Raising a glass on a window of opportunity

Glassmakers produce a wide variety of everyday essential objects, ranging from test-tubes to windows and even glass-fibre for insulation.

Depending on the product, you could be involved in:

industrial glassmaking – making large quantities of glass products, usually using computer-controlled machinery

craft work – designing and making products such as hand-blown glassware or stained glass in a small studio or workshop.

Your work would vary depending on which of the above you are involved in, but could include:

l using silica (sand), lime and soda as basic ingredients for windows and cheaper items

l using different additives to make different types of glass

l heating the ingredients with cullet (scrap glass) to very high temperatures at which they become liquid

l shaping the mixture by either glassblowing or by kiln forming

l carrying out processes such as cutting, grinding, toughening or laminating, depending on the product.

l applying decorative techniques such as engraving, sand or grit-blasting, stencilling and acid etching.

If you work in a craft studio or workshop you would usually be involved in the whole process of designing, making and decorating.

You would also sell your products directly from your studio or at craft fairs or through shops and galleries.

In industrial glassmaking, you would usually work up to 39 hours, Monday to Friday. If you are self-employed, you will decide your own working hours, depending on the amount of work you have.

You will work in a factory, studio or workshop and will need to wear goggles and protective clothing.

Salaries can start at around £14,000 a year. This can rise to £35,000 for senior, experienced staff.

Earnings for self-employed craft glassmakers vary depending on the amount of work they have.

You may find qualifications in science and art helpful to getting a job in glassmaking, although they are not essential.

In glass factories you would usually train on the job, working towards qualifications.

To be a craftsperson, you would need both technical skills and artistic ability. Many craft glassmakers have a degree or BTEC HND.

Whichever part of the industry you are employed in you will good hand-eye coordination, a good sense of colour, patience, accuracy and attention to detail, the ability to work as part of a team and good business skills if you choose to be self-employed.

You may be able to enter the glass industry through an Apprenticeship scheme, for which you would normally need four GCSEs (grades A-C).

As a glassmaker, it would be important to keep up to date with developments in technology and techniques for which you could attend professional development courses at studios and other organisations.