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.


Wintery West Dean

This has been a busy last few weeks. Packing large trade orders has given way to the packaging up of loads of little parcels for my retail sales. I’ve got three huge boxes of stock for taking around local events in the run up to Christmas, and of course I’ve been preparing new work for our big Christmas show coming up, Designed | Crafted.

And somewhere in there I’ve had to squeeze four days of teaching down at West Dean, which is where I am currently, typing up blogposts at 6am in an empty computer suite!

In all the craziness I was fully expecting to have forgotten something from the long list of materials and tools that I bring each time I come down to West Dean. By the evening of Day 1, I realised with consternation that my students had worked their way through my entire stock of clear glass in a single day! And we had three days of the course left. There was nothing for it but an overnight trip back to London to pick up more glass – frustrating but unavoidable as sending large pieces of glass by post was not going to work.

So I set out that night, leaving the Christmassy cosiness of the college with its roaring fire and its twinkling tree and venturing out into the chilly night. I stayed the night in London and set my alarm for 5.30am to make sure I had enough time to make it back in time to meet my students for breakfast back at West Dean.

Where the night before had been chilly, the morning was freezing and I left in darkness, with the tyre tracks glistening in the headlights on the icy roads. I wrapped myself in a blanket and I must have looked pretty dishevelled as I stopped for petrol, still in darkness, on the A3.

Sunrise Landscape

And yet just as I drove into West Sussex the inky skies started lightening. The colours were seeping in with the dawn and the painted sky started warming as I drove my familiar route through the villages of the South Downs. I climbed a road winding through a wooded hill and as I crested the hill, the sky seemed almost in an instant to spill open into the full fiery sunrise. I practically did a handbrake turn into a small country lane to grab my camera and capture the moment!

A herd of gormless looking rams came to investigate as I stood at the side of the field, wrapped in my blanket, snapping away at the sky. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a spectacular sunrise, and even the local radio got in on the act, broadcasting that they would put up their listeners’ photos of the sunrise on their website. As I drove on the last part of my journey, it was absolutely joyful to see it transform itself above my head from a rich layered spectrum of colour through the trees to a colour field of puffy cloud trails in soft pink and yellow and finally, by the time I arrived at college it had cooled into a silvery sky with a low winter sun.

West Dean looked like the archetypal country house in winter scene, with a picture-perfect dusting of frost across the fields. I had arrived early for breakfast so I spent twenty minutes crunching through the fields to take more photographs. In moments like that the house at West Dean feels magical and a repository of tradition, history and memory.


Photo shoot heaven

I had the loveliest day yesterday working with my girl, Carine Lucchese, who is not only a very talented photographer but, as you can see from the pictures, is also a one-woman whirlwind of lighting and styling. I employed her to take portraits of me in my studio, but in between outfit changes she took the opportunity to set up little vignettes of products and packaging to photograph.

Other than for my wedding, the last time I was photographed by a professional was when I was seventeen and, I daresay, much more photogenic! However Carine is a fashion photographer and, although she usually works with proper models rather than the likes of me, she knows how to get the best out of a subject so I can’t wait to see the finished images.


New skills

I am dedicating this summer to new beginnings… finally getting myself on social media (which I’ve been resolving to do for years, without ever having even dipped my toe in Facebook!) and making a new website including an online shop. This involves acquiring some serious new photographic skills and finally learning how to use the studio lights I bought years ago. So with this in mind, I signed myself up to a photographic course with Maythem Ridha, a documentary photographer and filmmaker in south west London.

It was a dazzlingly sunny day so coming into a cool dark photographic studio was rather nice, but those studio lights heated up quickly and we got down to some serious work getting our work looking good in the photos. My fellow students were mainly jewellery-makers who have the same issues as me when photographing work, namely those pesky reflections! We used diffuser tents to create a white space around the object in order to get rid of every possible reflection, but the black rim of the lens poking through the tent was still reflected in some of the larger silver pieces. After years of frustration photographing my glass, I was suddenly counting my blessings that I don’t have to deal with the mirror-like surface of jewellery.

I came away with a much better idea of how to use my equipment to make good photographs, thanks to Maythem and Paul. Looking forward to trying out my new skills…