Northern Inspiration

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I have just returned from 2 weeks in Caithness at North Lands Creative Glass where I attended a master class with artist, Helen Maurer, who was assisted by photographers Ross Fraser McLean and Angus Mackay. There were 9 participants, artists from the UK, Australia and South Africa, and over the course of 6 days we collaborated to explore the landscape of Caithness using glass, mirror, balloons, projected light, smoke bombs and other media, using these things to create our own personal film and still images.

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Photo by Angus Mackay

This is one of my images featuring a cast glass peregrine skull and bird bones from Skokholm Island which I cast in bronze and took along with me.

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We also had half a day in the hot shop ably assisted by James Maskrey who obligingly poured molten glass into ice and onto vegetation to create steam, smoke and ghosted images we could use in our work.

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Here James is pouring dyed water into a red hot blown bowl.

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Projection through seaweed.

The value of this is in a freshness of approach and freedom of thought which we each take back to our practices in our different corners of the world. It was refreshing not to be necessarily making objects/artwork, but to be feeding our creativity. We gelled as a group and all left feeling incredibly enriched and nurtured by the experience and full of ideas for future collaborations. For many of us it was a unique opportunity to take space out of making work, making a living, or teaching and a chance to feed our own process.

Installation by Jeffrey Sarmiento
Installation by Jeffrey Sarmiento

Alongside our masterclass was a class lead by Petr Stanicky, an amazing Czech sculptor. Jeff Sarmiento and his other students made interventions in the landscape which were inventive and daring.

Following on from the master classes was the annual North Lands Conference, which this year was on the theme of ‘The Place, the Work’. There was an innovative programme looking at the importance of place in artwork. Joy Sleeman, Reader at Slade began with a fascinating talk about British Land Art in the 1960’s and 70s. Beginning with film footage of the moon landing, it was a great way of contextualizing contemporary Land Art practice. It was particularly resonant for me to see a slide of Robert Smithson at Pentre Ifan, a Neolithic Monument close to where I live!

Other speakers included the masterclass leaders, Helen Maurer, Petr Stanicky, Richard William Wheater and Kristina Usler, each of whom was selected for their engagement with Place in their practice, and each of whom spoke eloquently about their work. Sven Hauscher spoke about the Coburg Prize and glass exhibition in Germany, and artist, Lisa Autogena, talked about her mind-blowing art/science projects in the course of which she takes on Nasa, The Stock Exchange and Reuters to name but a few…I love her commitment and her enthusiasm in confronting, subverting and utilizing the energy of Power.

All the artists who spoke were inspirational in their fearless attitude to making their work. I am reeling from the intensity of the whole experience and will take several years to process. I have come back super-sensitized to my own environment and have already begun to work with new ideas here in Wales.

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Veering North

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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.

Taking glass into the landscape.

“Red on Green” an installation by Anya Gallacio



I am just back from a fabulous fortnight with glass artists at Northlands Glass Centre in Caithness, eight hours north of Edinburgh by train. On the way north I stayed in Fife with my sister and we went to Jupiter Artland, a summer sculpture exhibition in parklands on the edge of Edinburgh. It was fabulous to see sculptures in the landscape, I especially liked the Andy Goldsworthys and Cornelia Parker.

Dinner at Jeff’s. Photo by Tina Norris

The night before I went up to Caithness we met up with Michael Rogers who taught me on my masterclass at Northlands last year and went for dinner with Jeff Zimmer, his partner, Mark, and dynamic glass artist Carrie Fertig. It was great to catch up with everybody, Jeff and Mark were perfect hosts and excellent cooks, and their flat became a tardis and expanded to accommodate us all! Thanks to Tina for the photo.

Exploring glass in the landscape in Caithness.

My time in Caithness was my prize in the Warm Glass Competition. It was an amazing experience to be part of a group of artists from around the world and to have time and space to reflect on my work. I ended up collaborating in surprising ways with Emma Wooffenden, a contemporary artist based in London who works in glass. Our collaboration started out with me helping her to document some work she was doing based on ideas relating to the figure in landscape, and ended up as more like a shared performance piece on a beach 365 steps down from the cliff top at Whalligoe.

Having time away from my usual practice has allowed me to think about how my painting relates to my glass work and how I could combine the two in the future. Maybe two dimensions isn’t all bad after all!

A cast Bullseye glass, knitted copper wire and Lybster pebble piece I made at Northlands.

It was an intense period of work and a brilliant opportunity to share ideas and get feedback on my work from an immensely talented and experienced group of artists. The symposium was organised and facilitated by Jane Bruce, an internationally well known glass artist who lives in Manhattan. The food, as ever, was fabulous and we were well looked after. The weather was less than endearing, but, then I am used to a bit of rain!

Now that I am back home I have been photographing some of the sculptures I have been working on for my (Arts Council of Wales funded) Rosebush project. It is really exciting to put the work in the landscape and see my ideas coming together. I am looking forward to having some time in my studio!