Mike Hunter of Twists Glass Studio in Selkirk, Scotland, began his love affair with glass as a small boy, gazing with fascination at the colourful, magical twists contained in the marbles he played with. Later, as a 17-year-old apprentice with Wedgwood Glass of Kings Lynn, Norfolk, he remembers asking the master glassblowers how the intricately designed glasses he had seen at the museums were made. None of them could tell him.
It struck him then just how many skills of the 18thcentury were being lost as more and more machines were introduced to glassmaking, and he determined right then to figure out how they were made and to see if he could learn the techniques himself. On many trips to the museum, without being able to pick up the glasses, he peered into the display cabinets and took notes. After seven years of trial and error at the factory during his lunch breaks, he succeeded in perfecting a technique of embedding coloured glass canes and air into the stems of glassware – a technique not used commercially since Victorian times.
After spending 11 years with Wedgwood, training under master glassblowers from the UK, Italy, Austria, Germany and Scandinavia, and attaining the position of master glass blower and coloured animal maker, he moved to Wales to work for Welsh Royal Crystal as a trainee stem maker. By the time he left Wales, he had mastered many technical disciplines, including designing, reproducing antique glass for museums, free-blowing and stem-forming techniques to production standards, including air-twists, incised twists, cane and straw stems. Already, he had started to practice the Venetian “vetro” technique that was to become his specialty. During this time, he studied and successfully completed the Open Learning Course in Glass Manufacturing.
He then moved to Perthshire Paperweights in Crieff, Scotland, where he was employed for a short time free-blowing with millefiori cane. It was here that he began the note taking that would provide the basis for his Manuscript on Glassmaking Techniques. But then, “…with only the studio movement left to learn techniques, I moved to Lindean Mill in Scotland, where I was employed as production master for stemware.” After three years, he took time out to complete his Manuscript. During this period, in 1994, he achieved recognition for his designs by the Queen's Warrant Holders Association and The Society of Glass Technology. Following the two-year break, he returned to Lindean Mill for a further three years, before achieving his dream of opening up his own studio.
At Twists Studio Glass, Mike produces designs with cane-working techniques, creating traditional contemporary glassware styles based on the designs of 16th and 17th century Venice and 18th century England. He created his flagship technique of “vetro”, the Italian for glass, which demonstrates the combination of his natural talent for design with the highest level of technical skill. The result is a vast array of colour in design that speaks of his unique relationship with glass; the glass on the blowing iron becomes one with Mike as, with a sense of ease and speed, the molten glass is commanded into form– his “vetro”.