Best of British: Rothschild & Bickers Handblown Glass Lighting…
My initial introduction to Rothschild & Bickers Lighting was at last years Crafted Exhibition, curated by Walpole at Somerset House (full report here). I was surprised to read in their literature how they are now one of only a handful of glassblowers left in the UK. So this is British design, and craftsmanship flying the flag. For this they should be celebrated. In times when manufacturing is moving further and further across the other side of the world, where prices to manufacturer, wire and package are minute in comparison to the UK, quality is often compromised. There are a couple of very well known European lighting brands who recently underwent restructuring. I know through industry friends that these new CEO’s are brought in to make savings in the production departments, manufacturing is moved abroad and six months down the line, returns start arriving back to them because the quality isn’t up to scratch. Paint starts chipping, and metals tarnish too quickly because they’re not treated correctly.
It’s a shame, because as a consumer you’ll forever lose faith in that brand. This is why we should support our country’s manufacturers who are committed to keeping their manufacturing in the UK. I was born in Somerset, the heart of Mulberry land, where all their designs were made by real artisans. I know, I went there, and saw all the generations of families who worked in these factories. Then a new CEO came in, and much of the production was moved abroad. Stitching loosened and hardware snapped. Now, slowly production has started coming back again to the West Country but then, the prices have also sky rocketed.
As a designer whenever I was faced with a client waving a page from AD saying, “find me this” or “See, I want you to replicate that!” I would look to my book of British craftsmen to help me. A corian kitchen table, fine, I know just the pro’s in Parsons Green, or a leather worker, yep, I know just the man, but lighting, it’s all so easy to go for the shinest option in Elle Decoration (don’t get me wrong I’m still after that Tony Duquette Sunburst pendant from Remains). For me, lighting in your home is the most important element. I love lighting. Hand made, bespoke, just for you kind of stuff.
Harking back to my work experience days as a teenager when my then mentor Kevin McCloud took me to a glassblowing factory where they were making these incredible light sculptures designed by Dale Chihuly commissioned by Liberty of London. I watched in awe the team who’s fast paced actions would create these incredible shapes with these scary old school dentist looking tools. It was amazign to watch the production of these incredible designs and understand the reasonings behind certain price points too. It will always allow me to explain to clients why pieces are priced as they are. Which brings me back to Rothschild & Bickers. Designed and made in England, and worthy of much praise. I’ve noticed their designs popping up in some commercial spaces across the UK, and wanted to share what I recently learned about their manufacturing process…
I met Mark briefly at this years designjunction (read all about that here). Based in Hertford, this workshop was founded by Victoria Rothschild and Mark Bickers in 2007. Each piece is hand crafted here in this studio using age-old techniques, done the traditional way. The furnace stays on 24/7 365 days a year where the glass is kept at 1120 degrees. All the cutting, grinding, polishing is undertaken in the cold workshop which is fully equipped with all the tools of the trade. Even in my impressive university workshops we were missing one of these departments. Shame, I might have been quite good at this.
The Glassblowers bench & tools…
Mark Bickers, above.
The assembly area below is where all the lights are finished to the clients’ specification (you can choose from 16 different glass colours). All metalwork, wiring, testing and packing is taken care of here. As you can see below, as all the lights are made to your order you can choose your flex colour and length, and option all the metal detailing to match your home.
The Pick N Mix Collection, below.
Follow Rothschild & Bickers on twitter at @RB_Glass
All images courtesy of Rothschild & Bickers.