three hundred years of collectable glass in one day

The Cambridge Glass Fair

Foyer Exhibition:
February 2006

Stuart Enamelware

Amber vase enamelled with flowers and butterflies, 1930.
Amber vase with dark festoons, transfer printed and enamelled with flowers and butterflies; 1930.

At the end of the First World War the celebrated Bohemian engraver Ludwig Kny (1869-1937) became chief designer at Stuart and Sons Ltd. and worked closely with Robert Stuart designing new cut patterns which became the main production of the factory.

The cutting was made brilliant by the introduction of acid polishing and this had an important effect on the type of patterns produced.

Intaglio cutting also became a feature during this period and Kny excelled in this field, producing curvilinear designs with naturalistic themes complementing the straight cutting employed by Robert Stuart.

The designs began to move away from the traditional and colour was introduced, for example a coloured decanter stopper being complemented by a coloured wine glass stem or foot.

Then in the late 1920’s the first coloured enamelled patterns appeared, either applied freehand or by using a transfer from an engraved copper plate for the initial outline with many of these copper plates made personally by Kny. His family roots in the Czech glass industry probably contributed to his understanding of the processes involved and to the resultant quality.

The enamelling was often applied to cocktail sets, some with very Art Deco patterns or with designs featuring flowers, fruit and butterflies. Fighting cocks and huntsmen were other popular themes. The colours used were mainly strong shades and those designs using enamelling over acid etching seem to have the strongest colours.

Stratford pattern enamelled with thistles circa 1932
Mould-blown Stratford pattern sorbet dish enamelled with thistles; c.1932.

In 1934-5, the Harrods and the British Art in Industry exhibitions featured designs by Laura Knight among others and she suggested using enamels on some of her pieces such as the ‘Circus’ decanter and glasses which used yellow, black and red painting.

This vibrant and flamboyant style must have seemed in marked contrast to the prevailing mood of the time with the Great Depression just around the corner and most of these items were out of the reach of the majority of pockets, only being appreciated through the windows of establishments such as Liberty & Co. of London.

Nevertheless, Stuart enamelware remained popular and accounted for 25% of the factory’s production during this period.

This attractive glassware is now highly collectable with some patterns being very rare and desirable. It is important when starting a collection to make sure that the enamelling is in good condition with no rubbing, as this will detract greatly from its value.

The foyer exhibition for this fair will feature a private collection of enamelware from which some of the highlight items are listed below.

exhibition highlights

  • Stratford pattern enamelled with foliage and butterflies 1930.
    Stratford pattern dessert dish with enamelled foliage and butterflies. 1930.
    Devil Cocktail Set – one of the iconic designs of the period

  • Early work – such as sundae dishes

  • Art Deco designs

  • Enamelled Amber Vases – these had dark streaks in the glass and were decorated in a variety of ways, the most popular being butterflies (see item illustrated at top of page)

  • Spider Cocktail Set – this along with the Devil set are probably the two most sought after sets in the Stuart enamel range

  • Examples of decorating styles – with a rare example of gold outlining

 

Note: All images supplied by Andy McConnell.