A View of Whitefriars - Apprentice to Gaffer Whitefriars Ray Annenberg - Master of Glass
In 1953 and having just turned 16 years of age, Ray joined the whitefriars factory as a "spare boy" with a view to working hard and learning his trade in glass-blowing.
Working his way up through the ranks wasn't going to be easy at the world renowned glass factory, but Ray was determined and eager to work and learn, and prove himself.
The following year in 1954 young Ray's efforts had not gone un-noticed and he was promoted to work as "leading boy" for the talented and highly respected Frank Hill.
This was to be the first step in an education which would see Ray work under three of the finest glass animal blowers of the 20th century, receiving the most illustrious education in the art of creating glass animal paperweights with personality, style, and strong cutting edge design.
Frank Hill was widely regarded as one of the best of his time when it came to hand-made glass, most famous for his stunning swans. Ray was hugely inspired by Frank Hill's working of the swans and Ray described the way Frank physically worked the glass as "effortless".
Ray famously said he loved working at Whitefriars so much that he would often spend the weekends looking forward to going back to work on a monday morning!
Ray's next post at Whitefriars was to become the "leading boy" for Harry Dyer. Harry Dyer was the creator of the very rare and stunning "Early ducks" Whitefriars produced and was a master at injecting personality into solid glass paperweights.
Harry Dyers animals had evolved from Frank Hills swans and were made with less classical lines and had a more semi-abstract look, set off with beautifully controlled bubbles, while still retaining a certain elegance. Ray learned a lot working with the new styles and techniques of Harry Dyer.
Ray was also lucky to have had the opportunity to watch the highly regarded Vicente Boffo make his penguins in the early sixties.
Ray then went on to work under Ronnie Wilkinson. Ronnie Wilkinson had changed Harry Dyers duck designs into a more retro statement, with a bolder more geometric design, more contemporary and less elegant. It was more abstract and less classical.
Ronnies ducks had excellent geometry giving better balance and symmetry and a much more modern look than had previously been seen before. Ray described the variation in Ronnie Wilkinsons style of working the glass, to what he had been used to before, as much more aggressive. Preferring brute force to the silky flow of his predecessors.
By this time Ray was now working on his own initiative, and highly regarded in his own right.
By now Ray had benefitted from the opportunity to work very closely with all three of the very best glass animal paperweight designers produced by Whitefriars glass (arguably the best of the 20th century), and had soaked up all thier experience like a sponge, and he was loving it.
With such a stunning resume of mentors behind him Rays own talents flourished and he went on to become one of the very best glass blowers ever to come out of the Whitefriars glass factory, and was promoted to the very highest position of "Gaffer" in 1971, where he would be responsible for blowing the most important designs.
However the pinnacle of Rays work was yet to come....... in the pieces he designed.
Like the very best designs they were a creation of love, and made for his children.
Ray designed several small animals in his spare time which he gave to his sons and daughters, and later his grand-children.
These were stunning designs, of an abstract nature, bold and futuristic, with meticulously perfect controlled bubbles, and bursting with character and personality.
They were highly innovative and quite unlike anything seen before them. They were a huge hit and everybody was asking Ray if he would make one for them too, to which he always obliged as was his very giving and caring nature.
They were the ultimate design, encompassing everything Ray had learned from each of his illustrious predecessors in over 25 years at the whitefriars factory. With the creation of Rays owl and penguin designs, Whitefriars animals had now gone full swing - from classical design, to semi abstract, to retro, and now............ ultra-modern perfection.
Geoffrey Baxter recognised the superb quality of Rays futuristic animal designs and the penguin and the owl were set to go straight into the next Whitefriars catalogue and be made more readily available for sale to the public.
Unfortunately they never made it, as the factory ceased trading and closed before the new catalogues were released.
Ray's animal designs have remained somewhat of a hidden gem amongst specialist collectors ever since. There has been little or no information made readily available to new prospective collectors or the wider glass collecting community, and very little promotion to the general public.
Rays animals were only made in very limited numbers and are extremely rare.
In our opinion Ray's animals were the very pinnacle of over 300 years of glass production at the whitefriars factory, encompassing the best elements of all that went before them, and put simply, they are the best glass animal designs ever produced.
These animals are red-hot investments for the future and the ultimate in 20th century glass design.