The Cambridge Glass Fair is a feast for the eye: a hundred stands alight with jewel colours and dazzling with virtuoso displays of the glassmakers’ art from Georgian air twist wine glasses, with stems spiraled like barley sugar, to extravagantly variegated and streaked Mdina ware.
The event is renowned among trade and collectors as a source for beautiful and unusual glassware from antique to contemporary, but remains relatively unknown to the home-decorating public so far. Which is a shame, because prices go from £5 – as well as climbing to five figures for historic pieces - and some of the stock is enchanting.
Highlights this February are among Andrew Lineham’s Victorian- and Edwardian-period coloured glassware. Lovely floral liqueur glasses made at the beginning of the 20th century by Heckert of Petersdorf feature tiny coloured flower heads set on elegant long glass stems (from £350, www.antiquecolouredglass.com).
Of the contemporary pieces, Helen Millard’s highly decorative cameo glass is one of the fair’s leading attractions. Vividly coloured hand blown cameo vases made in Stourbridge by Millard include her ‘Sunbird’ design: ruby, blue and white birds, butterflies and foliage on a gold background (www.helenmillard.co.uk).
If unadorned traditional antique glass is your bag, don’t miss Timothy Mills’ stand, where typical treats include handsome, plain 18th century dram glasses, c1900 Bristol blue cream jugs and Nailsea-type English ale jugs in gorgeously spotted green glass (£500-£600, www.antiqueglass.org.uk).
Of the other dealers to look out for, top of my list is Nigel Benson, an authority on the great names of English glass such as Whitefriars and Nazeing, with a good stock of Monart glass – the speckly, swirly coloured glass vases and lamps, made in Scotland from the 1920s (www.20thcentury-glass.org.uk).
© Andy McConnell
Those who collect the big names of Continental glass will find René Lalique, Emile Gallé, Daum, Legras and Moser on the stand of Mike and Debby Moir, where a classic opalescent Rene Lalique 'Poissons' no 2 pattern 'bowl', designed 1921, might cost £665 (www.manddmoir.co.uk).
The Cambridge Glass Fair is a jolly event, with a bar and bistro, and live jazz at lunchtime - none of the hushed atmosphere of a ‘fine antiques’ fair.
For those who enjoy seeing makers at work, Allister Malcolm, the resident glass artist at Broadfield House Glass Museum, will be demonstrating the skill of glassblowing and Rowan van der Holt will be showing the art of flame working.
The fair takes place at Chilford Hall, near Cambridge, under 60 miles from central London: it’s an hour-and-a-half in the car but with plenty of parking at the Hall once you arrive. One word of warning, if coming by train (Liverpool Street station to Cambridge), the last leg of the journey will need to be made by taxi, which piles on the cost (£23-£30), but you can arrange to share a cab from Cambridge station with other visitors by contacting email@example.com.
27 February, Cambridge Glass Fair, Chilford Hall Vineyard, Linton, CB21 4LE
Open from 10.30am – 4.00pm, admission is £5 with free entry for accompanied children under 16, www.cambridgeglassfair.com