Discover the magic of glass ships in bottles

Glass artist and researcher Dr Ayako Tani will reveal the magic and fast disappearing craft behind glass ships in bottles, and exquisite designs highly sought-after last century.

They will be featured in two one-off tours of her exhibition at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Dumbarton on Saturday 14 May.

Ayako will lead the 11am and 1pm hour-long tours of Glass Ships in Bottles to mark the closing weekend of the exhibition.

Tokyo-born Ayako, who has demonstrated glassblowing across the world and has been an artist in residence in China and the USA, will introduce visitors to the scientific glassblowing origins of glass ships in bottles as she shows them her vintage collection acquired over the duration of her research project and beyond.

Ayako, who completed a PHD in the subject and who is currently a scientific glassblower at the University of Glasgow, will also describe the inspiration behind her own glass artwork on display, the ‘City of Adelaide’, which was recently acquired by the Museum.

Visitors will then explore ‘Vessels in Memory’, Ayako’s oral history and art project featuring filmed conversations with former scientific glassblowers.

Announcing the tours, Nicola Scott Exhibition and Events Officer at the Scottish
Maritime Museum, said: ‘We’re thrilled Ayako can join us for two tours as this fascinating exhibition comes to a close.

‘These one-off tours will give visitors a wonderful and unique insight into the amazing art of glass ships in bottles and the sadly endangered craft of scientific glassblowing which she is such a passionate advocate of.

‘We have limited places so we urge everyone to book early and avoid disappointment.’

Dr Ayako Tani

The Glass Ships in Bottles exhibition, which closes on Sunday 15 May, tells a remarkable story of ingenuity.

Faced with redundancy following the decline of heavy industry in the 1970s, highly skilled scientific glassblowers in the UK combined their experience making laboratory apparatus in an open flame with artistic flair to create and sell glass ships in bottles.

A boom in demand ensued and, by the 1990s, tens of thousands of these intricate glass ships were in production. Sadly, growing popularity led to mass-production which, although successful at first, brought about a drop in quality. The craft finally disappeared from the UK in 2005 when the last manufacturer outsourced work to China.

The modern skill of scientific glassblowing, which is sometimes referred to as lampworking, began with the invention of robust Borosilicate glass in the 1880s.

Today, there are less than a hundred scientific glassblowers left in the UK and the skill is recognised as ‘Endangered’ by the Heritage Crafts Association.

Tickets to the Glass Ships in Bottles Artist Tour are priced £4.50. Booking is essential.

The tours take an hour and tickets also include entry to the full Museum which sits on the site of the famous Victorian William Denny and Brothers Shipyard and includes the world’s oldest surviving ship hull model experiment tank.

To book visit