Glass Blower and Sculptor

John Martin
John Martin moved to Cornwall from Bristol in the early 1970s. Over the next 20 years, he worked as a freelance glass sculptor from various workshops, studios and Craft Centres producing and selling his unique glass items.

John was my Dad. I spent many happy hours as a child hanging round his workshops, helping or hindering and watching marvellous creations being born in the flames, spellbound at the way the white hot molten glass rods could be stretched, squeezed, blown and pinched into designs straight fom his imagination. On several occasions I remember him undertaking hugely technical scale pieces, such as a glass model of a biplane which I believe was sold to the Brazilian Embassy. Or something.

The stupid, sad, frustrating thing is, because it was always about it never occurred to me to keep any of his work. When he died in the 1990s almost all of it was sold, scattered across the world. As I got older, I scoured the internet but could find nothing - the internet didn't exist in his lifetime, and I guess nobody had enough reason to put anything together later on. I gave up, and just lived with a nagging regret that I hadn't thought to keep or document more of his work.

Until now. Over the years I've managed to collate a few pieces from within the family, and decided to put a page online. At least if anyone else ever searches the internet they'll find something, even if not much. It's my hope, however unlikely, that people might get in touch with stories or photos of pieces that they might have, maybe even track down some of his major pieces. We'll see... but meanwhile, here's what I've got. Hope you enjoy it, and please, please get in touch if you can help add to the page.
Dave Martin, June 2017

John Martin
              glassblowing - Lands End, 1980s
Lands End Craft
John at Lands End in the 1980s. I helped out here in the holidays and learned a few basics - another gas torch for me to use is just out of shot to the left. On the shelves, you can see ships, unicorns, swans and... Cupid?
This building was Lands End Craft Centre in the 80s. Dad was right opposite the front door, facing out to sea. A fantastic place to work and sell. The photo is a bit later - it's no longer a Craft Centre and the track is a LOT better!

              fuschia by John Martin                                     Glass-blown rose by John Martin
John made a large variety of glass flowers - these are two he photographed himself. I'd guess these were 70s / early 80s from his studio at St. Buryan, deepest Cornwall. It really was the middle of nowhere - I can't imagine how his customers ever found him, but they managed it! He made and sold quite a few of these, all different, based on a blown glass bubble which he would then break and stretch to form the petals.

In my memory, Dad worked from a home studio at Treverven, a few miles outside St. Buryan, before getting another within the village. He also worked in a Craft Centre at Lelant Garden Centre near St. Ives, and finished up at Land's End which was probably his most lucrative spot.

Glass Diver and Memaid by John Martin
Glass Lobster Pots by John Martin
These two pieces are still in the family, both with a nautical theme.

Glass Cannon by John Martin
Glass Cannon by John Martin
Recently tracked down - Glass Cannon, about 10" long. He also made several horse and carriage pieces and even a few vintage cars.

Glass HMS Victory
              by John Martin
When I was in my teens, Dad came home with a box under his arm which turned out to be an airfix-type plastic scale model kit of HMS Victory.

I can't imagine how many hours it took for him to recreate the whole thing in glass, using the model as a templare. It stood perhaps 18" tall and was just incredible. I imagine this was the most complex thing he made, and was fixed in a glass case to protect it - it was enormously fragile with much of the rigging less than a millimetre in diameter. These photos were taken by him before he sold it and I wondered for many years what had happened to it.

The only piece I loved even more was his 'scrapheap'. I have a horrible feeling it was probably thrown out. It was roughly vase-shaped, perhaps a little over a foot across and was made of things that had gone wrong, all stuck together in a madly surreal three-dimensional sculpture - mermaids, cartwheels, unicorns, sea monsters and all sorts of other bits and pieces - the longer you stared at it, the more things you saw.

Earlier this year, I met the Victory again and was glad to see that my childhood memory hadn't exaggerated it's size or intricacy.
Scale Model
              of HMS Victory by John Martin

Most recently, a cousin unearthed this. It suprised me as I didn't know Dad had ever done anything in 2D. I wasn't even positive it was his, even though the design was similar to his 'Mousehole Mice'. He made hundreds of these, mostly sold via the souvenir shops in the area. Many had tails curled like springs, some played instruments, some rode bicycles - I recall they became quite famous in the area. But I'd never seen anything like this. It's authenticity was quickly proved beyond doubt by a signature on the back of the frame - nice one, Dad. I'm guessing it was made for a special occasion or perhaps an anniversary gift. I'll ask my Mum, bet she'll remember. Will keep you posted.

Until then, I'll keep looking and hoping for more. Thanks for visiting, I hope you've enjoyed this obscure little corner of the Web. And please, if you can add to the information and photos here, or you happen to be searching for info on John Martin's glass sculpture and stumble across this page, I'd love to hear from you.