The Artistry of the Mould Makers
Making the Woodsland Pine / Flowers of the
The superb photos and much of
the technical information in this feature are courtesy of Howard Seufer.
We can never thank him enough.
This article is also
dedicated to the artists, artisans
and craftsmen whose amazing skills created the beauties of Carnival Glass: Jon Saffell, Alan
VanDyke, Don Cunningham, Bob Hill, Tracy Youmans, Mike Harter, Byron Butts, Mike Canfield
and the late Frank M Fenton.
Stop what you're doing for a moment, and pick up one of your favorite
pieces of Carnival Glass. Almost certainly you admire it for its iridescence and its shape, but it's likely that
you also find the pattern on it lovely too. The moulded designs on Carnival Glass are one of the things that define
Carnival, and in fact help to differentiate it from other forms of iridised glass. Some patterns are bold and
simple while others are subtle and complex; some patterns are cameo and stand proudly up from the surface of the
glass while others are intaglio and deeply incised. There are well over a thousand patterns recorded and known in
Carnival Glass, and we learn to recognise them as part of our collecting ethos and education.
But what do you know about the
processes involved in creating those patterns on glass? Most of us know how Carnival Glass itself is made: a gob of
molten glass is gathered up and dropped into the mould, the plunger is brought down onto the molten glass and the
piece is thus pressed, turned out, iridised and finally allowed to cool in the lehr. I've simplified the
description of the process here, but my point is that most of us are familiar with the basics of press moulding -
and the skill of the glass workers who make and shape the glass is readily acknowledged. But what of those who
designed and made the moulds? Have you ever considered the artistry and skill involved? The processes involved in
all the stages from the inspiration behind the design, the sculpting of the pattern and subsequent tooling of the
mould and plunger, are often overlooked.
In the late 1990s I had the
opportunity to be involved in this process during the course of the creation of the commemorative glassware for
wwwcga. Our aim was to have our own exclusive club design produced on Carnival pieces made by Fenton. We knew what
motifs we wanted on our commemorative, and it was just down to me to actually create a design featuring pine cones
(the club's emblem) that also incorporated the wording Woodsland World Wide. It sounded straightforward until I
actually sat down at my desk - pencil in hand and a pure white sheet of paper in front of me. Not only did I have
to create a design, but I needed to ensure that the size and shape fitted the scale and size of the glass object we
were hoping for as an end product - a small bowl shape that could also be formed into plates etc. I soon found that
pencil and paper were not the most important tools I need for the task. The one thing I needed (and used) most was
an eraser (rubber). I did umpteen rough sketches, getting the design to fit the shape in the way I wanted.
Furthermore, my natural inclination was to include a lot of detail, but this is absolutely not what was needed -
the design had to be bold (more about this later, with special reference to stippling).
The new design was to appear on the front
(inside) of the finished glass items and so would be cut onto the metal plunger. We'd already
picked a mould from Fenton's existing stock that our new plunger could work with - the small 6"(old
Imperial) "Open Rose" bowl. So my carefully scaled "Woodsland Pine" design would go onto a new
plunger that would work in conjunction with the "Open Rose" mould. Our new pine cone design would
then appear on the upper surface of the glass and the old Open Rose would be on the exterior or
Left is the orginal design, and right is an
example of the finished article in Carnival Glass.
When I produced my finished design I sent it over to Fenton's mould
shop. A couple of days later I got a huge shock. Fenton were about to ship a blank plaster cast to me, as
they were expecting me to cut the new "Woodsland Pine" design into the plaster! And please note -
as the finished appearance of the pattern was going to be cameo (raised off the surface of the glass) the design
would therefore have to be cut into the plaster, in reverse, so as to appear the correct way round on the finished
glass item after pressing. Of course, I couldn't do that, I had no training or experience for it, but it was at
that moment that I fully realised the incredible skill of the mould makers. Not just those of today, but also those
of years gone by. The skilled craftsmen and artisans who not only produced the amazingly beautiful designs we see
on Carnival, but who also transferred those designs onto solid metal moulds and plungers, cutting them into the
surface so skilfully.
Fortunately for me, I didn't have to even attempt that incredibly skilful
part of the process. To cut a long story short, Fenton realised their misunderstanding and took over those crucial
parts of the process (in fact the plunger was made by Island Mould Company at Fenton's request) and in September
1998 our first commemorative piece was made, then officially "unveiled" at the club's Premier Convention in Las
Vegas in January 1999.
We didn't rest on our laurels! The club wanted the entire piece to be our own, so I was then given the task of
designing a new pattern for the exterior / outside of the piece - and this would be cut onto a brand new mould that
would have to fit the existing main "Woodsland Pine" design on the plunger. This process (right through from design
to glass) was expertly documented by wwwcga's Fenton contact - Howard Seufer - and it is these amazing archive
photos and information that you can now see on the pages of this feature, that so astonishingly capture the
fascinating skill and artistry of the mouldmakers and craftsmen involved.
Follow the process through the steps below and enjoy the photos. And again, I want to put on record my
gratitude and debt to Howard Seufer who not only took all the fantastic photos shown here, but who also
mentored, advised and acted as go-between between me and Fenton at every stage along the way.
| Step 1: The Design "Flowers of the World"
| Step 2: Translation onto a plaster model
| Step 3: First stages in making the
| Step 4: Cutting the mould
| Step 5: An "initial" problem and a special tool gets made
| Step 6: Almost there! Final stages in making the metal mould
| Step 7: Production sampling of the glass and the 2000
Copyright © G&S Thistlewood and Howard Seufer.