I am very excited that I have been asked by my friend Jane at http://janelittlefieldglass.wordpress.com to get involved with a Round The World Blog Hop! The idea is you get to see what I’m up to but also to hop back to look at Jane’s Blog and forward to other recommended blogs.
Jane is that rare mix of an artist working in glass and a brilliant facilitator of children’s work, which, as those you who follow my blog will know, is one of my passions! So check out her inspirational stained glass work.
So, the first question is: what am I working on?
Well, right now I am recovering from installing a major glass commission in a new sheltered housing development in North Pembrokeshire last week. This work is a collaboration with my good friend, fellow glass artist, Rachel Phillips. This piece is comprised of double glazed units within which the design is sandblasted on both internal faces. The design is inspired by trees of North Pembrokeshire and incorporates fern prints made by local primary school children. The work looks amazing in the space and is proving popular with users of the building. It is very nice to make work for a community setting where it has a real impact on people’s environment.
During August my studio gallery here in Pembrokeshire is open every day so I am spending as much time at home as possible to welcome visitors and be on hand to talk about my work. I have an exhibition of new work in painting and glass on show and am excited to be showing my glass and painting together in the same space.
I am also spending a lot of time writing funding applications for a project I want to do on Skokholm Island next year, and preparing for a painting course which I am running on Skokholm in a month’s time. A lot of my time is spent on the computer these days…
I am also preparing to go up to North Lands Creative Glass in Caithness for a masterclass with glass artist, Helen Maurer and photographer, Angela Moore. I want to develop some ideas I have been exploring about using glass to make projections and ephemeral art in the landscape.
The second question is: how does my work differ from others of its genre?
I suppose I have come to glass as an artist looking for appropriate media to communicate my ideas, rather than as an artist specifically trained in glass as a medium. This means that although I may lack a thorough training or apprenticeship in technique, and tend to learn things on a need-to-know basis, I am always questioning whether glass is the right medium for particular projects, or whether I would be better to use ceramic, paint, bronze, or some other form.
The third question is: why do I create what I do?
I have always enjoyed making things right from childhood. I enjoy the messy process of creating my work. I am always working on new projects. Although these are varied, they are all inspired by aspects of ‘place’, be that visual, metaphorical, or historical. They are all landscape based and often involve research in archives, oral histories and museums as well as observation. I am especially interested in the power of objects to link us with people and places across time.
The fourth question is: how does my creative process work?
I am looking all the time. I am interested in an emotional response to the landscape, I am not interested in re-creating geographical details. My landscape painting starts with the feeling of a place, the light, the colours, the texture…more than thoughts and ideas. I begin there and work with the paint, wax, plaster, sand… using a mixture of freedom of expression and control, trying to find a way back to that feeling.
Studio Glass Work
I begin my studio glass work in a similar way to my painting except that instead of paint and paper or board, I use Bullseye Glass and vitreous enamel powders which I paint or sift onto glass and then fire in my kiln. The piece is built up in layers, each layer is individually fired before being stacked up, dammed and fired to melting point to form a coherent block which I then polish on the edges. I like the transformative and elemental quality of the glass and the possibilities it offers me to bring new textures and qualities of light to my work.
I get ideas all the time and these find their way out in my conceptual pieces and projects. I have to write them down and file them away in order not to be overwhelmed by the sheer number and scope of them! Sometimes I make work in response to specific commissions or exhibition call outs, but often ideas will surface and I will sift through my archives, open the boxes and develop them. I begin with drawing, amassing relevant material, researching online and in archives, making notes all the way. I then decide how to make the work. Often my ideas come together more in the making process than in the planning. Making takes time and this offers the focussed meditative space necessary to develop the work.
For architectural glass commissions I usually work with Rachel Phillips. We read the brief, visit the site, measure up, note light levels and other architectural considerations, photograph the space and talk to the users and owners of the building. After this we get together in the studio and brainstorm, then we go away and work up some ideas which we bring back together to discuss and work on. Usually we are thinking along similar lines and we pull our ideas together, trying things out by making glass samples and mock-ups on the computer. It is fascinating to collaborate, to put two heads together on a project. We each bring our own particular strengths to the work. If we are making a stained-glass piece, we then draw up a ‘cartoon’ (a full size drawing of the design) from which we draw the cut-line which is used to cut each individual piece of glass exactly to fit. We then paint the lead-line ( a dense black line which is the exact width of the lead we will be using) onto a piece of toughened glass which will act as our ‘pallette’. We then divide up the painting work and make the actual glass in our own studios, periodically coming together to stick pieces onto the pallette and to check the colour and light balance of the work. Most of the glass we use for stained glass work is “antique” glass, this means it is mouth-blown and cut and laid flat to form sheets The paints we use are enamel powders, individual pieces may be fired several times to build up density of colour, or may be etched or sandblasted. When the design is complete the piece is leaded by Rachel, cemented and cleaned and we install it ourselves, with help from professional installers if necessary.