Category Archives: Glass

Stained Glass Course in Italy

How would you like to spend a wonderful week in the beautiful Umbrian hills, south of Lake Trasimeno learning the ancient art of stained glass production?

DSCN7188Well! In August, 2018, I’ll be running an introductory stained glass course at the lovely Arte Umbria venue. This will be a great opportunity for you to visit Italy, experience its unique atmosphere and learn a new skill.

Beginners stained glass course

The course is aimed at beginners and will give you a taste of the 1,000 year old practice that has left us with some of the world’s most colourful and distinct artworks. By the end of the week, you will be able to design patterns for glass, cut glass and lead and solder a panel together.

DSCN7199You will have all the necessary equipment and materials supplied and there is a kit with the most essential tools to take home so that you can practice on your return.

There will also be a series of informative talks about the history of leaded lights, style and design, and a fascinating guided trip to the nearby Piegaro Glass Museum where, for centuries, they manufactured handmade, Chianti wine bottles.

Accommodation and food

Arte Umbria is set in 225 acres of verdant, hilly countryside, teeming with wild flowers, woodlands and all manner of animals. The landscape, as far as the eye can see, is studded with hill top towns, old castles and Medieval watchtowers. IMG_20170616_0001

The course is full board and along with the well appointed rooms, in a traditional Umbrian style, with a swimming pool, library and peaceful walks around the grounds to be enjoyed. There is a daily feast prepared by the on-site chef with ingredients grown or bought locally, giving you a real taste of Italy, there’s also plenty of wine from around the area.

For full details, dates and prices, or check out Arte Umbria‘s site for more information on the venue. Hope to see you in the summer.  Neal 🙂




The Glassblowers of Piegaro

Glass Museum Piegaro 036In 1292 the rulers of Venice decreed that all glass blowing was to move to the island of Murano, this was to protect the city from workshops burning down. The artists were to become virtual prisoners to their craft as the Venetians attempted to keep a monopoly on glass making and the  blowers, under pain of death, were kept permanently on the island.

Glass BlowingEscaping Venice

However, aided by local monks, two craftsmen did manage to escape and travelling south came upon Piegaro, near the shores of Lake Trasimeno.  The sturdy walled town was an ideal place to establish their own furnaces. The wood from the local forests and sand from the bed of the River Nestore gave the men all the natural resources they needed. They soon gained a reputation for producing quality glass and in 1312 their services were called upon to make the glass tiles used in the glass mosaics of the facade for Orivieto’s new duomo.

Glass moulds

Glass moulds

Glass  making in Piegaro

Over time the glass industry in Piegaro grew and by the 15th century there were a number of small glass studios within the walls of the town. As the town’s fame and popularity increased the 18th century saw the creation of a large industrial sized factory, that today is the Museo del Vetro, Glass Museum. Here mechanised presses and automated annealing ovens were built to produce bottles, goblets and flasks on an industrial scale.

Raffia bases

Raffia bases

Chianti bottles

There was also a profitable industry in producing the classic wicker based bottles, famously used for Chianti wines. Many women were employed within the town to weave the bases giving the bottles their distinctive raffia style.

Bottles and flasks

Bottles and flasks

Modern glass making

Despite modernisation in the 20th century by the 1960s the factory was proving to be inadequate for the levels of production necessary and a new premises was built in the valley below. Finally in 1968 the 750 year history of glass making withing the town centre came to an end as the furnaces were shutdown and left to cool.

Glass furnace

Glass furnace

In 2009 this old factory was renovated and restored to demonstrate the glorious history of glass production in the area. Within the walls of the original medieval building you can see the furnaces, work benches, tools, moulds and storage vaults. The museum has an excellent collection of glass products down the ages and a well laid out, illustrated story of the history of glass.



Museo del Vetro, Via Garibaldi 18, Piegaro, 06066

Tel – +39 0758358525   

Website –


Stained Glass Blast from the Past

G&Ts Wine Bar, Porth

The Black Prince

I recently discovered some old photos from the late 80s when I had a glass studio in Cilfynydd, South Wales. It was here that I designed, made and repaired a great number of domestic, secular and religious stained glass leaded lights. Perched on the side of the A470 the industrial unit provided the ideal location for working

G^Ts Wine Bar

Amongst the projects completed were lots of leaded lights for peoples front doors, repairs to tired, old and worn out windows and a number of rebuilds where people had found treasured lights at auction or car boot sales.


At the time my windows could be found in the Great Western Hotel, Cardiff, The Black Prince, Llantrisant and the Commercial Inn, Newport. I also worked on a number of refurbishment projects, such as the Victorian windows in Dyffryn House, St Nicholas, the Baptist Church on Charles Street, Cardiff and The Muni in Pontupridd. These in particular were delicate jobs, requiring patient rerepainting of the original artwork and careful releading into the original panels. 

Church Village

One of my favourite jobs was the complete restoration of a set of beautiful Art Neuveau windows for G&Ts Wine Bar in Porth. These gorgeous panels had been left to the ravages of time and vandals and were in a desperate state of direpair when they were brought to me. The finished pieces though were lovely restorations of the originals and for many years adorned the bar. This though has sadly long closed and I no longer have any idea what happened to them.


Hopefully they and the others that brightened up the bars and lounges of South Wales pubs didn’t end up in the skip. I know too that the Great Western Hotel at the bottom of St Mary’s Street has been refurbished and the canopies, with their Art Deco panels have been removed,

Church Village

The same is true of Stamps Bistro in Churchill Way, Cardiff. It would be nice if someone made off with them before they were smashed up and just discarded but hey that’s art for you, all one can hope is that others will cherish your hard worked creations in the same way you have.

Back in the day.