Art glass primarily refers to glass works of a more decorative than functional intent that are created by individual glass artists and/or their few assistants using small-scale furnaces in glass studios. While contemporary art glass is notable for the hand wrought aspect and individual creativity, vintage glass made prior to the 1960s can include factory-made glass artistry, produced by small teams of factory workers.
With machines taking over the production of utilitarian glass items in the nineteenth century, workers had the time to try their hands at more artistic creations. The modernistic movement in art also affected glass-making, with institutes like Corning in New York, the Bauhaus School in Germany, and the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague introducing glass-making courses with an emphasis on fine art training. As a result, glass artists began incorporating fine art effects in their work.
Companies like Lalique, Daum, Galle, Royal Leerdam Crystal and Kosta Boda in Europe, Tiffany's and Steuben's in the USA, and Hoya Crystal in Japan became renowned for their art glass production. Murano in Italy, with its long tradition of experimentation in glass, remained in the forefront and is generally considered the birthplace of the modern art glass movement, having inspired artists from around the world.
Glass artistry on the strictly individual level, however, didn't come about until the 1960s, with the studio glass movement taking off in the USA. American artists like Harvey Littleton, Dominic Labino, Marvin Lipofsky, Bill Boysen and Dale Chihuly created one-of-a-kind glass works using many different and novel techniques, and initiated glass programs at various US universities. The studio movement then went international. Many countries now have societies, grants and competitions to encourage upcoming glass artists and facilitate an exchange of ideas and methods.
Some of the main art glass making methods include glass-blowing, casting and fusing glass, free form glass-making, lampworking glass and pattern-molding glass. The different types of glass include stained glass, painted glass, etched glass, beveled glass, fusion glass, blown glass, leaded glass and cut glass.
Noted for their elegant forms, vivid colors and rich textures, fine art glass works cover a wide spectra of items - vases, jars, pitchers, decanters, bowls, goblets, cups, dishes, plates, tumblers, wine glasses, bottles, paper weights, candle holders, lighters, ashtrays, beads, jewelry, vanity items, figurines, sculptures, centerpieces, glass panels, mosaics and accent tiles – and make great additions to the home. Prices, depending on artist and complexity of design and make, vary from the affordable to the unbelievable, from a few hundred to several hundreds of thousands of US dollars.