Dappy’s conclusion

I had a week between my West Dean show and the end of the school term to create the eight glass panels that I was making for DUCKs as the conclusion to my school commission. The panels illustrated eight scenes from my story of Dappy the Duck and each panel was 50x50cm with kiln formed glass images and screenprinted text, so there was a lot of glass to make! Working late into the night every evening was the only way I was going to get it done and I pretty much squeezed two weeks’ work into one week. There was the slight disaster where one of my panels slid into two others in the kiln, but two out of the three panels could be salvaged and, though I needed the extra weekend to remake the unsalvageable piece, I just about made the deadline of the final assembly of the year on Monday morning to present the eight panels to the school.

The panels were hinged together in two sets of four so that they formed a kind of summary of the story. To fill in all the gaps, I also provided the school with the storybook itself, illustrated and printed out so that future classes could read the story and link it to the glass panels.

Ducks panels installed
A few days later after the end of the term, I came back to help install the eight panels in the foyer of the school. The panels were hung low on the wall, and when the children return in September next academic year they will be encouraged to touch the tactile surfaces of the glass. Also on display in the foyer will be the finished model of Dappy the Duck, which was made in collaboration with the children in the accompanying school workshop sessions.

Dappy the Duck

It was an exhausting couple of weeks but very enjoyable to be working with such brilliant children. Who’d have thought a bunch of four year olds could paint a model so beautifully?! Thanks to Jo Parker who instigated and arranged the project as well as the installation of the final work, Helen Dolby who coordinated the parents’ fundraising to provide the budget for the project and Heather Friell, the outgoing headmistress under whose directorship the project was possible.

The Key to Creativity


When I got married eighteen months ago, I made a rather complex Save the Date. It was a little box that opened up to reveal a pop up date under which was a secret compartment containing a little key. The tag on the key gave a password to a website which guests could then access to read the full details of the wedding. It was time consuming, to say the least, to make 100 of these little boxes. One could say it was a labour of love, and I had a lot of time to think about my motivation for doing something so incredibly elaborate, even given it was for something as one-off and special as my wedding.

I realised that part of what motivates all my creative work harks back to the books I used to read as a child. A theme that seemed to run through all my favourite books was a sense of there being another magical world, a secret kingdom, or a deeper unseen layer underneath what the eye ordinarily sees.

The Magic Key

I used to pore over books like The Magic Key written by Mary Francis, with its beautiful vintage 1950s illustrations of Tommy and his sister MaryLou in the fairy kingdom which they access by way of a rusty key they found in their garden.

I think back to books like The Kingdom Under the Sea, with its captivating silhouette imagery done like paper cutouts against colourful ink blot backgrounds, or Edmund Dulac’s illustrations of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales in which I remember only the mesmeric imagery like a series of dreams, feasting my eyes on the lavish attention to detail in the pictures.

I would get lost for hours in the illustrations of 1970s classics such as Masquerade, where the real world was pictured with an almost unbelievable degree of detail and there was a secret hare to find on every page and a cumulative trail of clues that could be solved to find a real life hare wrought in gold and jewels that was buried somewhere in England.

I realise that with all my work I am trying to recreate this sense of wonder, the sense of getting lost in the lavish surface detail of something but seeing through to something beyond, some other internal truth. There is a lot more to write about this, which I shall perhaps expound in future blogposts, but for now I will say that this is perhaps what explains my fascination with glass as a medium. As I wrote in my artist’s statement when I graduated Central Saint Martins, “Glass is about both surface and depth: one looks at it and through it, which renders it simultaneously there and not there.”

Here I am almost a decade later, still making glass and although my artistic output has become more product-based and streamlined to the commercial market, I still think of the pieces I make as little treasures that I am sending out into the world…. if you don’t believe me, look at the names of my products (“Global Treasury” and “Bejewelled”) or read about why I fell in love with glass here!


So it seems very fitting that on the cusp of my tenth year, my first new product is a glass key. Harking back to my wedding fripperies and my childhood fantasies, I hope my glass keys will help me unlock a little bit more of the mystery of why I feel compelled to keep making, what it is that drives me to create, despite sometimes being faced with a lack of understanding or interest from those around me, or the financial strain that often comes of trying to make a living from working with glass. These are questions I know that all of us artists and craftsmen ask ourselves on a daily basis, and it is perhaps only in carrying on that we will discover the answers to those questions.


House of Glass VII

Last weekend I held the first part of my Open Studio. The weather wasn’t brilliant but the sparkling glass made up for the lack of sunshine. As usual, I opened up the studio and most of the house to visitors with all the seconds glass being sold off at bargain prices in the studio.


House of Glass part 2 will happen this weekend and I think it’s going to be a sunny one so we’ll be laying out lots of glass in the garden too. My top room will be dedicated to Love and Marriage, with lots of lovely paper flowers on display. Come along 11am-6pm.

As well as all the old favourites, I had some new glass on display. My new Mandala Panels (below) are delicious kaleidoscopic glass collages which create a complex double image in the reflective background which changes as you move through the room.