Born in Stoke-on-Trent, during the 1970s she developed a distinctive body of work in bone china but is now best known for her work as a portrait sculptor in ceramics working on a large scale. She studied at the Royal College of Art (1968-1971) and went on to teach at Camberwell School of Art and Crafts and Portsmouth Polytechnic. She has since given up teaching to concentrate full-time on her artwork. In the early period, Barton created non-functional objects in bone china and white earthenware using factory techniques. She has experimented with various themes and surface treatments but her work is characterised by the depiction of the human figure. Her sculptured ceramics evoke a sense of timelessness and contemplation; she placed the figure in a sparse setting and finished with a textured surface achieved by sandblasting, or a network of crazing from raku or wood smoking. World affairs have inspired some pieces: the group of Janus heads (1992/1992) referred to the demise of Communism and a time when people looked both forward and backward. As Barton has become more concerned with the individual, she has turned to the people around her for inspiration. Many of her subjects are of close friends and fellow artists but she has also made sculptures of separate heads, faces and hands.
She completed a number of semi-relief sculptures that were exhibited in The Portrait Now, at the National Portrait Gallery in 1994, including portraits of Jean Muir and Glenda Jackson, and in 1997, the gallery held a major retrospective exhibition of her portraits. Although Glenys Barton has continued to work in clay and has explored the ground between the studio/industrial potter and the fine artist, her work is now firmly in the latter category. Her portraits evoke a strong sense of individual character while at the same time maintaining a quality of universal humanism. She created the ceramic sculptures of the actor Bill Nighy for the 2004 film ‘Enduring Love’.