MID EIGHTEENTH CENTURY GLASSMAKING PERFECTION (WELL, ALMOST…)
Examples of Georgian wine glasses which feature a two-part stem are not uncommon, to the extent that as a group they have their own collective name, with all such pieces being said to feature a composite stem. A quick glance at our website section (here) dedicated to such pieces will quickly reveal their nature – a stem featuring two distinct parts, invariably with the junction between both sections featuring a knop as a means to disguise the often less than perfect join achievable under the limitations of an entirely hand-made process executed under fairly rudimentary conditions.
I very much like them, on the whole, as they are purely and simply a manifestation of the glassmaker’s skill (or possible lack thereof). A glass with a two-part stem is no more functional than any other and, if anything, is likely to be less durable than one with a single, solid piece ‘twixt bowl and foot, so they were clearly intended to be enjoyed for their aesthetic qualities, for the added complexity of their structure and to elicit a greater appreciation of their maker’s craft.
Which is why I love this particular example, as something has clearly gone a bit wrong.
If you’ve ever watched any of the numerous on-line videos which are available, showing glassmakers at work (and I urge you to do so, as they can be utterly mesmerising) you’ll have noticed that to join pieces of glass together requires the merest touch of the two elements; some additional tooling or reheating may well be required to cement the join and make it stronger, but that initial contact is invariably very delicate. You can see from our example, though, that the clear part of the stem is quite deeply seated in the knop which, given the continuation of the air-twist pattern, was clearly part of the bottom section. To create a join of this nature would have required a slightly more substantial application of force than the usual light touch, and while the clear stem/ knop junction looks to have been sturdily formed as a result, the lower part of the stem has – to use what may well be entirely the correct terminology – been left looking distinctly wonky.
Clearly, when fusing the two parts – as the top has been pushed partially inside of the knop to effect a decent join – the former must have been cooler and more solid than the latter. This process, however, did not sit easily alongside the structural integrity of the air-twist section, which has dispensed with some of its inherent straightness and also gone distinctly awry in relation to a notional perpendicular line drawn from the centre of the foot up through the nice, straight, clear part (this can be seen clearly on our picture showing the glass resting on its side – much deviation from the straight and narrow is evident!)
Of course, and here’s my oft-repeated point, this imperfection does nothing at all to detract from the general impression of the glass as a whole and – as ever – I would strongly suggest that such an idiosyncratic touch does quite the opposite, giving you a direct connection to the travails of the glassmaker himself, some two hundred and seventy years ago, tutting and cursing to himself as his slightly ham-fisted approach results in something less than perfect. But if things had turned out as intended and everything been 100% spot on, then I for one wouldn’t be nearly as enthused about the resultant artefact – more power to the cack-handed glassmakers of the 18th century and their slightly flawed legacy, say I!