three hundred years of collectable glass in one day

The Cambridge Glass Fair


february 2015

Peter wheeler

As regular visitors to the glass fair will know, when it was held at Chilford Hall and Linton College there was always a special exhibition of glass in the foyer. We intend to continue this tradition at Knebworth but instead of being in the foyer, the exhibition will be located off the Manor Barn in the Bulwer Room annexe.

The exhibition for February 2015 will be of some of the 'Studio Range' designs by Peter Wheeler for the Whitefriars factory. Peter Wheeler was a graduate from the RCA and worked for a time as an assistant to Geoffrey Baxter, the chief designer. The Studio Range was only produced from 1969 until c1970 and, as they were made for such a limited time, the pieces are fairly scarce and difficult to find.

They were made in fifteen different shapes and sizes and in three colourways: Old Gold, Orange and

Pattern S7 in Old Gold.

Peacock and this is the only Whitefriars range in which some pieces are actually engraved on the base with the words 'Whitefriars Glass' and the pattern number. The Old Gold and Orange striped designs were cased in Twilight glass and were lined with opaque white glass as used in thermometers. This did on occasion cause difficulties during the production of these pieces due to the differing rates of cooling of the glass, which could result in cracking of the white inner layer.

However, each piece is unique, as the different effects and variations produced are almost limitless and this alone makes collecting these pieces a joy.

The Peacock colourway is reminiscent of some Mdina glass, both in the colours used and the applied 'random strapping' around the pieces. This is interesting because two ex-Whitefriars employees, Ettore and Vicente Boffo, went to work at the Mdina factory in 1969.

The stripes in the Old Gold and Orange ranges was a result of using silver chloride and this was also used to produce the iridescent effect on the strapping of the Peacock pieces.

There will be around thirty-five items in the exhibition including some experimental pieces and some from Peter Wheeler's time as a student at the RCA which is where he would have learned to work with hot glass. These were the early days of the embryonic studio glass movement which began in America with Harvey Littleton, Dominick Labino and Sam Herman.

Pattern S13 in Orange.

On loan from two separate private collections, this display will hopefully be of interest not only to collectors of Whitefriars glass but also to anyone with a regard for the work of young, innovative designers bringing new ideas to manufacturing environments, and experimentation is something for which the Whitefriars factory was recognised.

Peter Wheeler did not stay at Whitefriars for long and little if anything is known of his career after he left the factory. It seems that he preferred to remain incognito which is sad for those collectors who would very much like to discover more about him and his work.







exhibition highlights


  • Early Peter Wheeler pieces.
  • Experimental vases and 'one-off' pieces.
  • Drawings and designs.








Note: All images supplied by Circaglass.







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