It has been such an amazing 10 days at the International Festival of Glass that don’t know where to begin…
Firstly, I had four days in Wolverhampton doing a masterclass with Antoine Leperlier. Antoine is a French artist whose use of glass casting techniques derives from working with his grandfather,François Décorchemont, who, in turn had learned from his father, Emile Décorchemont (b.1850), who was studio assistant for Gerome. This depth of heritage resonates through his work. Glass is his language, and he uses the peculiar properties of glass to explore his primary themes which are an exploration of the human condition in relation to the fourth dimension, time.
Obviously, in four days you can not hope to learn so much, but the experience of working with Antoine and absorbing his seriousness of purpose was incredible.
In the evenings we attended various exhibitions and openings connected with the International Festival of Glass. A visit to the Glass Afloat show at Bodenham Arboretum was particularly memorable. It was fascinating to see how other glass artists have made work for a site specific external location. In particular I was impressed by Jacque Pavlosky’s piece made from cut glass found work. Jacque was a fellow student on Antoine’s course.
Following on from this masterclass, I went to Stourbridge to attend the International Festival of Glass. This event centres around the British Glass Biennale which showcases work from among the best in British studio glass.
Based at the Ruskin Glass Centre, an arts facility housed in a transformed glass factory, there were an amazing series of lectures, demonstrations and exhibitions. In particular I enjoyed lectures by Antoine and by American artist, Dick Marquis and by Lani McGregor who who talked about the history and development of the Bullseye Glass Factory in Portland Oregan who sponsored my recent Warm Glass Prize. I also enjoyed meeting Jo Newman, who has a studio at the Ruskin Centre, and seeing her subtle beautiful work. I had booked on an architectural glass symposium which was cancelled, so I booked an introduction to glass blowing with Martin Andrews instead.
I love working with hot glass and Martin took me through the basics. I had prepared some moulds and inclusions to work with so we ended up working late one night with Martin and his noble assistant, John, blowing pieces for me in exchange for my help manning the shop during the day! It was great to get to know Martin, and to have an insight into how to improve my mould making techniques for working with hot glass, hopefully this is the start of future collaborations!
I also had some ideas I wanted to try out about drawing with hot glass on paper, and I met KT Yun at the festival who has developed the Minimelt, a portable furnace. KT was happy to allow me to experiment with glass and paper and to begin to explore some new possibilities.
There were a number of evening events as part of the festival. The most spectacular was Torcher Tailor, orchestrated by Carrie Fertig, a glass friend from Edinburgh, and consisted of a glass wedding dress being fabricated on stage using torches and flameworked glass. The dress was made onto Jessica Mann, a young sculptor wearing a spun glass wig. At the end the audience was invited to come and put a rose or a thistle into one of the small glass vases which made up the skirt of the dress.
One of the most interesting and unexpected things for me to come out of being at the festival was to begin to get a feel for the origins of British Glass making as an industrial process in the Midlands 300 years ago. I went along to an opening at Dial Glass Works, home of Plowden and Thompson glass makers and discovered a factory built in 1788 and remaining very much unchanged since.
Before I left Stourbridge, I went back to Dial Glass Works and photographed and drew people working in the factory. It was incredible to be in this historic building which is still very much a functioning factory and to watch highly skilled craftsmen pulling 30 foot long perfectly straight and true glass rods for use in industry.
All in all I have had a great time and am very grateful to the Arts Council of Wales for sponsoring my attendance at the festival in the form of a training bursary.
Now I am back in Pembrokeshire and settling in to my studio and enjoying the autumnal shift in weather. I am looking forward to processing the incredible summer of glass I have had.