It has been a busy few years at Cumbria Crystal.

Since managing director Chris Blade joined the luxury glass producer – based at Ulverston’s Canal Head – it has been on a drive to explore new markets and products.

“We’ve seen a doubling of our turnover and tripling of our gross margins, that is the number one thing,” said Chris, who joined the firm in May 2015.

“By focusing on producing the highest quality crystal and charging what we need to charge for it to make a reasonable living, that’s where the difference is.

“I will not engage with people who just want a bargain. We are being a lot more selective about who we produce crystal for.

“If we hadn’t started to modernise our way of doing business then I would say we would have disappeared a few years ago.

“A business is like riding a bicycle. As soon as you stop you fall over.”

Chris worked closely with Be the Business, an independent organisation designed to help firms increase their productivity.

This involved him taking part in Lancaster University Management School’s 12-month Productivity Through People course and setting staff the challenge of finding a “one per cent improvement” in the way they worked each month.

One of the most important business relationships the firm has is with luxury car maker Bentley.

“We have developed a fantastic working relationship with them,” said Chris.

“They say that for crystal we are their number one choice. For a huge company like Bentley to really embrace a small company such as ours is phenomenal.”

In 2017, Cumbria Crystal was awarded an exclusive contract by Bentley to produce luxury crystal champagne flutes for the new Bentayga Mulliner.

It also made crystal for the launch of the Continental GT and tumbler and decanter sets for the limited edition WO Mulsanne.

Most recently, it developed the crystal elements for Bentley’s Exp 100 GT concept, unveiled in July.

The car features artificial intelligence, which changes the environment inside to fit the mood of the driver and passengers, housed in a glass sculpture made by Cumbria Crystal.

“It has a very specific purpose, but it is very sculptural,” said Chris.

“It’s the beginning of a journey to actually bring about the realisation of that car.

“They have given me very strong indications they wish to work with us to help develop that.”

Cumbria Crystal’s products have also become regular props in films including Freddy Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, World War Two drama Darkest Hour and the recent Downton Abbey movie.

Its traditional Grasmere range of tableware was already a regular feature of the small screen version of the period drama.

And just as Downton Abbey has proved a hit with American audiences, so has Cumbria Crystal.

Recently, it signed its first overseas distribution agreement in the country.

“It’s crazy to try and support a business like this, producing luxury goods in a pressurised market, by relying on UK custom,” said Chris.

“Going international has to be the way to go.

“We believe that can have a very significant impact, particularly with the popularity of things like Downton Abbey,” said Chris.

“I believe particularly with the weakness of the pound at the moment, we should be very attractive internationally. I believe we have a fantastic opportunity.”

Most of the export which the company does happens via web sales, with about five per cent of its total sales coming from overseas.

Its work to sell products overseas sits alongside the development of new ranges to appeal to younger demographics.

“We have been working every year for the last three years now with students who are doing MAs and PhDs from the Royal College of Art,” said Chris.

“We are running an annual programme where we bring their students up and we teach them how to cut and work with glass. They can then go away and design products and if they are suitable for us, we will look to put those products into production.”

One such product that is being released in America is the Luna gin glass, designed by the award-winning Joshua Kerley.

Alongside it are also ranges named Loop, Palm and Boogie Woogie.

Chris said: “Crystal is definitely coming back into vogue, a lot of trendy wine bars are serving drinks in cut crystal. I want to capitalise on that.”

Alongside the release of the Downton Abbey film, two cocktail recipe books have also been published, with many of the drinks photographed in Cumbria Crystal products.

Chris said: “All of that is targeting the millennial market. By expanding our portfolio and choice we are embracing a wider demographic.

“People are still buying into the heritage and quality but looking for something different.”