James Watts and Bill Rhodes grew up together in Southgate, North London.
James explains, "We met at school and have always done things together. We used to go to the park on our skates in our early teens and then to the pub in our late teens. We went on holidays together in our early twenties and lived together until we both got married; Bill in 1999 to Jane and Myself in 2000 to Josephine. We both have three children; two girls and a boy!"
Throughout this time, Bill and James have been glassblowers. After leaving school, James got a job as an assistant glassblower to the late Ron Wilkinson (the Head Glassmaker at the famous Whitefriars Glassworks until it closed) in Covent Garden, London.
Bill explains "We both fell in love with the craft. We built a small glass furnace in James's back garden and for the next few years we took our little furnace to local shows and events, in our spare time. It was a really exciting time in our lives." Glassblowing at these events really helped James and Bill to improve their glassmaking skills and their shows also got better. They were invited to demonstrate at venues included The Victoria & Albert Museum and Kew Gardens in London.
In 1996 they founded their own Glassworks where they produce their work to this day; Barleylands Glassworks in Billericay, Essex. Within a few years they were at the very top of their craft, specialising in antique silver and glass restoration and production. Commissions included the restoration of the antique lights outside Buckingham Palace and along The Mall.
In 2006 came Ashes into Glass with James and Bill reaching new levels in craftsmanship and design. Bill explains, “We really found our vocation with Ashes into Glass. Many clients told us how much comfort their memorials bought them and his gave us a great sense of purpose and satisfaction in our work.”
Demand for Ashes into Glass is ever increasing and James and Bill now employ administration staff and production assistants. However, they are very much hands-on in the production of each memorial and take a tight control in running the business.
James explains, “At the heart of our business is the commitment to our clients that they receive the very best products and the very best service. this commitment will not change.”
This is a short 8 minute film of James and Bill in earlier days, glassblowing in one of the greenhouses at Kew Gardens and making the lights for outside Buckingham Palace.
- Ashes into Glass - aims & values
- James and Bill have been providing Ashes into Glass since 2006. Click here to find out about their values and the level of service that they aim to deliver.