09:02 Friday 19 April 2013

Number one volunteer for the Black Country's new heritage attraction

Malcolm Andrews, 70, has been named number one volunteer at the new Webb Corbett Visitor Centre after a relationship with the glass making site spanning 67 years.

Malcolm first visited the site, which was once home to the glass greats of Webb Corbett and Royal Doulton, when he was 3 years old. He was taken to visit his father who himself worked in the glass industry for 50 years.

Malcolm started working for Webb Corbett in December of 1957 at the ages of 15 years old progressing through the hierarchy of the glassmaking teams, under the mentorship of well known glass industry figure Frank Austin, until he was the youngest employee of Webb Corbett to have his own glassmaking chair whilst still only in his mid twenties.

1Malcolm Andrews giving a talk to pupils from Crestwood Primary
1Malcolm Andrews giving a talk to pupils from Crestwood Primary

On Frank Austin’s planned retirement Malcolm took over the role of Chief Glassmaker while he was still only in his twenties.  Malcolm remained as Chief Glassmaker at the factory until he left in 1988.  Malcolm went on to lecture in glass at the then International Glass Centre in Brierley Hill that was part of Dudley College.  Some of the artists that are in business across Stourbridge’s Glass Quarter were taught by Malcolm, including Ruskin Glass Centre’s Stephen Foster; "Malcolm Andrews (Andy), top man, top teacher, always got a smile and a story to tell. I have met many past students from the international Glass Centre, everyone has nothing but praise for the Black Country Master glass maker.  I studied under Malcolm in 1997 where he taught me many skills but unfortunately I did not have the dexterity to apply them, but somehow he planted the seeds deep in my mind. After college my dexterity improved and I would suddenly, sub consciously find myself doing things with the glass that I could not do as a student, It is as though Malcolm was still there teaching me long after I had left the I.G.C. It was a joy and privilege to have been taught by a master yet a humble man who knew his skill so profoundly."

After 10 years of service to the college helping train the glass makers of tomorrow, many of which were employees of Webb Corbett and subsequently Royal Doulton, Malcolm was approached to go and work at Gozo Glass in Malta to train the young workforce to improve their glass techniques.  Malcolm spent the following 3 years travelling back and forth from Malta where the quality of the glass had improved considerably.


Malcolm and his brother in law John James at a recent volunteer recruitment evening
Malcolm and his brother in law John James at a recent volunteer recruitment evening

After a short break Malcolm went on to work at Travel West Midlands as a Delivery Driver and Garage Worker until retiring in 2008.

Since retirement Malcolm has kept busy with demonstration glass making and supporting local events.  Malcolm also presented the award for ‘Best in Show’ at the 2012 British Glass Biennale.

Malcolm is never one to let the grass grow under his feet and is now a volunteer at the new Webb Corbett Visitor Centre (Open 10:00am – 3:00pm, Tuesday to Saturday), based on the same site as the Ruskin Glass Centre.  He is on hand to provide insightful tours around the Centre and to answer any questions from visitors.

When asked about why he enjoys his role as a volunteer he said; "I just love sharing my knowledge and memories after having a relationship with the site for so many years.  I feel that it is my role to help preserve the Heritage of Stourbridge glass production and surrounded by this collection of glassmaking artefacts, it is like I have never left the factory.  I really enjoy talking to visitors and try to bring the exhibits to life.  It’s like I’ve never really left!"

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