystal it is safer and more costs effective to have the raw materials mixed for us by a specialist company in Sweden. It arrives looking like an opaque granular breakfast cereal. It only becomes glassy after melting.

Once the batch is delivered to our factory it is melted in our two 500kg furnaces. Unlike many other glass factories we do not melt the raw materials quickly overnight. In order to achieve the highest quality crystal possible we deliberately melt the glass slowly over a whole weekend. The process is as follows; on a Friday evening any excess glass from the week’s production is ladled from the furnace and fritted in large vats of water. This will be recycled the following week. The temperature is raised overnight from normal working temperature of 1240C up to 1450C.

Throughout the whole day on the Saturday, every hour two scoops of Batch, and one of Cullet or Frit, is put into the furnace. We use a ratio of 70% batch, to 30% Cullet/Frit. Cullet is excess crystal or broken crystal from the previous week’s production. Frit is glass that has been quenched in cold water from hot. The thermal shock causes the glass to break into little pieces. Glass is one of the few materials which may be recycled indefinitely, provided it is not contaminated in any way. In fact the addition of 30% Cullet & frit actually helps improve the quality of glass.

Putting the materials in hourly helps the materials to melt more evenly and as such helps reduce the number of small bubbles that are likely to be trapped in the glass as a consequence of the melting process. The glass is held at 1450C throughout the Saturday into the evening and then progressively cooled over the remainder of the weekend so it is at 1250C by 8am on the Monday morning. During the slow cooling the glass effectively shrinks and by doing this slowly it ‘squeezes’ the glass shrinking any tiny bubbles that have failed to rise to the surface and dissipate.

During the blowing process our glassmakers regularly ‘rake’ the surface of the glass. This also helps to reduce the volume of bubbles and chord the glassmakers gather on the end of the blowing iron. This can help improve the glass but slows the speed of production and can also limit the amount of products that can be produced in a day as the glass needs time to rest if worked this way for too long.  Chord is a tiny but visible difference in the refractive index of the glass caused by the evaporation of materials from the surface, as the glass sits in the pot. This tiny difference changes the chemical composition of the glass slightly. When it is gathered onto the blowing iron, this surface glass becomes mixed with the glass immediately below it and on cooling the refractive difference can become visible as wavy swirl in the glass. This is generally acceptable as it is a sure indication of handmade glass, but if there is too much it will be rejected and recycled or sold as a factory second.

Cumbria Crystal specialises in the use traditional methods. It shuns automated blowing and cutting used by so many manufacturers and focusses only on what can be made exclusively by hand. This inevitably leads to a significantly smaller output and a higher price due to our smaller output compared to other glass factories, but represents the very pinnacle of artisan craftsmanship.

Did you know?

Glass is not a slow-moving liquid. It is a solid, albeit an odd one. It is called an amorphous solid because it lacks the ordered molecular structure of true solids, and yet its irregular structure is too rigid for it to qualify as a liquid. In fact, it would take a billion years for just a few of the atoms in a pane of glass to shift at all, so your crystal should last forever.

What does lead in the glass do?

Invented by the Englishman George Ravenscroft in 1674 lead in the glass reduces the melting temperature, increases the weight of glass and creates a beautiful clear finish. Being denser it refracts (bends) light more than other glasses so it sparkles better. The additional weight and shine is what people truly love about Cumbria Crystal. Being slightly softer than other glasses, decorative cutting can easily be incorporated into the designs, and containing lead it reacts extremely well with the hydrofluoric and sulphuric acid mix that is used to bring the glass to an incredibly high shine.  

Is lead crystal safe?

Once lead is chemically bonded into the glass through the melting process it is safe to use. 

How do you know it is hand-made lead crystal?

First of all, weight. Lead crystal is heavy compared with other glasses.

Tiny bubbles and chord as described previously, are far more common in furnaces in which the glass ‘sits’ stationary (only affected by thermal currents) in a crucible or large ceramic pot. Industrially bubbles and chord are avoided as the glass is kept in continuous motion, effectively stirring the glass. However, this requires factories requiring 5+tons of glass per day as opposed to 1 ton per week at Cumbria Crystal. By their very nature the large factories are mass producing glass which will also not be lead crystal.  They can generally remove these minor variations in glass, but by doing so indicate that the products are unlikely to be lead crystal or completely handmade.

At Cumbria Crystal we see tiny bubbles and small amounts of chord as the ‘stars in the galaxy’. The almost invisible elements that make crystal that little bit more interesting, tell the story of its origins and a classic indication of handmade craftsmanship.


Why purchase from Cumbria Crystal?

  • We make everything in the UK, unlike some fellow glass manufacturers who outsource abroad. We are extremely proud that every element of the production process happens under one roof in our small factory in the English Lake District and UNESCO World Heritage site. 
  • We have a small team of just 23 staff. A typical glass will take 10-14 days to produce from start to finish and pass through at least 9 pairs or artisans’ hands.
  • We only produce crystal with 24% of lead content.
  • We specialise in clear, hand crafted luxury, lead crystal. We do one thing, we do it very well & aspire to be the best in the world.
  • We operate as sustainably as possible and have staff welfare, recycling and sustainability initiatives in place.
  • We produce classic styles so they will last a lifetime and beyond.
  • We are the only remaining factory in the UK that still has the knowledge and capacity to produce luxury, hand-blown, cut and finished stem and barware.

Click here for more about the history of lead crystal.

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Employee Appreciation Day 2020

Friday 6th March is marked in calendars across many businesses as Employee Appreciation Day and so we wanted to take the opportunity to give you an insight into some key members of our tightly knit team here in our beautiful English Lake District, a UNESCO World Heritage site. All manufacturing takes place in one building where we have five glass-blowers (collectively with 105 years of experience) & three glass-cutters with 63 years experience. Our artisans are supported by a highly committed team of glass processing, marking, repair, quality control, packaging & dispatch staff.

Customers are supported by a Trade Sales agent and an in-house Customer Liaison Officer. Heather and Sian support visitors to our Factory Outlet shop & customers purchasing via the web.

The company is managed by CEO, Chris Blade, who is relies and is grateful for the professionalism of a truly dedicated management and support team – Finance Manager, Marketer, Bookkeeper, Operations Manager.

In total 23 staff exceptional people are required to produce each piece of your world class luxury hand-made crystal.

Bev Frankland is our Operations Manager and part of the company management team. Everyone who has commissioned work will have dealt with Bev at some point. There is not much about the project management & manufacture of hand blown and cut crystal that Bev has not dealt with since first starting as a 16 year old glass washer in 1990. Bev worked her way through the factory process department to becoming Head Quality Controller and even now she has a managerial role she is still regularly seen double checking quality and adjudicating grading decisions.

Steve McDougall has been blowing glass at Cumbria Crystal since 1989. Steve is our ‘Wine Servitor’ and is personally responsible for the creation of the stems and feet of every wine glass produced at the factory. This hugely skilled task uses traditional glass making processes brought from Stourbridge when the factory was founded in 1976. Cumbria Crystal is now one of the few places in the world where the particular ‘casting on’ technique that Steve excels at can still be seen. Steve enjoys working as part of a small team creating the highest quality hand-made crystal possible.

Jitka Wilcox has 27 years’ experience of diamond wheel glass cutting and has worked here since 2004. Jitka spent 3.5 years studying full time at a glass technology College studying glass cutting in the Czech Republic before graduating and working for a further 16 years in a Czech crystal factory. Jitka is able to translate the most demanding, complex and intricate designs into beautiful products. Cumbria Crystal is famous for the incredible cutting craftsmanship and it is worth noting that the precision and perfection of our glass belies the fact that every piece is completely hand-made. Jitka enjoys the challenge of the Grasmere cut but when the opportunity arises loves to cut more freestyle designs such as flowers and leaves.

The above are just a few of our highly skilled and talented artisans that produce the luxury crystal we are known for around the world. You can meet more of the team here. Cumbria Crystal would not be the prestigious brand it is today without all those that work here, so a huge thank you to all staff!


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Cumbria Crystal Shortlisted for Regional Award

The Cumbria Tourism Awards celebrates its 17th year of showcasing the very best local businesses and the individuals behind them. Recognizing the variety & quality of the unique products, services, marketing and sustainable practices within our diverse county being shortlisted is a fantastic achievement. Winners will go on to represent Cumbria at the ‘Visit England Awards for Excellence’ in 2020.

We are delighted to be shortlisted in ‘The Experience of the Year Award’ – Sponsored by the new Carlisle Lake District Airport. Cumbria Crystal’s glass-making ‘Experiences’ offer enables visitors to explore the drama and alchemy of glassblowing in a working factory environment using the traditional tools & techniques evolved over 2000 years.

Our Experiences co-ordinator Clare Wilson joined Cumbria Crystal in 2017 with the brief to develop & expand the Experiences programme into a fun, dramatic & educational activity suitable for all ages from 8 years old. Her specialist glass blowing skills & extensive experience ensure participants of taster sessions, public workshops or One-to-One tuition receive the best and safest tuition and care.

Clare graduated with a BA (Hons) in Glass from Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland and was later selected for the prestigious two-year associate training program at JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design in Adelaide, Australia and is where she began to teach introductory glass blowing classes. Clare has worked at Pilchuck Glass School as a student and teaching assistant and been a part of residency programs at the Glazenhuis, Lommel, Belgium; Edinburgh College of Art; Salem State University, MA, USA as part of the Rosenberg residency and most recently at the University for Creative Arts, Farnham.

Cumbria Crystal recently expanded its experiences programme with the introduction of new workshops for two people, these include ‘Bud Vase’ & ‘Two Hearts’ workshops. Experiences are available Saturday to Wednesday weekly.

Bud Vase Experience

In this unique 1-hour experience (for two people) participants will learn to make a colourful blown glass bud vase. Clare will ‘gather’ the molten glass from the furnace on a blowing iron and assist you with your chosen colour. You will be taught how to shape the glass into the correct form before your instructor blows the initial bubble to get the vase started. You will learn how to inflate and shape the glass using traditional wood, newspaper and metal tools. The bubble will then be transferred to a separate punty iron before being ‘opened up’ to create your finished vessel.

Two Hearts Experience

This half hour experience is ideal for two people wishing to share an intensive, fun & memorable experience. Each participant will create a small heart paperweight. Under close supervision you will be shown how to use a variety of glass-makers’ tools to create unique patterns in coloured glass. Each participant will leave (after cooling) with a beautiful keepsake and amazing memories of their time together.

Hearts take 2-3 days to cool and finish.

Our Managing Director Chris Blade says – “Traditional glass blowing is rarely seen today & as such, I am passionate about offering people the opportunity to see & experience it first-hand. The creation of a 5 day a week, hands-on public experiences programme, delivered in the factory alongside our production teams is a powerful way of enhancing this. Clare’s skills, genuine enthusiasm & teaching ability enable us to offer exceptional experiences to our guests. We are therefore delighted & proud to be shortlisted for this Award.”

The next stage involves a visit from a secret shopper to experience glassmaking themselves and assess the customer journey. The report will then be accessed by an independent judging panel who will decide the category winners.

Winners will be announced at an elegant black-tie event on Wednesday 19th June 2019 at the stunning Cartmel Racecourse.

Customer Reviews from our experiences –

“Wow, what a fantastic day for all the family visiting Ulverston. The kids had a really good time learning all about glass making from a professional glass blower. They had the opportunity to try the craft under fantastic supervision from the guide. They really enjoyed making their baubles in a safe environment and we as parents where allowed to watch and take photos. They will never forgot this experience and they have the bauble to cherish for a lifetime. Thanks Cumbria crystal for a fantastic day and memorable experience. Highly recommended for any family visiting, I would phone in advance to book a slot, we didn’t and were lucky but given how much we enjoyed this I would recommend booking. Thanks Mia and Ben.”

“This was my second visit, I have blown my own Christmas bauble and created a paper weight. Tuition was excellent, very safety conscious, the teacher was very passionate about her craft and explained everything in good detail. I really enjoyed the hands on experience in both these classes and having my own products at the end of it was lovely and such a great keepsake of the fantastic time I had. We love visiting Cumbria Crystal even if its just to look around the shop, it’s great to see the artisans practicing their skill while we are there. The crystalware is always of an excellent quality, they have a great choice of products for any occasion, and the work the engravers do is always above and beyond our expectations.”

“I booked this experience for my god daughter, her sister and myself when they were staying with me from Oxford. Both of them are teenagers and I thought it was a great idea (as did they!). It took 15 minutes for each of us to be instructed and to make the bauble ready for the kiln. Our instructor Clare was brilliant, giving us a detailed demonstration beforehand and guiding us throughout the process. She completed the bauble by adding the glass hook at the end before it entered the kiln. Clare was patient, knowledgeable and made the whole thing fun while emphasising the safety aspects all the way through. We collected our works of art the next morning and we are all delighted with the results. Thank you Clare for a great experience!”

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World renowned luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason epitomizes the trend in traditional English Crystalware

From its fabulous flagship store located at 181 Piccadilly, London to its retail stores at St. Pancreas Station and the Royal Exchange, Fortnum & Mason has always been at the forefront of providing its clients with the best products the world has to offer.


In its 300 years of trading the company has always stayed ahead of new trends and innovations. In 1866 the company introduced the mighty baked bean to Britain for the first time thanks to their belief in a young American entrepreneur determined to introduce this unusual product to the UK market. Whilst one doesn’t imagine baked beans when you think luxury department stores, this was a gastronomic first that took the UK by storm.

Cumbria Crystal – as the last UK producer of hand-made luxury Crystal – has regularly featured in the most salubrious of surroundings and high profile organizations. These include Glyndebourne Opera House and every Bentley Bentayga Mulliner to name a few. We are delighted, therefore, that Cumbria Crystal will be available to purchase at Fortnum & Mason, in Piccadilly.

Our Sales consultant Mike Iland says “the relationship with Fortnum & Mason builds on our strategy of building working partnerships with luxury brands that value to very best in British artisan skill and design.”

“Today we see people rejecting fast fashion and the throwaway culture of modern mass-produced, inexpensive products. The appreciation of skill and craftsmanship is returning and with it a resurgence of interest in cut crystal as can be seen in contemporary cocktail bars and exclusive dining venues in cosmopolitan England.”

The Cumbria Crystal Grasmere Collection couldn’t be more suited. The Georgian style regularly features in period dramas including the hugely popular Downton Abbey. Most recently the Grasmere Vintage Champagne glass was selected for a luxury £400 cocktail at the prestigious Samling Hotel, Lake Windermere.

Designed in 1976 by Lady Grania Cavendish, an original founder of the company and part of one of the most influential aristocratic families in England, Grasmere is the most time consuming and complex collection to produce. Manufactured using flute, mitre, diamond, rings and hollow cuts the design uses seven different cutting wheels & the collective efforts of the whole team to produce.

The Grasmere collection is available in store at Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER or directly from Cumbria Crystal online at cumbriacrystal.com


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Try your hand at glassblowing – one of many new experiences lined up at Cumbria Crystal!

Experience the 2000 year old tradition of hand blown glass-making at Cumbria Crystal, Ulverston

Being the last manufacture of luxury crystal in the UK, we are famous for producing some of the highest quality hand-blown and cut lead-crystal in the world and are proud to supply clients such as Bentley, Rolls Royce, all the British Embassies and many Royal families.

Our ethos has always been to welcome visitors into the factory to watch glass being blown as there are very few places left that this 2000 year art can still be seen. The educational benefits for young and old alike are undeniable – sharing the experience of watching glass being transformed from sand into crystal and then being worked by artisans at temperatures in excess of 1200 degrees centigrade is close to alchemy and is fascinating to watch. It is rare that visitors to our factory fail to marvel at the collective skills required to create the crystal they see being made in front of them.

In order to extend appreciation of the craft, a small furnace has been built to specifically enable visitors to receive tuition and blow glass alongside our artisans who may well be blowing the crystal used by James Bond in Casino Royale or Downton Abbey.

We are delighted to welcome Clare Wilson to the team to co-ordinate & deliver an extensive programme of activities. Clare studied for three years at the Edinburgh College of Art and trained for four years at JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design in Adelaide, Australia, a highly respected contemporary craft organisation. Combined with extensive teaching experience Clare is well placed to revolutionise the experience on offer by offering hands on opportunities to our visitors both near and far.

15 and 30 minute experiences making coloured glass baubles or paperweights are now available and bookable Saturday – Wednesday. Participants will be guided through every step of the process, selecting different coloured glasses to work with, melting the colour into the liquid glass and then blowing & forming the paperweight or bauble. Paperweights are very hands on & in addition participants will be able to form the liquid glass with wet newspaper held in their hands!

Bauble workshops are available from 8+ years (Starting at £20). Paperweight workshops from 13 years+ (£45). Workshops are suitable for group sizes up to 8 people, reservations are recommended especially at busy times, drop in sessions are available subject to availability.

In the coming weeks we will expand the programme to include a three hour tumbler workshop suitable for up to three people, plus half and full-day glass blowing tuition packages suitable for up to two people. These present the perfect opportunity to share an amazing creative experience and develop glass blowing skills, or to give someone an amazing present (gift vouchers are available).

Experience the 2000 year old tradition of hand blown glass-making at Cumbria Crystal, Ulverston

Being the last manufacture of luxury crystal in the UK, we are famous for producing some of the highest quality hand-blown and cut lead-crystal in the world and are proud to supply clients such as Bentley, Rolls Royce, all the British Embassies and many Royal families.

Our ethos has always been to welcome visitors into the factory to watch glass being blown as there are very few places left that this 2000 year art can still be seen. The educational benefits for young and old alike are undeniable – sharing the experience of watching glass being transformed from sand into crystal and then being worked by artisans at temperatures in excess of 1200 degrees centigrade is close to alchemy and is fascinating to watch. It is rare that visitors to our factory fail to marvel at the collective skills required to create the crystal they see being made in front of them.

In order to extend appreciation of the craft, a small furnace has been built to specifically enable visitors to receive tuition and blow glass alongside our artisans who may well be blowing the crystal used by James Bond in Casino Royale or Downton Abbey.

We are delighted to welcome Clare Wilson to the team to co-ordinate & deliver an extensive programme of activities. Clare studied for three years at the Edinburgh College of Art and trained for four years at JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design in Adelaide, Australia, a highly respected contemporary craft organisation. Combined with extensive teaching experience Clare is well placed to revolutionise the experience on offer by offering hands on opportunities to our visitors both near and far.

15 and 30 minute experiences making coloured glass baubles or paperweights are now available and bookable Saturday – Wednesday. Participants will be guided through every step of the process, selecting different coloured glasses to work with, melting the colour into the liquid glass and then blowing & forming the paperweight or bauble. Paperweights are very hands on & in addition participants will be able to form the liquid glass with wet newspaper held in their hands!

Bauble workshops are available from 8+ years (Starting at £20). Paperweight workshops from 13 years+ (£45). Workshops are suitable for group sizes up to 8 people, reservations are recommended especially at busy times, drop in sessions are available subject to availability.

In the coming weeks we will expand the programme to include a three hour tumbler workshop suitable for up to three people, plus half and full-day glass blowing tuition packages suitable for up to two people. These present the perfect opportunity to share an amazing creative experience and develop glass blowing skills, or to give someone an amazing present (gift vouchers are available).

For further details, or to book, please contact:

beth@cumbriacrystal.com

www.cumbria crystal.com/blow-a-bauble

+44(0)1229 584 400

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Win a piece of luxury Crystal for your friend from their favourite Collection

To enter fill in the details below.  Your friend will be entered into our Prize Draw for a chance to win a piece of crystal from their favourite collection. The individual piece will be chosen from their preferred collection by Cumbria Crystal and will have a minimum value of £80 RRP. We wish your friend the very best of luck and hope we’re helping banish the blues and lift spirits this January.

    Your Name (required)

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    Please enter the name of the person you wish to nominate followed by their email address

    All entries must be received before the Prize Draw closes at midnight 5th February 2018. By entering above you agree to our full Terms and Conditions below. This does not oblige your nominated friend.

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    Win a pair of Grasmere Double Old Fashioned Whisky Tumblers

    To enter simply fill in your details below and you will be entered into our Prize Draw for a chance to win a pair of Grasmere Whisky Tumblers.

      All entries must be received before the competition closes midnight 6th October 2017. By entering above you agree to our full Terms and Conditions below.

      Continue reading Win a pair of Grasmere Double Old Fashioned Whisky Tumblers

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      Six Rum-derful facts about Rum!

      We keep hearing rumours that rum is destined to become the ‘new gin’ so with that in mind we decided to look into the history of rum, one the worlds most popular drinks on #NationalRumDay. Here are six rum-derful facts you may not have known before!

      1. Rum is made from sugarcane by-products – either molasses or sugarcane juice is fermented and distilled to produce a clear spirit. This is then aged in oak barrels according to the manufacturers specifications and recipe.

      2. The primary ingredient sugarcane, is a grass of the genus Saccharum. Rums produced from fresh pressed sugarcane juice make up only 3% of all rums, whilst those produced using molasses account for the remaining 97%!

      3. After Saccharum’s usefulness (and deliciousness!) was discovered, sugarcane went from being an unknown wild species of grass to the world’s largest cultivated crop.

      4. Rum’s history is a chequered and often sad one and to talk of its wonders without acknowledging this would be remiss. As the popularity of rum increased in the 1600’s, more and more plantations were needed. These sugar plantations were supported by a slave-based economy, with people kept as slaves living in wretched conditions with no control over their own lives. Thankfully today’s rum manufacturers are acknowledged for their socially conscious approach.

      5. It’s hard to think of rum without envisaging creaking ancient Tall Ships cutting their way across the Atlantic. Rum’s popularity even reached Royal Navy sailors who were supplied rum rations to their crew by the tot (about 70ml of 95.5% Rum!) each midday.

      6. Sailing superstition meant glasses were never ‘clinked’ onboard the ship as the sound of ringing glass spelled death for a sailor, and worse the Devil himself would take two sailors if the ringing sound were stopped. Additionally the tot glasses were only washed on the outside as it was believed the lingering rum residue would serve to make the drink stronger. Whilst we no longer believe clinking glasses heralds death, should you be unfortunate enough to chip the rim of your Cumbria Crystal glasses we are often able to repair it – potentially saving you from an unpleasant fate!

      Modern rum consumption is broken into two main camps with white or silver rums tending to be used for making cocktails and dark, golden or spiced rums being enjoyed neat, on the rocks or with a mixer. We like ours aged, served over ice; poured from a cut crystal decanter into a beautiful hand-made Cumbria Crystal tumbler or alternatively whizzed up into an all singing all dancing Pina Colada. You can find the definitive recipe for this in our last blog here.

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      6 surprising Pina Colada facts and the definitive recipe

      If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain (and even if you don’t) then you’ll love our 6 lesser known facts about this wonderfully uplifting drink. Join us as we celebrate National Pina Colada Day!

      Pina Colada
      Classic Pina Colada served in Cumbria Crystal Lyre Highball

      1. It is thought the Pina Colada was being drunk as far back as the 1800’s, and by pirates no less. Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí used the pineapple, coconut and rum cocktail to lift the spirits of his crew. Sadly this original version of the recipe was lost after Roberto’s death in 1825 but we’re guessing it was pretty rum heavy.

      2. It wasn’t until 1954 that the drink was brought back to life, Bartender Ramon “Monchito” Marrero is now cited as the drinks official inventor. Ramon worked on the definitive recipe for months in an attempt to encapsulate the essence of Puerto Rico before settling on the Pina Colada.

      3. Ramon served the drink for 35 years at the Caribe Hilton before The Pina Colada was officially made the national drink of Puerto Rico in 1978.

      4. Rupert Holmes who penned the famous song Escape (The Pina Colada Song) doesn’t like the cocktail, saying it tastes medicinal. He’s wrong. It’s delicious!

      5. The famous line originally said ‘if you like Humphrey Bogart’ but was replaced with the “first exotic drink” Rupert could think of.

      6. Originally titled ‘Escape’ initial sales of the record were slow as despite its popularity people called it by the name of the cocktail. Reluctantly Rupert Holmes agreed to change the name to Escape (The Pina Colada Song) and the record went straight to number 1.

      It wouldn’t be fair to whet your appetite for the drink without giving you the recipe. The below is the official Caribe Hilton recipe. We’ve served it in our Lyre range which was especially created for the modern cocktail drinker and maker.

      Pina Colada Recipe

      60ml rum

      30ml coconut cream

      30ml double cream

      175ml fresh pineapple juice

      ¼ pint of crushed ice

      Method

      Mix rum, cream of coconut, double cream and pineapple juice in a blender. Add ice and stir for 15 seconds. Serve in a 12oz glass and garnish with fresh pineapple and a cherry.

      The very fact the Pina Colada warrants a ‘national day’ highlights the resurgence of the cocktail in recent years. Mixologists are constantly driving forward new recipes and adding increasingly dramatic effects to their drinks. Despite this innovation some cocktails are still included on menus around the globe and the Pina Colada remains a tropical favourite. Enjoy yours!