Dressing Down

Glass is a difficult medium in which to work. I am often left feeling envious after watching my neighbouring makers at trade shows who seem to set up their stands in about a quarter of the time I do and with a lot less hassle. Glass is heavy, bulky and fragile and frustratingly it requires pale surfaces and good light to make it looks its best, so displaying glass well often involved bringing one’s own plinths and lighting.

So I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about display and I attended a two day course at Craft Central with Diana Furlong who was as a Senior Window Dresser at Harrods for many years and has worked extensively as a lighting technician in West End theatre. She has a wealth of experience in devising and installing eye catching, effective displays.

And yet once again I found myself wishing I had been drawn to a different medium! I watched as Diana did what she knows best and came up with a multitude of different ideas of displaying and styling the products that the other participants had brought. We all learnt a lot about placement of objects, the use of colour backdrops, creating little scenes with props and how to make stories through all these techniques to help sell the product. There was so much possibility for different styling with the jewellery, scarves and cushions that the other particpants

However when it came to my products, it became clear to me that there wasn’t much I could add to style these in a similar way without it becoming a distraction. Diana did not give up, however, and she created various lighting schemes for my Sapphire Bejewelled Bowl, illuminating the bowl from underneath and behind and creating colour washes with lighting gels to see how to display it best.


Much as I would have liked to have to be able to style and accessorise my products in the same way that everyone else had, I realised that when it comes to my glass, keeping it simple is probably the way to go.

Cranes for Peace

The 6th of August marked the 70th year since the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima which resulted in 40,000 deaths. One of the victims was Sadako Sasaki who was 2 years old when the bomb fell and though she survived the attack, she succumbed to leukemia at the age of 12 as a result of exposure to radiation. During her hospitalisation, she remembered the Japanese myth that upon folding a thousand origami cranes one is granted a wish and in her struggle to stay alive she started folding cranes from medicine wrappers and anything she could find, with some being so small she had to fold them with a needle. She passed away in 1955 and three years later a monument was built in Hiroshima’s Peace Park to remember all the children that died as a result of the bomb. At the top of the monument is a statue of a young girl with a crane and around it are glass cases which display thousands of paper cranes made and donated by people from around the world praying for peace.

It is two years since I got married and as we had initially intended to honeymoon in Japan, I asked my wedding guests to indulge in the Japanese tradition of making paper cranes to bring good luck and prosperity to the marriage. My mother took this to heart and made 1000 paper cranes pretty much singlehandedly! So our wedding venue was festooned with these lovely paper creations, which were all taken down carefully and have been stored since then. I wanted to do something special with them so the 70th anniversary seemed the perfect opportunity to put them to good use. So at the end of July all but a handful of my favourite wedding cranes were flown out with other English donations to Hiroshima and hand delivered to the Peace Park.

St I R&R

After the frenetic pace of work in the previous few weeks, July arrived with a sigh of relief because that meant it was time for our week’s rest and relaxation down in St Ives. The seven hour drive was pretty relentless but arriving on Saturday evening to our fabulous apartment with spectacular views across St Ives’ best beach made it all worth it. My son and I got straight into our swimmers and had an evening dip!

We were staying in a fantastic split level studio apartment in an iconic 1960s building. Designed by architect Henry Gilbert, the Piazza-Barnaloft apartment block won an architectural prize for its modern design which was awarded by Arthur Ling who had been the Chief Planning Officer for London until 1955. Ling had evidently liked the building so much he bought one of the flats, and here we were half a century later staying in that same flat, thanks to his daughter who is a friend of my mother.

Our bedroom balcony had views across the rooftops of St Ives and the main balcony overlooked Porthmeor Beach, a beautiful sandy beach with good waves for the body builders and surfers. I took photos all week from the balcony of the changing weather and changing tides.

We were a few minutes’ walk from Tate St Ives with its magical Patrick Heron windows in the foyer. Up the steps and down the hill towards the seafront, was the Barbara Hepworth Museum which was based in the house and studio that she occupied for the last twenty five years years of her life and it was just how I remember it from my last visit almost two decades ago.

This time, there was a touch of pathos about seeing Barbara’s sculpture Two Forms (Divided Circle) which was her equivalent of the artist’s proof; she had made six versions, one of which had been standing in my local park for the past 35 year until it was recently stolen for scrap metal.

I loved the Hepworth Museum, originally known as Trewyn Studios, with its various connnected outbuildings where the stone was carved and its garden where the finished sculptures were displayed just as they had been while she lived there. Visiting the Leach Pottery another day I was struck again by how fine the line is between live and work for artists doing both in the same building. Bernard Leach installed a kiln in the pottery in 1923 which lasted longer than Leach’s three marriages! The kiln wasn’t replaced until after the end of his potting days in 1975. This was the same year Barbara Hepworth died in an accidental fire caused as a result of her nightly habit of a cigarette in bed, in the same room in which she started off stone carving her monumental sculptures.

We listened to an excellent local guide talking about Hepworth and bringing a more personal take to her story. He explained how she had walked past the tall walls of Trewyn Studios for ten years on the way back from doing her shopping, never knowing what was behind them; it wasn’t until the building came up for sale that she realised how perfect it was as a space in which to live and work. This aspect of the story particularly spoke to me as I am currently in the process of looking for a house and studio – I’ve looked for three months now and there are very few places that would work….if only there were a Trewyn Studio in London for me!

Every Two and a Bit Years

My fellow Teepee artists and I have just come back from a weekend in Stourbridge in the Midlands to see the Glass Biennale at the International Festival of Glass. As the name suggests, this has always been held every two years since 2004 until last year when it was put on hold because the building that housed the exhibition at the Ruskin Glass Centre needed renovating. Having become a regular fixture in the glass calendar, the Glass Biennale at the International Festival of Glass was always looked forward to on the August bank holiday weekend, but for some odd reason the new director this year decided to hold it instead in May. We were told this was so people didn’t have to wait a full three years before the next one but, frankly, this seemed an unnecessary complication. We would have rather waited the extra three months to see the glass in the sun. So it could have been the occasional drizzle and cold or it could have been the tighter hold on the finances by the new director, but somehow the whole festival felt a little flat.


I was not alone in finding the layout of the Glass Biennale exhibition a little strange. There seemed to be very few wall panels, and also a surprisingly high proportion of object based work, but I felt that the three long tables with objects squeezed onto them didn’t really present the glass in its best light. Curator Matt Duran had apparently explained to the audience at the private view the night before that the layout was meant to be read as a kind of stage set, and I could understand this while we were sitting on the chairs that had been laid out like an audience for the glass show. However once I stood up and walked around to actually look at the glass, it felt more like a table sale with pieces jostling for space.

Despite what I thought was a great shame that each object had not been given space to breathe, there were some interesting juxtapositions set up because of the proximity. One area on the tallest table was given over to glass which looked more like archaeological artefacts that had just been dug up and brushed down. Rachel Elliot’s ammonite form ‘Crude’ was lovely and quite different from what she normally makes. I also really loved James Masktrey’s “Shackleton’s Scrimshaw” which were five bottles which looked like they were filled with sea mist and Shackleton’s historical documents suspended inside. The concerns with history and memories were echoed in Lisa Catherine Sheppy’s suspended ‘Lost Pockets’ which hung screenprinted and fused glass nuggets in sheer organza pockets. I also really liked the overall winner of the Biennale, a gorgeous cast piece by Ashraf Hanna that I just wanted to stare into and immerse myself in its depth of colour.

We wandered around the Ruskin Glass Centre in the afternoon, watching a painting demonstration by the delightful Cappy Thompson who had run a masterclass earlier in the week and listening to a choir who sung harmoniously as the sun came out. We saw Georgia Redpath’s lovely installation which showed the four stages of making her complex cast pieces and then had a chat with her in her studio, admiring her work. We had lots of other places in and around Stourbridge to visit as part of the International Festival of Glass. We saw an engraving exhibition at the Red House Glass Cone after which we sat outside for a chilly cup of tea as actors in historical dress finished their work showing visitors round the museum and headed home in full costume.

Following this, came a Church Crawl, visiting various churches in the area for their own wonderful stained glass such as this example from the Wordsley Methodist Church. In fact in the back of the church there was an exhibition run by Bruntnell Astley. Putting on an exhibition when one is a photographer, as Simon Bruntnell is, must be made easier by the fact one has so many wonderful images to choose from. It seems as though Simon was making a good job of it as he had sold quite a number of pieces, possibly more than at the Biennale. Many of his artists were also showing at the Biennale, including our old friend Nicholas Collins. We spotted a wonderful Georgia Redpath piece that had sold – it was being shown with a cardboard base, but there were arrangements for the base to be cast in bronze later on. The exhibition continued into the garden where there were some grand Jenny Pickford glass and metal sculptures. My favourite pieces of all were a delicious collection of objects by Elliot Walker, darkly textural black blown shapes, and a glass skull cast in a delicious lime green glass.

On Sunday we had just enough time to squeeze in a dash around another church despite the imminent baptism that was about to happen and a lecture back in the Ruskin Glass Centre before lunch. Before setting off back to London we went to see the exhibition of contemporary Hungarian Glass. A small but perfectly formed exhibition, we were debating between us how Péter Borkovics made his wonderful cast piece when the curator suddenly popped up in our midst and explained the technique in terms that made it seem almost simple compared to our convoluted imaginationary methods. We marvelled at the skills required to make ‘Japanese and Chinese’, a rather saucy depiction of two figures in a bath. I fell in love with a smooth jewel-like curl of cast glass by Lazslo Lukacsi, and its subtly irridescent surface inhabited my dreams as I snoozed in the car on the long journey back to London.



I was thrilled to receive an invitation to arrange a private viewing of Andrew Logan’s fabulous glass work at his home-studio-shop in Bermondsey. We have been visiting his Glasshouse for over ten years now and it will be very sad to see him leave when he goes off to India, as the gorgeous old warehouse-style building will be depressingly be knocked down to clear way for an apartment block.

Anyway there’s no room for depression when looking at Andrew’s joyful, colourful work and I brought three of my Teepee Glass friends who love his work as much as me.

We spent a delicious Saturday afternoon having a private tour of the gallery and house where all manner of wonderful glass artworks were displayed. Colour, mirror, glitter and glass were abundant and after some time we noticed there was also a rather large Christmas tree…. only in Andrew Logan’s place could a fifteen foot Christmas tree be outsparkled by its surroundings!

Portraits of famous friends were everywhere – both in bust form and as flat two-dimensional mirrored faces – and in the midst of a fantastic pearled statue group I spotted a stunning self portrait in cast glass.

But a lot of our time was taken just staring at the hundreds of sparkly jewellery pieces – the smallest pieces, but the only ones which were just about in our price range. And sure enough, two of our group could not resist buying a ring and a brooch, which we took to the Horseshoe pub across the road afterwards to marvel at and admire.

Andrew Logan’s Glasshouse will be opening to private groups of 4-6 people until January – I urge you to get in touch with them if you want to experience this spectacle before it is gone forever.


The Treasures of Decorex

I wasn’t relishing the journey to get to Decorex 2014. It’s former location in the grounds of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea was minutes from my old flat, but Syon Park for goodness sake?! But a remarkably smooth journey – involving three trains and a (complimentary) coach ride – later and I found myself standing outside a rather bleak looking tent in a bleak field on a bleak day, looking forward to seeing the treasures inside.

The entrance to the show lead visitors past a series of eight contemporary vignettes based on scenes from The Rake’s Progress by Hogarth. It was an odd conceit, the point of which wasn’t clear until I looked it up later on the Decorex website and discovered there was an association with the Sir John Soane’s Museum. However the realisation of these concepts was little contrived and seemed little more than an opportunity for some product placement.

The one set that caught my eye was The Orgy by Russell Sage (above left), though perhaps for the wrong reason. It reminded me of my friend Huma Humayun’s styling on the After Hours shoot for Schon magazine (above right), but where Huma’s styling was considered and artful, I thought Sage’s interpretation of the brothel scene just looked like the pile of clothes on my bedroom floor before I put the washing on!


However once inside I was more impressed with the exhibitors’ stands. My favourite was the Vessel Gallery stand which displayed a gorgeous collection of various glass pieces, including my friend Brett Manley’s fabulous cast glass mirror (detail, above). Brett’s work has always drawn inspiration from many different sources, but her hexagonal mirror is quite clearly the culmination of her work casting glass from ornate picture frames, something that she started in 2010 for our show ‘Era’ at the Cochrane Gallery.

My eye was of course trained for other makers that I know, so I was thrilled to see a beautiful display of glass pendants in various shades and shapes from Michael Ruh at the Design Nation stand and I couldn’t miss Eryka Isaak who filled 10 square metres with her huge glass bowls with a tough industrial edge.

Most spectacular was Christoper Jenner‘s Cloud installation made from his blown glass ‘Urbem’ lights (above) which, as Christopher himself explained to us, were inspired by the meeting of craft and technology in 19th century street lighting in Milan. My glass radar had quite clearly been switched on as I noticed the same lighting in use on the Lapicida stand.

Studio Lucid

Finally another favourite from the show appeared to be lighting of some sort from Studio Lucid but hung like a sculptural installation within its own little walled off section at the end of the Heathfield & Co stand. I stood for a few minutes trying to work it out but, because of the wall, I was as invisible to the stand holders as they were to me and no one came to relieve me of my confusion… perhaps a lesson that though the stands rightly should look beautiful, practicality has its place too?