It takes creativity, craftsmanship, and commitment to make a piece of Cumbria Crystal. Each piece from a sherry glass to a sculpture goes through nine pairs of hands and takes 10-18 days to go through all our processes. Our quality standards are rigorous with each piece of crystal graded at different stages of production attaining a quality standard to which others can only aspire.
Every piece of Cumbria Crystal is crafted by hand by artisans in our factory on the edge of the Lake District in England. We believe in preserving and developing the traditional glassmaking skills that developed in this country over centuries. As a rare manufacturer of English lead crystal we are the guardians of these skills and techniques and it is a responsibility and an honour to ensure that we will be making beautiful crystal in England for many centuries to come.
In order to do this we are creating beautiful contemporary classic designs and collections, appropriate for contemporary lifestyles, which will endure because of their classic and elegant nature and we have a commitment to quality standards to which others can only aspire.
We have invested in state of the art furnaces and equipment, training and development for all our skilled craftsmen and women. We are training apprentices and introducing new skills into the factory. Whilst retaining our commitment to the handmade nature of our work, we are continuously researching craft techniques from other countries and cultures such as the studio glass movement in order than we can develop our designs and products to differentiate ourselves in our market whilst retaining our very English style.
Teams of three or five highly skilled glass makers work together to produce each Cumbria Crystal product, in what appears to be a choreographed alchemists dance. Lead crystal is gathered from the furnace at a temperature of 1240 degrees Celsius. It is then blown into a graphite or steel mould by the ‘Wine Blower‘ before being handed to the ‘Servitor’ who casts on extra glass, using a traditional factory technique rarely seen today, to create the stem and foot. This is achieved by hand, using using wood and metal tools that haven’t changed in 2000 years.
Even today it typically it takes 15 years to train a glass blower.
Once blown the product is passed to the apprentice who cracks it off the blowing-iron and places it into the annealing lehr (oven) to slowly cool overnight, before it moves to the next stage of production.
A typical product takes 12 days to create from start to finish.
Real magic happens in the cutting room, where Cumbria Crystal’s artisan cutters still use a traditional, 2 stage process of roughing and smoothing the crystal on a lathe to create our distinctive, decorative patterns. The first cuts are made on a diamond wheel, which are then refined on a sandstone wheel in a process called smoothing. This time consuming technique is rarely used now but achieves a quality of finish – unrivalled in the industry – and which cannot be replicated by machine. Our cutters are highly skilled in many different cutting techniques including mitre, diamond, flute, flat and olive cuts applied to both contemporary and traditional designs. Most designs require the use of multiple wheels. For example, seven wheels and at least 45 minutes are required to cut a single glass from the Grasmere collection.
Polishing glass is an art that requires huge patience, skill and nerve. Glass will generally be polished using one of three ways; hand, acid or fire. Cumbria Crystal uses all three processes; hand polishing to begin with, followed by acid polishing to allow the smallest of cuts to have the deepest shine and finally fire polishing to get thin and smooth rims. Read our The story of glass and crystal polishing article for much more information.
All our crystal is graded at stages during production and then a final inspection before packing ensures our high quality standards are maintained and our customers receive the very best quality of crystal. Each piece is carefully wrapped and packaged professionally for delivery.
The technique he uses is sandblast engraving, the bespoke pieces are all made with hand cut stencils engraved in layers to produce a subtle quality and depth of field. Neil is a versatile artist who can turn his hand to many styles and works closely with the clients to ensure they are happy with their final pieces. Many of our bespoke clients also use this technique for branding their designs.
Copper Wheel Engraving
We also offer (off-site) the now rare technique of copper wheel engraving made popular in the 18th Century. Working with a small number of very skilled engravers practising this rare art including Heather Gillespie, a local prize winning artist in her own right.