Glass Class

I held a long awaited Glass Class last Saturday. Two of the four students had been on my waiting list for at least a couple of years but one way or another we’d never managed to coordinate convenient dates until now.

We sat in the garden discussing ideas over coffee at the beginning of the day and then it was to work. One student had been commissioned to make a picture of a lady’s house in glass so she worked from the photos and we worked out how she would give the glass a three dimensional feel. Another student wanted to try new decorative techniques and so she combined them into a bowl which was like a sampler with a different treatment in each part. The third student brought a floral arrangement as inspiration and we talked about ways that one could make flowers by casting or pate de verre. However with only a one day course as an opportunity to make something, we decided the easiest way would be to fuse into ad hoc slumping moulds made of fibre paper. She also made a glass basket in which to display the flowers.

The fourth student had been to my Glass Class a few times and had previously made a much-admired bowl inspired by a jellyfish her daughters had seen on a beach on the South coast. This time she came back with ideas of making a jellyfish-inspired mobile but we had to work out the technical issue of how to invisibly attach the jellyfish arms to the bell. Needing to create clear hanging hooks of glass on both sides of the slumped bell was a challenge but after discussion, she tried something I thought might work though I had never attempted it before… and it worked a treat!


Christmas Baubles

Last weekend we put up our Christmas tree. I thought I’d leave my family with some festive frivolity before heading off to West Dean for the week, so I booked them a session to blow glass Christmas baubles with Michael Ruh, our neighbour and local glass blower.

Michael’s studio is a lovely space in a warren of studios down a little blink-and-you’d-miss-it alley between an Indian takeaway and a bookies in Tulse Hill. We were welcomed by Michael’s wife Natascha who showed us the three options for the glass baubles – a spiral, a speckled or a colour field bauble. They would be blown from glass that had been rolled in granular glass frit which would give them their colour. My son chose a silvery yellow and blue for a spiral bauble and my husband chose an reddish orange and white frit for what I realised, resignedly, was going to be an Arsenal-themed bauble.

Then Michael demonstrated how he gathered the glass from the furnace, trimming it with shears, shaping it with a block and beginning to blow air into it to trap a bubble inside the glass. More heating in the furnace and then the hot gather of glass was rolled in the frit before being heated again to melt it in.

Isaac blowing glassThen came the fun part where Michael got each of them to stand on a raised platform ready to blow down the blowpipe while Michael’s assistant shaped the growing bubble of glass in a mold.The bubble was tapped off and a hanging loop was fashioned from a blob of viscous glass placed on top. The finished bauble was marked up with an identifying number and placed in a kiln for annealing over the next 24 hours.

I left my son with instructions to pick up the baubles from Natascha while I was away and I loved seeing the results.



Two places going!

Every now and then I teach glass from my own studio in West Dulwich. One of my private courses is The Glass Class, which is a one day workshop for previous students of mine who wish to carry on making glass in a more ad hoc way.

If you have already learnt the basics from me – either on one of my West Dean courses or my Fuseability course at The Glass Studio – then you’ll be able to join us on the 12th October as I have two places left. Our day will be determined by what you want to do. Most students come with ideas of what they want to make and we usually spend a bit of time at the beginning of the day discussing these ideas as a group and working out what is possible in the time.

From there on in, you have access to lots of materials and equipment and of course expert guidance from me to help you realise your ideas. I am there if you need a few pointers on technique or a reminder of how to use equipment, but there is no formal teaching per se which will allow you maximum time to get on with your work.

Reasonably priced at £85, the cost of the workshop includes the kiln firing at the end of the day and the packaging and delivery of your pieces by courier within a few days of the course.

The day runs from 10.30am-6pm and most people bring their own packed lunch so as to leave as much time for glassmaking as possible.

If you’d like to join us on the 12th October, contact me here.


New course possibilities

West Dean College like to keep their tutors on their toes and their teaching programmes exciting, so we are often asked to submit ideas for new courses.


During my Summer School a couple of weeks ago, one of my students was a graphic designer from Amsterdam who made a very beautiful abstract leaded glass panel. The yellow piece she had intended for the middle of the panel turned out to be frustratingly reluctant to behave itself in the kiln. She was trying to get it to pick up the imprint of a pattern underneath but the glass kept blowing enormous bubbles. In the end she used a plain piece of glass in the leaded panel, but she was very excited by the possibilities of the yellow glass bubbles that she was left with.


One of these she labelled “My creative bubble” and left as a little inspiration to all the passing students with knowing smiles who were also enjoying their own creative bubble in their week at West Dean. But this obviously sparked off some creative thinking and as a side project, she also started working on the idea of layering glass.

She wanted to create a little scene inspired by our surroundings, with the rolling hills of the Sussex Downs, the college logo and a West Dean sheep peeking in from the front. We talked about how layers might be accommodated but leading doesn’t really lend itself towards layering. So instead I suggested that she spoke to the ever-inventive technicians at the college who created a bespoke box frame in which to mount the layers.


This first foray into layering glass worked so well she made another one! This one had a little figure (herself) opening the door to her creativity and letting in a shaft of light. The parallax that always happens across a depth worked well in this piece because you had to shift your viewpoint to peer round the door and see what was behind.


All the work was carefully wrapped and packed and transported back to Amsterdam at the end of the week. Even the yellow glass bubbles made it safely through the journey and my student perhaps has some ideas of how she’ll use the bubbles in the future.

In the meantime, I have been left with the idea that creating a little fused glass ‘peep-box’ would make a really exciting new weekend course to teach at West Dean.


Garden of Delights

Yesterday I spent a nightmare three hour journey driving down to Surrey – getting lost, missing my turns in all the road rebuilding, and getting caught on big roads going in completely the wrong direction. My route was so convoluted, I actually manged to cover four different counties and I almost made it to the south coast!

So after all the frustration of a hot, sticky journey which was about twice as long as it needed to be, it was heavenly to finally reach my destination, the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden. Tucked away in a quiet pocket of Surrey, this is a lush oasis of a garden with plenty of peaceful, shady spots to sit and take in the scenery. Dotted about the ten acres of landscaped garden are a changing collection of  contemporary sculptures.

I was there to meet a group of like-minded artists and garden designers and spend a day drawing and sketching. Organised by landscape designer Annie Guilfoyle, the day was a perfect opportunity to connect with other creatives and it was wonderful to get back into drawing, something of which I don’t do enough.

We had the entire garden to ourselves and Hannah herself came out intermittently to admire the work going on and give the odd word of advice. An impromptu picnic for lunch turned into a veritable feast as each member of the group unpacked more and more food, but the bonhomie over lunch was a good social recharging before the quiet calm of the afternoon sketching session.


The garden truly was the perfect setting for a perfect day…. right up to the miserable prospect of the long drive home.


Samples Galore!


SamplesI have been busy making samples for a new commission which I am about to get started on. I just love making samples, and it’s a really important part of the creative process in working out the transition from a paper design or an idea in my head and into the full glassy reality! Sample making can be a bit like brainstorming in glass and sometimes I come up with inventive ways of doing things because the pressure is off and the name of the game is experimentation.

This also feeds into my teaching, both because I like to share my new techniques but sometimes the actual samples also make it into my teaching box.