New York

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.

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Heading North

Having finally got some of my slate pieces out to the quarry and with the kiln cooling with the latest Rosebush piece inside, I am headed north to Lybster in Caithness to have 9 days to play with glass as my prize in the Warm Glass competition. I am having a few nights in Edinburgh staying with my sister enroute, and hooking up with some glassy friends on Monday, before embarking on the 8 hour journey to Caithness by train. I will be away from home for two weeks. That piece will be well annealed by mid July!

I am looking forward to having time, facilities, materials and space at Northlands to experiment with ideas and make work inspired by the landscape, alongside an exciting bunch of  glass artists from as far afield as Sydney and Portland. Scarey and exciting to be part of this. I can’t believe I have come so far (and ended up in the same place!) in less than a year. Last year I remember a sinking feeling after the Northlands conference of “what the hell am I doing?” when I listened to a tired and disillusioned glass artist sharing her perspective on life as an artist working with glass. Actually, I cried, to be so far out of my comfort zone, to be taking such risks as a painter entering a new field, an artist meeting craft. And what a journey it is ! I am constantly surprised by how long everything takes, Rachel smiles wryly and says “welcome”! The medium imposes this discipline on my unruly ideas, which is just as well.

It is an exciting path. I am so grateful to my new  glass artist friends who are making me so welcome, to Bullseye Glass for sponsoring the prize, and to The Arts Council of Wales for supporting my travel to Northlands, and to Jeremy Lepisto, Michael Rogers and others who have shared their skills and knowledge and continue to make supportive “Likes” from afar. Thanks to everyone else in my life who puts up with my absences, my enthusiasm and nerdy fascination with coefficients and historic documents…

Northlands here I come!

“A (wo)man travels the world in search of what (s)he needs and returns home to find it” – George Moore

'Her House Is Air', cast, blown and engraved Bullseye Glass and feather.

This is the final piece I made at Michael Roger’s Masterclass. The experience at Northlands was very intense, living, breathing, eating, drinking and working with a great bunch of artists, being away from domestic and family commitments and being able to live steeped in glass for two weeks has given a huge boost to my work.

My class at Northlands.
Cast glass peregrine skull.

It takes a while to arrive back home, to settle in to the studio here, to walk alone in this landscape, to adjust to the teen scene that is part of my life, and to begin to unpack some of the things I have learned at Northlands.

I return with new resolve to be focussed on my Rosebush project and have begun to make a moulds for a casting idea I have for that. Also I have been shortlisted for a commission at Conwy Castle, so I have a trip to North Wales next week to research for that. The gallery is in a quiet period just now, we are in the last few weeks of regular opening hours and from October are open by appointment.

“Better an interesting failure than a boring success”.

Ben Dombey demonstrates combining cast and blown glass in the hotshop.

Ben Dombey demonstrates combining cast and blown glass in the hotshop.

Thanks to Michael Rogers for the above quote! That sums up the spirit of our masterclass – try things with hope and a spirit of adventure.

These past two days I’ve seen things done with molten glass that you wouldn’t believe! Ben Dombey, Michael’s technical assistant is a very accomplished young glass blower, a student of Michael’s and they work together with us students to demonstrate ways to combine cast glass objects with hot and blown glass.

We have been making moulds of objects we brought along in preparation for casting. I am working on the peregrine remains I found on the beach (I abandoned the antique concealed boot I intended to work with when I discovered it would be altered in the process as I have been asked to return it undamaged).

This evening we had presentations by Cappy Thompson and Michael, along with Ben and Jeff Zimmer, who is Cappy’s T.A.

Ben’s work is coloured, and often silvered, blown glass and he uses the material to explore surfaces and ideas about the relationship of inside to outside. Amazing layers of colour and sometimes mirrored interiors revealed by carving into the outer surface. Jeff,s pieces are multi-layered constructions of painted flat glass and are often ambiguous visually and in meaning. His work is driven by his political as well as personal inspiration, and include works made in response to environmental issues and the Iraq war. They demand interaction with the viewer and I can’t wait to see them in the flesh.

Cappy is an influential glass artist from Seattle. She paints stories about her life on blown glass vessel forms using a mediaeval glass painting technique called ‘grisaille’. Her work is extraordinarily intricate, colourful and beautiful and she often draws on myths and legends to give context and meaning to her own personal story. She also undertakes major large-scale commissions for public buildings including an enormous wall of windows for Sea Tac airport in Seattle.

Michael is Professor of Glass at Rochester University, New York and is one of America’s leading glass artists. His work often combines cast, blown and engraved glass. Sometimes he incorporates delicate sewn and embroidered, or quilted elements made by his wife, Betty, who is a textile artist. He puts these elements together in a poetic, rather than a logical way, to evoke layers of meaning rather as a poet uses metaphor.

Tomorrow I hope to prepare my first lost wax mould in readiness for casting the falcon talons. Bullseye glass company have donated lots of glass in every colour for this class, so it will be wonderful to have the chance to experiment with some gorgeous glass!

We are putting in 13 hours or more a day and we are having a ball! I feel utterly privileged to be here.

“The turtle only travels when it sticks its neck out”.

I am preparing to leave for the journey, 750 miles north, to attend a conference and masterclass at Northlands Glass near Wick. Much time has gone into preparing an “inspirational suitcase”, (as requested by Michael Rogers my workshop leader)  to take with me. This consists of ideas, writing, poems, quotes, maps and sketchbooks, metaphorical, as well as practical, things I might need to make glass in this remote place, and some small objects I can use to cast in glass. The process of preparing has been inspirational in itself. At times I feel totally out of my depth with glass, but I came across a Korean Proverb “The turtle only travels when it sticks its neck out”, which made me feel a whole lot better! It is so good to take the time to reflect on my process and to consider what I need to take with me along the road.

Yesterday I took some time out from that to walk Alfie with my good friend, Anne. We walked

up into the Preseli Hills behind my house and marvelled at the changing season – the heather is amazing throwing a purple haze over the landscape, and I was reminded of that September 18 years ago when I moved here.

We have been harvesting our garden produce – a wonderful crop of vegetables and soft fruit this year, this is supplemented by foraging mushrooms and wild fruit. Den is becoming quite an expert at finding and identifying mushrooms (you really need to be!) and I have made fruit jams and vodkas which are laid up for the winter. It feels good to be seasonal and besides it is all insulation against the recession and the uncommercial way we live in this remote place with one bus a week.

Cardigan treasure…

I managed to sell enough work to go on my Northlands Masterclass! Thanks to those who took advantage of my discount offer and supported me by buying some work.

Yesterday I had a crises of confidence about going when I discovered that I will be working alongside some of the most talented glass artists around. I had a very reassuring email from Michael Rogers, the tutor, and today I feel only excited and full of anticipation about working with people who are so engaged with their practice.

Michael has asked all participants to bring with them a small suitcase of inspirational material to work with and I spent the day in the junk shops of Cardigan selecting priceless objects of Welshness to take with me to Caithness.

Cardigan proved a great place to start my search, it is full of cheap tourist places and charity shops (the most disorganised and grubby ones are best for this kind of thing) and I set myself the target of not spending more than £2 on an object. Michael has given me licence to hang out in the most fascinating emporia known to man and a budget is a necessary constraint if my studio is not to become even more of a junk store!

I love the serendipity of what you find in these places and of the co-incidences and connections you discover along the way. My suitcase is going to need some heavy editing, and that is a good process for me to apply to my ideas in general. Sometimes I feel that I have too many ideas and can not find the space to explore any of them deeply enough, archiving them and putting them in boxesmay just help with that, enable a lot of things to coexist without becoming overwhelming – why did n`t I think of this before?!

I had lunch in Y Pantri, a lovely local cafe, strictly tea and toasted sandwiches, not a tapas in sight! Quite a change from Narberth! So a successful days hunting and I topped it off with a visit to see the Cardigan Cardigan, an enormous (5m x 2.5m) cardigan knitted by local people last year to celebrate 900 years of the towns heritage. Inspired by the work of assistant designer, Susan McComb, the work is mostly in cable stitch and was knitted by 300 people of all ages and abilities, who met and knitted together, or in their own homes,  over 9 months. A wonderful example of a truly inclusive community art project.

20% Off All Work!!

'13 Crows' by Michael Rogers

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.

Bilberries from Rosebush

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.