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!
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!).
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.
In another project we made fused glass jewellery on the same theme.
The kids were so enthusiastic, they said it was their favourite day at school EVER!!
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.
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.
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!
The trees are totally magnificent at the moment! I love winter and am enjoying the crisp and the soggy days and soaking up inspiration for my work.
A very exciting development is that I am going once a week to the Department of Architectural Glass at Swansea Metropolitan University where I have a Visiting Artist arrangement whereby I exchange working with the students for access to the facilities and expertise in the department. I am working with the first years on their “Decorative Processes” module with the fabulous Lisa Birkl. It is wonderful to go there and for one day a week to concentrate solely on playing with ideas. It makes me realise how much of my time at home is taken up with admin, writing proposals, answering emails and generally making a living, and how rare it is to have uninterrupted creative time right now…I can feel a New Year’s resolution coming on! This term I have been playing around with the sandblaster, developing my skills and trying things out. I am definitely going to invest in a sandblaster soon.
Alongside this I have been developing my work in Welsh and English medium local schools and have made a total of 200 glass Xmas decorations with pupils aged 3 to 11 over the past month. It has been fantastic to work with the children and to spread the word about glass to a new generation! Their work is beautiful.
This has been quite a year for me from installing the Conwy Castle commission, winning the Warm Glass Prize, going to the Northlands symposium, collaborating with Sarah Harman on the Rosebush project, studying with Antoine Leperlier, and now working in Swansea – I am really beginning to feel things start to come together.
I am now putting the final touches to my New Year show ready for the opening on 27th December. For the first time I am showing a series of glass panel alongside my paintings. Pop in and join us for a glass of mulled wine from 27th december – 7th January.
It is all 12 hour days in the studio right now to get all the glass painted and fired so that the panels can go to Swansea for leading next week. But deadlines can be a positive thing, and I am sure I would spend another 6 months tweaking details and that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.
The amount of detail in these panels astounds even me! How any crafts person is supposed to find time for social media is beyond me – medieval craftsmen had it easy, or, you might say that York Minster would never have been completed if they had had Facebook!! Actually, I am finding social media really useful at the moment for research and for networking with other artists and historians and enthusiasts of various types.
On Sunday 12th February we will host a viewing of the panels in my studio before they go down to Swansea to be leaded next week. People are welcome to come between 4pm and 5pm (sorry, but we have to restrict the time to one hour as we have so much to get done by Tuesday).
The gallery has been converted back into a stained glass workshop and the wonderful Carwyn has constructed fantastic easel light boxes to enable us to work on all three panels together. We have been ailing with seasonal bugs but have been enjoying painting up some glass and preparing pieces for sand blasting. It is great to have the templates and cut lines up in the studio and to actually begin to assess light and colour.
I went to a fantastic gig at Cuffern Manor this week, Julie Murphy and Ceri Owen Jones performed new pieces from their upcoming album, ably supported by Fiddlebox. Julie’s songs are tender and poignant and their collaboration embodies the best of traditional and contemporary work, poetry and music, and, amazingly, Ceri played a piece from the medieval ap Huw manuscript – one of the manuscript sources I have been consulting for my windows project…synchronicity at its best!…dreaming of a harp in the chapel..!
Newgale Beach gave us bags of inspiration and lungs full of air this morning on the first day of my residential painting weekend. The theme of the weekend is experimentation and finding ways to get to the feeling of the landscape through paint. All my students have engaged with the spirit of the idea and it is a privilege to see them blossoming into new ways of working.
Maggie and Andrew at Indigo Brown are our hosts and we all feel so well looked after, fed and watered. It is always a pleasure to teach in this place where I know my students will have a warm welcome, comfy beds and wholesome and delicious food. Maggie and Andrew excel at providing all the home comforts in their spacious and tasteful house, purpose-built for running art courses – perfect! Thanks to Ruth Sargeant (one of the most talented (and modest!) artists I know) for helping out and being my glamourous assistant!
Finally made it to Skokholm Island early this morning. It is years since I was here and I am in seventh heaven! The red of the sandstone is amazing, I am collecting some to use in my glass work and paintings. So far I have set up my studio and orientated myself, spending a while with the seals in South Haven to chill out and adjust to being here.
The accommodation is newly renovated by volunteers last autumn and is absolutely lovely. The chemical toilets have been replaced by compost ones and the rooms have sinks (although water has to be brought up daily from the well!). Everything is spick and span.
I will update this blog with photos when I get home because this BlackBerry is pretty useless for pics.
I heard this morning that I didn`t get my funding to go to Northlands Glass in Caithness for an international glass conference called “Touching the Past” and to attend a masterclass with Michael Rogers. Michael Rogers is an amazing American artist who uses glass and found materials to make conceptual pieces. He also uses a lot of text in his work so you can see why I am interested to work with him.
I have been accepted onto the masterclass and I am determined to go, so I went for a walk in the quarry and picked some bilberries while I figured out how to manage it.
Lovely though they are, clearly the bilberries weren`t going to help out much financially, so I have decided to offer a 20% discount on all my work until I have raised the necessary £2000. Do get in touch if there is anything you like on my website or call in to the gallery if you are in Pembrokeshire.