Glass vase with fish and seaweed design

Made 1913

This crystal glass vase features a fish design engraved by Frank Piggott Webb of Sydney in 1913. Webb came from England to Australia to demonstrate glass engraving at the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879-1880. He and his wife, Nina Alice Webb, a machine embroiderer, worked in several studios in Sydney between 1894 and 1923.

For many Australians in the nineteenth century, identity was defined by ‘somewhere else’: by other ideals, traditions and preferences, usually from their country of o...


Engraved crystal vase, fish design, free blown crystal glass, etched and engraved by Frank Piggott Webb, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1913, commissioned for the Museum by R.T Baker, featured in T.C Roughley's, 'Fishes of Australia and their Technology', 1916

Free blown crystal glass vase of conical shape tapering from flat base to out flaring rim. Acid etched and engraved design of a pair of sea mullet and an old wife fish swimming through four varieties of seaweed.


369 mm


Commissioned by the Sydney Technological Museum for the Fishes of Australia and their Technology display in the Museum in 1913. One of a pair (A1559).

Frank Piggott Webb came from England to demonstrate glass engraving at the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879. he and his wife Nina Alice Webb, a machine embroiderer, worked in several studios in Sydney between 1894 and 1923.

This vase was engraved by Frank Piggott Webb, of Sydney, in 1913. Frank Piggott Webb (1859-1942) is believed to have come to Australia from his family company in England, Thomas Webb & Sons, to demonstrate glass engraving in the firm's stand in the Garden Palace during the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879-80. In Australia he met Nina Alice Read, who used sewing machines for embroidery, and according to their grand-daughter Wendy Lowe, had been demonstrating the use of sewing machines in England, (including in a Queen Victoria Silver Jubilee exhibition in 1887, where she met the Singer Bros. from USA), before coming to Sydney in 1888. They married and after a brief return to England, settled in Sydney, where they had set up a city studio by 1894. Mrs Webb worked with embroidery and managed the business. Webb contributed engraved work to a number of international exhibitions (see file). According to Wendy Lowe, when they demonstrated, Mrs Webb would embroider a customer's initials in the corner of a handkerchief, and Webb would engrave names on hundreds of small glasses. From 1894-1923 Webb and his wife occupied a number of premises in the city (see file), before he retired to 69 Bond St Mosman in 1924, and from 1927 at 8 Lodge Road, Mosman, continuing to work on a casual basis until his death in 1942.
These tools are offered by Webb's grand-daughter, Wendy Lowe, on the occasion of the sale of this family home, in 1999.

Webb engraved glass in a range of themes: foliage, native flora and fauna, fish, birds, butterflies, mermaids, spiders in webs (a pun on his name), classic figures and stylised designs. He also augmented his glass work by engraving silver and gold, and repairing china and glass, and according to his grand-daughter, gaining regular income by engraving measurements on Corning measuring beakers. Initially the tools would have been foot-powered, but he also used an electric motor.

Webb is represented in the collection by a number of works including two large vases with engraved fish (commissioned by R.T Baker, and featuring in the book by T.C Roughley, 'Fishes of Australia and their Technology' 1916), tumblers decorated with flannel flower, waratah and wattle, two ruby cased vases with waterlilies, a goblet with parrots on a vine and a number of tumblers, all from around 1912-1913.

(Source: Annette Keenan 'Webb and Rider: two Sydney glass engravers', Newsletter, Australiana Society, 1/1981, p14-; and Annette Keenan, in 'A Companion to the Mint Collections', Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, 1982)
Owned by Frank Piggott Webb from around 1894 until 1942, and then in the possession of his family until the family home was sold in April 1999, and the items offered to the Museum by Webb's grand-daughter, Ms Wendy Lowe, on behalf of the family.


Purchased 1913
5 November, 1913

Cite this Object

Glass vase with fish and seaweed design 2017, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 November 2017, <>
{{cite web |url= |title=Glass vase with fish and seaweed design |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Store 2 at the Museums Discovery Centre.
Know more about this object?
Have a question about this object?