I joined Perthshire Paperweights on the 8th of September 1975 after having been given the choice by the local employment agency that was paying my unemployment benefit to either get a job or go work temporarily on local farms harvesting potatoes. I took the “proper” job option and applied for a few different jobs before finally ending up at Perthshire. I originally went for an apprentice paperweight maker’s position but they had already been filled by the time I got there. The manager, Anton” Tony” Moravec, offered me a job as trainee Lampworker which, after showing me what that actually was, I accepted. My “tradesman was Angus Hutchison who to be honest was none too pleased to see me sitting in his chair when he returned from holiday 2 weeks later. He admitted to me a while later in our working relationship that he thought I had been hired to take his job. Once that was cleared up we got along a bit better and I started to learn the job quite quickly, to the point where I was given entire editions to make on my own. After a few years I started to get restless and wanted to do more of my own ideas rather than making other peoples designs all the time. It was at this point that John Deacons had decided to start up on his own and as we had worked together before; when he had designed new canes and Angus had refused to try them, he asked me to join him at Jay Glass as his Lampworker. This was in late 1978 / early 1979; the two jobs did overlap slightly for a short time it has to be said.
Jay Glass was a fun time; we worked hard both in glassmaking and building work as we pretty much built the workshop as we went along fulfilling orders. On hot days (we do sometimes get them over here), we would head off to the pub and return when the sun eased off to work late into the night until the orders were done. With John there was always the opportunity to try new things which added to the pleasure of working there. One major highlight was being invited over to the 1981 PCA convention in New York by Larry Selman to help promote our range that we did exclusively for him. It was an amazing experience to meet some of the best weight makers in the world all together in one place. Unfortunately Jay Glass was to have a short lifespan and for one reason or another it came to an end for me (and the rest of the workforce) on the 22nd of March 1983.
The next day I made use of the connections I had made in Caithness Glass to get a job there. Unfortunately they did not have a dedicated Lampwork department at the time so I had to take a position as a storeman. Eventually, after about 8 months, Colin Terris amongst others decided it was a waste of money to have trained Lampworker packing boxes so they instructed Stanley McNab the production manager to set up a room for a Lampwork department. This he did with some reluctance as he wanted to keep me in the stores, but he did set up the room and told me it would never take off and that I would still work in the stores for half the day. Within a month I was not only working fulltime as a Lampworker but had 3 assistants and we were having to work overtime to keep up with orders. This was at the same time that Willie Manson was still contracted to make weights for Caithness as well so it shows what a golden era for Lampwork it was. Throughout the (almost) 25 years that I worked for Caithness it was great to be able to have the freedom to design and make what I wanted to, from the very first relatively simple flat designs to the vastly more complicated 3-D ones ,especially the “one-offs” for special events and conventions. My Caithness career officially came to an end on the 31st of January 2008, although the last Lampwork I did for them was in December 2007.
I have had the pleasure to work with some of the most talented glassmakers around, from Peter McDougall and John Deacons, through Harry McKay to most latterly Shona Spittal. Harry and I worked together in all three glassworks and we exhibited for over 20 years together in the Scottish Glass Society’s annual exhibitions. After he unfortunately was made redundant in 2006 I asked Shona if she would encapsulate my Lampwork designs for me in 2007, this she was more than happy to do and we worked really well together. It was no surprise actually, as we had worked closely together on new designs for years because she was the maker allocated to the design and development team.
Since leaving Caithness I have been approached by people wishing to get some of my weights so I have hired studios to fulfil their requests. Various glassmakers have kindly agreed to work with me on these weights and although spare time is in short supply I do manage to get a few weights made each month.