Bonne Maman

Bonne Maman, engraved jam jar, tooth, pound coin. 2013

Apologies for not posting since September, but I have been head down in the studio working on a new body of work courtesy of winning the Adrian Henri Poetry in Art Prize. Apart from being a huge boost to morale, the award has enabled me to buy a new kiln, sand blaster and grinder and has given me 5 months in my studio.

Birth Of The Simple Light, painted fused glass 20 x 23 x 2.5cm

Birth Of The Simple Light, painted fused glass 20 x 23 x 2.5cm

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River Day, fused painted glass, 12 x 14 x 1.5

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Strand, fused, painted glass, 12 x 14.4 x 1.5cm

Calm Light, Fused painted glass, 20 x 20 x 2cm

Calm Light, Fused painted glass, 20 x 20 x 2cm

Apart from this I have been working on a window for Skokholm Island with Rachel Phillips. We will be installing the window at Easter in time for a grand opening of the Island Bird Observatory at the end of April. I would love to develop some of my Skokholm ideas more fully and am currently researching the feasibility of undertaking a more in-depth project on the island.

Skokholm window in progress.

Skokholm window in progress.

I continue to develop my work with children and recently worked with pupils of Ysgol y Frenni in Crymych. I am committed to the value of drawing as a learning tool. The importance of offering creative observational experiences was brought home to me recently when a primary school teacher told me how she has noticed in the last five years that increasing numbers of children are coming into school unable to actually look at anything that is not moving on a screen in front of them.

Drawing the Preseli Hills with pupils from Ysgol y Frenni, Crymych.

Drawing the Preseli Hills with pupils from Ysgol y Frenni, Crymych.

This year the gallery will be open by arrangement to enable me to devote more time to developing new work. If you would like to visit please email me or phone to make an appointment.

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Courtesy of a Continuing Professional Development Award from the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and support from the Arts Council of Wales, this week I am up in Caithness at North Lands Glass Centre on a masterclass with Australian glass artist, Deborah Cocks. Deborah is a glass painter who works mostly on blown glass forms.

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The masterclass gives me the chance to immerse myself in glass painting for 8 days and learn from Debs and the other students approaches to the materials. This is the first time I have used paint in relation to a 3d form so there is plenty to think about!

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I am experimenting with engraving and layering text and paint in new ways, inspired, as always by history, the land and the human shaping of it.

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For me this is an opportunity to prepare for an intensive time in my studio this autumn and winter when I have carved out five months to concentrate on my own work funded by the Adrian Henri Poetry in Art Prize which I won earlier this year.

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Since getting back from my travels in America and Greece I have been working on completing a project working with eleven educationally challenged boys in a local primary school to make a window for their school.

This has been a fantastic project, the boys have taught me the potential of using tools as a way in to accessing creativity and learning and have reminded me how important hands-on approach is in helping to open up opportunities for people. The children have benefited in so many ways from our project, through working with glass they have built up a new sense of self-estime and pride in their achievements which they are carrying forward into other areas of their lives.

Damian Walford-Davies, friend, poet and writer  came in and worked with me to facilitate the boys, all of whom have acute literacy problems, generating some bilingual text for the work.
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At the same time, courtesy of my Adrian Henri Poetry in Art Prize and a subsidy from the Local Investment Fund, in preparation for an intensive studio working time this winter, I have been upgrading my studio equipment with a new kiln, flat-lap grinder and sand-blaster.

Thanks to a Continuing Professional Development Award from the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and support from the Welsh Arts Council, I am about to go to North Lands Glass in Caithness for a masterclass with Australian glass artist, Deborah Cocks. The masterclass will be a great opportunity to prepare for my winter studio time. I will be attending the annual conference there as well and renewing my contacts with this fabulous centre of excellence – I can’t wait!

Michael Roger's Studio

Michael Roger’s Studio

After an intense time at Corning, Michael Rogers took me to stay at his home near Rochester in New York State. Michael’s studio is an amazing Aladdin’s cave of inspirations and it was a real privilege to be there. Michael’s wife, Bette, is a textile artist and I loved spending time with her in her den of colour.

Bette Roger's Studio

Bette Roger’s Studio

Michael also introduced me to the high culture of New York State in the antiques malls of the area. Here I found much inspiration for a project I am developing about heritage and nostalgia – perfect!

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From Rochester I headed to New York, where my old college buddy, Alun Williams now runs a gallery in Brooklyn called Parker’s Box.

Alun showing me some work in the archives of Parker's Box Gallery.

Alun showing me some work in the archives of Parker’s Box Gallery.

Alun and his wife, Claire Lesteven, a photographer, kindly offered me accomodation in the artists studio at Parker’s Box and introduced me to a number of artists including Claire Lieberman, an artist who works in glass. Claire showed me around her studio in South Brooklyn and talked to me about her work.

Claire Lieberman holding one of her glass "guns".

Claire Lieberman holding one of her glass “guns”.

While I was in New York I visited Joseph Cavalieri, a very inspirational and generous person who treated me to a tour of his Manhattan flat and studio before taking out to dinner at a local restaurant, His work is truly amazing and I sincerely hope we can encourage him to come to Wales before too long.

Work by Joseph Cavalieri, part of a series about strong women.

Work by Joseph Cavalieri, part of a series about strong women.

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Detail of Joseph’s studio.

I also visited the studio of Mary Clerkin Higgins who was the programme manager for the Florida Conference. Mary’s studio is at the north end of Brooklyn and she undertakes major restoration projects, often for American Universities which have impressive collections of historic european stained glass. While I was there her and her team were working on a 13th Century panel from Canterbury Cathedral and a 15th Century and some 16th Century panels from The Netherlands and Germany as well as aTiffany panel. It was fascinating to see the panels dismantelled on the bench and to begin to understand how they were put together.

Detail of a 13th Century panel from Canterbury Cathedral under restoration at Mary Clerkin Higgins' studio, Brooklyn.

Detail of a 13th Century panel from Canterbury Cathedral under restoration at Mary Clerkin Higgins’ studio, Brooklyn.

Marie Foucault Phipps and Takuji Hamanaka at work restoring stained glass panels in Mary's Studio.

Marie Foucault Phipps and Takuji Hamanaka at work restoring stained glass panels in Mary’s Studio.

Another person I met at the Florida conference was Drew Anderson, glass conservator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Drew kindy took me on a tour of the bowels of the Met, showing me all the art work which was under restoration. It was fascinating, terrifying and intriguing all at the same time, to be so close to ancient and modern treasures which you normally only see through a glass case.

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I went to see an exhibition of fabulous glass paintings by Judith Schaechter at Clare Oliver Gallery. These works entitled ‘The Battle of Carnival and Lent’, were produced for an installation at Eastern State Penitentiary. They are an excruciating celebration of the human spirit and are truly remarkable examples of contemporary glass painting.

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Following on from this show I investigated some of the commercial galleries in the area and came across a fabulous show by Tracie Emin.

Piece by Tracie Emin.

Piece by Tracie Emin.

I also paid a visit to Jane Bruce who was the facilitator of the international symposium I attended last year in Caithness. It was lovely to see a tiny painting I gave her next to a photo of my collaboration with Emma Woffenden in her apartment! It was lovely to catch up with each other and talk about our ideas over supper in a Manhattan restaurant.

Jane Bruce on the balcony of her Manhattan flat.

Jane Bruce on the balcony of her Manhattan flat.

In New York I spent half a day at the Museum of Modern Art. I was especially interested in the Robert Rauschenberg pieces there and collages by Ellsworth Kelly. I also enjoyed visiting the children’s zone for ideas and inspirations about how to involve children in museum collections.

Children's learning centre, MOMA

Children’s learning centre, MOMA

'Canyon' by Robert Rauschenberg at MOMA

‘Canyon’ by Robert Rauschenberg at MOMA

Finally I went out to New Jersey to visit an inspirational project called Glass Roots which works with disaffected young people in the area and uses glass as a means of enabling them to transform their lives. Glass Roots is a charity which runs workshops and internship programmes to help young people to develop creatively, start their own businesses or go on to further education. It was a pleasure to meet some of the youngsters who have benefitted from their schemes.

Glass Roots in New Jersey.

Glass Roots in New Jersey.

All in all, my visit to the States was a very intense and hectic 3 weeks. It was a fabulous introduction to the country and to the art scene on the East Coast and I have formed friendships and bonds which I am sure will bear fruit in future collaborations and projects. I will be giving a talk about my trip, if you are interested in attending please let me know.

Glass sample panel I made for my Florida workshop.

Glass sample panel I made for my Florida workshop.

I am writing this from the US where I am travelling around meeting artists and seeing galleries and artwork. This is my first visit to America and I am very grateful to Wales Arts International for funding the trip. My first port of call was St. Augustine in Florida where I was giving a paper and a workshop related to the Conwy Castle Commission I completed last year with Rachel Phillips to the American Glass Guild Conference. Both the workshop and the talk were very well received. Many people told me they felt inspired and excited by our work. Quite a few artists expressed an interest in coming to Wales to visit.

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Dalle de Verre window by Jean-Jacques Duval in the Mission Church, St Augustine

The conference gave me the chance to get to know delegates and speakers from all over the US. In particular I was inspired by the work of Jean-Jacques Duval, Sasha Zhitneva, Joseph Cavalieri, Ken Leap and Linda Lichtman, all of whom have invited me to visit their studios and some of whom are interested in discussing future collaborations. I met many fantastic stained glass artists like Mary Clerkin Higgins who has invited me to her studio in New York next week where I will get to see a 13th Century panel from Canterbury Cathedral which she is restoring! The conference was a fantastic opportunity to find out what is going on in glass painting across the US, and I have formed some friendships which I am sure will blossom.

Jackie O Series by Joseph Cavalieri

Jackie O Series by Joseph Cavalieri

The Conference was held in St Augustine, Florida. St Augustine boasts the oldest western habitation in the entire US and so is a magnet for tourists on the heritage trail. This in turn begets some fabulous kitsch, which was inspiring in its own way.

A shop display in St Augustine.

A shop display in St Augustine.

I learned a lot by looking at the glass on show in St Augustine, visiting the churches and museums and by talking to other artists.

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Detail of a window from Trinity Church St Augustine.

After the conference we went to the Morse Museum which houses a fantastic collection of work by the late 19th Century designer, Louis Comfort Tiffany. I was amazed by the Tiffany work, his approach to stained glass and painting was very different to anything I have seen before. He layered up the colours and used cast and facetted jewels in the work, making panels where the thickness of glass varied considerably and fine modulation of light and subtle variations of colour resulted in stunning visual effects. The means of production was pretty interesting as well, he employed 1000′s of people, all his designers were women and a condition of employment was that they were not allowed to marry. The glass makers were men, who, of course had no such restrictions!!

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I am now in Corning at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York State. This is a fabulous collection of glass from ancient Egyptian to modern day and I am revelling in the opportunity to dip my toe into the collection. So far I have spent a day drawing in the ancient glass gallery and meeting with the artists in residence, Scott Benefield and Charlie Stern. Scott and Charlie are both here for a month and are each working on their own project. Charlie is inspired by fragments of glass in the Corning collection and is researching ways of using 3d  printing to create ceramic moulds which can be used to create blown forms.

Scott is inspired by the use of cane, murrine and traditional Venetian decorative techniques used in glass blowing and is researching a book about the application of these techniques in contemporary applied art. Having stripped away colour, he is concentrating on blowing forms with intricate white cane work and I had the opportunity to watch him at work yesterday. I love the way he uses this complex traditional technique to make a simple contemporary form…the transformative quality of glass blowing and its immediacy is endlessly fascinating.

White cane work pieces.

White cane work pieces made by Scott.

Scott rolling up a flat sheet of cane work elements.

Scott rolling up a flat sheet of cane work elements.

Initial blown form.

Initial blown form.

Expanding the form.

Expanding the form.

Final piece on the way to the annealing kiln.

Final piece on the way to the annealing kiln.

 

 

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Her House is Air, cast, blown and engraved glass, peregrine falcon feather and pen nib.

Photo by Toril Brancher

I am delighted to announce that I have just won the inaugural £10,000 Adrian Henri Poetry in Art Prize at Much Wenlock Poetry Festival for my piece, Her House Is Air.

I will be spending my prize money buying a new kiln and other studio equipment and giving myself some time this autumn to develop new work in my studio.

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I am just back from Skokholm Island off the Pembrokeshire Coast where I have spent a week developing ideas for new work. I went with Rachel Phillips, Rachel and I are designing a stained glass window for the island and spent the week sketching, absorbing the place and delving through old bird books and scientific data in the library, which the wardens kindly allowed us to use as our studio.

Skokholm is the neighbouring island to Skomer and is an island I have visited over the past 20 years, it has recently been purchased by the Wildlife Trust south and West Wales and will soon be re-established as a bird observatory for the monitoring and recording of bird life. It is exciting to see it with its newly restored accommodation (there is now electricity and even occassional wifi!), most of the considerable renovation work has been carried out on a shoestring with volunteer labour. The new wardens, Richard and Giselle, will soon be taking up residence in the lighthouse. If you are interested in birds, take a look at their blog.

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The lighthouse on Skokholm.

There is so much that inspires me about the Pembrokeshire Islands, they have everything that grabs my imagination, including birds, research, archaeology, history, dramatic weather, isolation…ImageI have come back to my mainland studio with masses of ideas and inspiration for new work.

ImageA sample piece for Skokholm Island.

I have been busy preparing for my trip to the US in May. I will be giving a paper about our Conwy Castle windows and running a glass workshop for the American Glass Guild Conference in Florida, then going to the National Glass Museum at Corning and on to New York.

ImageA sample piece for my US workshop.

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We have been treated to some superb snow this month.

The past few months has been a busy time for teaching. I have done a number of glass projects in local primary schools. I love this work, it is so inspiring to work with children and get them enthused about glass!

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One particularly inspiring project was to make 2 bowls with kids at Ysgol y Frenni on the theme of “patterns in the environment” (or “patrymau  yr ymgylchedd” as the entire project was undertaken through the medium of Welsh!).

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I designed this as a patchwork of glass so that each child could work on their own design and then we could put them together to make a group piece. The bowls will be entered in the Urdd Eisteddfod in May.

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In another project we made fused glass jewellery on the same theme.

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The kids were so enthusiastic, they said it was their favourite day at school  EVER!!

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Rachel and I have just run a “Landscape into Glass” 4 day course at my studio here in Pembrokeshire. We were teaching our students mark-making and layering techniques and ways of working with firing paint, silver stain and frits in combination with pieces of Bullseye glass. We are planning another course for later in the year.

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Sue Thorne mark making with firing paint

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Cathryn Shilling decorating her “embryos” with silver stain

We had a couple of field trips to absorb the landscape and to visit local artists studios, like that of ceramicist, Adam Buick and glass artist, Steve Robinson. The course was very successful and we are planning another for next year.

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At Adam Buick’s studio, St. Davids

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Frances Arkle at Steve Robinson’s studio, St. Davids

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Visiting Carreg Coetan, a Neolithic burial chamber in Newport.

Apart from that I have been developing some new work in the studio looking at taking painting into glass. Sarah Harman and I have been working on our quarry project, having meetings with the National Park and technical specialists to help us hone down our ideas and firm up our budget so that we can apply for funding to make and present the work in 2014.

I have just heard that I have been successful in my funding bid to Wales Arts International for support to attend the American Glass Guild Conference in Florida in May where I have been asked to give a paper and run a workshop. I am planning a trip that includes visiting glass artist friends, Jane Bruce and Michael Rogers and spending time at Corning Museum of Glass and in New York. It will be a very inspiring trip, my first time in America, and a total contrast to life in rural West Wales!

Brooklyn Bridge

Newport Bridge, Pembrokeshire

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