The Mastermind Trophy
Denis Mann Glass

From school to full-time glass engraver. A potted history of an engraver


I was born in Ballinluig, Perthshire and went to school at Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy. After Art College in Edinburgh I had a spell in the Royal Air Force (not by choice) before becoming an art teacher  in Stirlingshire . Becoming disillusioned with the red-tape attached to teaching and wondering what had happened to the hopes and dreams of my Art School days I elected to join Caithness Glass in December 1970 as an artist engraver/designer.


Caithness Glass and Mastermind.

When I arrived that summer in Wick to talk terms with CG, Bill Wright, the originator of Mastermind, was visiting the factory. Little did I realise the importance his visit would have for me!


The next year I designed several glass shapes for CG, primarily with the idea of these being used as vehicles for copper wheel engraving. It was one of these shapes I used when I engraved the very first Mastermind Trophy the same year.


Bill was in Caithness that summer filming Jimmy Saville on one of his Land’s End to John O’ Groats expeditions. As it turned out, Bill was already planning the Mastermind programme and was to hoping to find something different and new for a trophy. In copper wheel engraved glass he found what he was looking for. His choice of subject for the trophy was the Muses” from Greek mythology; those mythical beings credited with inspiring humans in the “Arts”. Over the years (with only one or two exceptions) I have stuck with Bill’s original choice.


Life after Caithness Glass


When Mastermind came to an “end” Caithness Glass decided they did not want an artist/ engraver anymore and we parted company. No surprise though, as for some time CG had concentrated on producing “ high volume, low cost”. In the end it lead the company to bankruptcy.  When CG and I parted I went freelance and also became very much involved with setting up North Lands Creative Glass. Mastermind did not die though, and for two years Discovery Channel who now ran the programme asked me to continue engraving the bowl. Caithness Glass was not pleased! Then of course the BBC took over the programme again and I’ve been engraving it ever since. This year I will be running a blog to tell the story of the designing and engraving the bowl.


Mastermind is a commissioned piece: the work I make for exhibitions, galleries etc. can be found elsewhere on this site.

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For Denis Mann’s blog on making the Mastermind Trophy 2011 click HERE.