Chris Blade MA (RCA)
As CEO of Cumbria Crystal, Chris brings 30 years of creative practice in the fields of glass design, manufacturing, project management & education in the creative industries to the company. Graduating from the Royal College of Art with a Masters in Glass in 1987, and with the support of the Princes’ Trust, he founded his first design & manufacturing business at London’s South Bank in 1988. He was co-founder of the ‘Kings Walk Gallery’ on London’s Kings Road. Chris’ advanced manufacturing knowledge has enabled him to project manage 500+ bespoke commissions for clients, including – William Grant (Glenfiddich Whisky), Nestlé, & Victoria Beckham Ltd. 15 years’ experience as a Higher Education lecturer in the field of Art & Design, in the South East of England have left Chris with a deep understanding of the Creative Industries, a passion for sharing knowledge and making dreams reality.
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 at Cumbria Crystal and even now she has a managerial role she is still regularly seen double checking quality and adjudicating grading decisions. Her patient and professional manner ensure the smooth daily running of the factory.
Verity joined Cumbria Crystal in 2019 after a marketing career spanning retail, education and non-profit sectors. She oversees all marketing activity for Cumbria Crystal and her main focus is making Cumbria Crystal accessible to all who would like to have a piece, or two, in their homes wherever they are in the world.
Cumbria Crystal's artisans
Steve 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.
Steve is a hugely experienced glass blower, servitor and expert in working with coloured crystal. Having previously worked in glass factories in the Midlands for most of his working life, he moved to Cumbria Crystal in 2014.
Adele started working for Cumbria Crystal in 2008 after completing a BA (Hons) in Glass Design. Adele works with all the members of the glass-blowing team ‘gathering’ the glass from the furnace on ‘bit’ irons. The glass is presented to the glass-blower who ‘casts’ it onto vessels to create stems, feet, handles or decorative embellishments.
Without consistency in the gathering process, it would be impossible for the team to repeatedly produce glass of the quality our customers expect as it would vary in size and thickness.
Adele also oversees most aspects of Health and Safety within the company. She is IOSH & NEBOSH qualified and chairs the H&S Committee.
James joined Cumbria Crystal in 2021, relocating to the English Lake District from the USA.
He grew up in the small town of Quechee, Vermont in the United States and at the age of 20 started as an apprentice in a production glass factory called Simon Pearce. Here he started his glass production education learning how to blow and manufacture hot glass. He spent the next ten years refining his craft, blowing into moulds and developing hand-finishing skills.
James eventually moved to Little River Hot Glass, a small glass blowing studio where he spent the next couple of years learning to work with coloured glass and how to free-form items without the assistance of moulds.
Jitka has 27 years’ experience of diamond wheel glass cutting and has worked at Cumbria Crystal 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.
Oldrich began working for Cumbria Crystal in 2019. Prior to this he worked for Saint-Louis (France) and Rückl Crystal (Czech Republic). Both his father and grandfather worked as Master Glass Cutters and he learnt a lot from them. He now has 29 years experience within the profession. His typical day is filled with glass cutting Cumbria Crystal's range of designs, his favourite being Luna, and prioritising urgent jobs first and sometimes tending to repairs that have been sent in. What he enjoys the most is when customers appreciate his work and can see the skill that goes into the creation.
Vicky has worked at Cumbria Crystal since 2013 as is our primary Quality Controller and Production Supervisor. Maintaining exceptional standards is key to Cumbria Crystal’s reputation so grading assessments take place throughout the production process to ensure consistently high standards of are maintained. It requires concentration, good eyesight and attention to detail! Since every piece of glass is entirely hand-made, this is quite an art as absolute uniformity can undermine the desirable artisan qualities associated with hand-made products. Every piece of crystal that leaves the factory will have been inspected at least four times to ensure only the highest quality products are ever dispatched.
Karen has worked with Cumbria Crystal for a number of years & proven herself to be a flexible and dedicated team member. She has assisted with a number of roles including packaging and dispatch, processing glass after blowing in preparation for acid polishing and most recently becoming a Glass Marker. This involves identifying any imperfections in the glass that a specific design may remove & hand-marking each glass with the guidelines our cutters need to apply the decorative cutting. Without care and attention at this stage the precision, quality and production yields we aspire to will be compromised.
Anton joined Cumbria Crystal in 2017 and has quickly proven himself to be a skilled and dedicated craftsman with excellent attention to detail. He has a natural affinity with crystal is highly competent with most of the post-blowing processes that happen after the glass has cooled down. These involve cracking off the tops of blown vessels, grinding and flame polishing them to give the rims of glasses a smooth finish.
He is also our Master Bespoke Engraver.
Jonathan grew up in Ulverston and joined Cumbria Crystal in 2015. Jonathan is involved with most processes required to prepare the blown glass for cutting. This will involve ‘cracking off’ the excess glass once it passes through from the glasshouse, using the edge melting machine to soften the edges of the glass so that the product is safe to drink from or touch, cold working and grinding the glass and maintaining quality control in the factory. He is also responsible for any repairs to the glass as it passes through the process, meaning that every day is different and comes with a new challenge to solve.
Repairs and finishing specialist
Jamie joined Cumbria Crystal in 2020 and has quickly demonstrated a natural rapport with glass. He works in the ‘process’ area where crystal is prepared for the glass cutters after the blowing process is complete. Jamie specialises in cold working, repairs and finishing.
Processing and Cold Working Specialist
Ben joined Cumbria Crystal in 2021 and demonstrates true skill when it comes to working with glass, especially within the cold working stage of crystal production.
Kieron was born in Cumbria and joined the company in 2021. Since then, Kieron has been responsible for hand-marking all our designs and their proportions onto each-and-every item of glass produced in the factory.
Kieron uses a permanent blue pen to indicate the design the glass cutters must follow to create their intricate designs with the diamond cutting wheels. Without preparation they could not achieve the precision they produce.
Whilst every product is the result of teamwork few people handle every piece of crystal in the factory. Kieron is rightly proud that his work sits on Royal dining tables, is in all British Embassies worldwide; has been seen in Downton Abbey and features in the Bentley Bentagya Mulliner.
Charlie joined Cumbria Crystal in January 2022 through the Government 'Kickstarter' scheme after moving to Cumbria from South West, London. Previously he worked as a landscape gardener.
He is responsible for gently hand-cleaning every item of crystal prior to critical production stages such as polishing. Charlie is a stickler for detail and takes great pride in ensuring that every item of crystal to leave the factory is spotless. His friendly and charming manner is much appreciated, and he rarely fails to brighten everyone's day.
Glassblowing Experiences Lead
Annie-Rose joined Cumbria Crystal in September 2023. Through her studies in fine art, she had the opportunity to try glass blowing while on a student exchange in Poland and has never looked back.
In 2022 she completed a two years glass blowing course at CERFAV (European Centre for Research and Training in Glass Art), France.
She believes that you have to experience first-hand the process of glass working (the roar of the furnace and the heat and light that emanate from the glass) to truly appreciate it. She loves art, traveling and meeting new people.
Cumbria Crystal's shop staff
Tom works at Cumbria Crystal as part of our Retail Team since July 2022. His role is to greet customers who visit our Outlet Store and to assist them through their visit and purchasing journey. He has previously worked for Thorntons, Next, Liberata and the Emirates Stadium alongside being a television extra.