three hundred years of collectable glass in one day

The Cambridge Glass Fair

An interview with
Graham Cooley

Dr Graham Cooley is a well-known collector of twentieth century glass and researcher in the fields of glass and furniture. He is currently finalising an exhibition of designs by Ronald Stennett-Willson which will be shown at the King's Lynn Arts Centre. As a Cambridge Glass Fair exhibitor we persuaded him to take our very first questionnaire.

Dr Graham Cooley.

Dr Graham Cooley

When did you first start collecting?

About ten years ago I bought my first piece of Geoffrey Baxter's textured range, an indigo TV screen, from a junk shop in Bristol for £10. I bought five more pieces of the textured range within a few weeks.

Which qualities attract you to a particular designer or manufacturer? For instance, is it design, availability, scarcity, cost, etc.?

I buy what I like and what I can find. I prefer to buy ahead of the market and so tend to buy undiscovered things from charity shops, car boot sales and junk shops. I like to amass ranges of glass and study the design correspondence, colours and textures.

Other than glass, what collections do you have?

I collect post war British design. This includes ceramics by John Clappison, David Sharpe, Briglin, Glyn Colledge, Bernard Rooke and Tremaen. I also collect stainless steel mainly by Robert Welch, Gerald Benney, David Mellor and Stuart Devlin and Gordon Russell furniture.

Why did you start to collect glass by Ronald Stennett-Willson?

I liked it and it was easy to find. I also read both of Ronnie's books and found them an excellent survey on modern glass.

What in your view will your exhibition of Ronald Stennett-Willson's designs add to people's understanding of Wedgwood glass?

Seeing all the shapes and colours together for the first time will help with an understanding of the designs. Seeing pieces in isolation never really has the same impact. We will also reproduce some original catalogue pages, which further add to the understanding of the designs and where they fit in modern glass design.

What will happen to the collection after the exhibition?

I will continue to add to it. After King's Lynn the collection will be exhibited at Broadfield House glass museum.

In your view what will distinguish the next big collecting area in glass?

I have worked on Geoffrey Baxter (Whitefriars) and Ronald Stennett-Willson (Wuidart, Lemington, Lynn and Wedgwood) for many years. My focus is now on Frank Thrower (Dartington), Michael Harris (Mdina and Isle of Wight), Domhnall O'Broin (Caithness) and Robert Goodden (Chance glass). All these British companies had great designers and the glass is still widely available.

What advice would you give to a would-be collector?

Buy ahead of the market, i.e. things that are thought of as uninteresting. Buy the larger pieces and go for quality. Buy what is readily available and study what you are buying. Try to buy glass which has been featured in publications of the time such as journals and magazines which confirm the factory of origin, date and designer. Above all, buy what you like.

Lastly, who would you choose as the great British glass designers of the twentieth century?

I'd have to go with Keith Murray, Geoffrey Baxter and Ronald Stennett-Willson.

Our thanks to Graham for being the first exhibitor interviewed and for sharing with us his own areas of interest in the collecting field.

 

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