Studio Thoughts Part II

The Contemporary Glass Society had a great turnout for its Creative Hub session last Saturday, and I suspect that – like me – many people came along because of the opportunity to visit the studio of Angela Thwaites that was promised as part of the day. Angela is a well known glass artist who casts beautiful intimate objects from glass and teaches glass internationally. I also knew Angela from a few years ago when at one of our Teepee Glass exhibitions we invited Angela to exhibit as our guest artist, so I was keen to see where she makes her work, and clearly I was not the only one. The assembled crowd was so large that a local church hall had to be sequestered to accommodate us all for the Creative Hub discussions in the afternoon.

It wasn’t until the evening that the group snaked its way through the streets of south London to Angela’s house and so it was that we were ushered in smaller groups of four through her now dark and freezing garden to squeeze into her compact studio.

Glass casting requires a lot of equipment so I had expected a large space but I was taken aback at how small her garden studio was, and yet how everything fit so carefully into the tiny space. Various kilns, cold working equipment and a large sink all fit into this three dimensional puzzle of a space with all the surrounding gaps filled with shelves of materials and samples of moulds and glass.

Having just packed up and left my own studio – and knowing I will be without a studio for months now –  it seemed at once familiar and poignant to be reminded how we artists try to create beautiful and perfect objects from within a space that often feels like organised chaos. 


However seeing Angela’s bike propped up against the machinery, and realising that she must have to move that bike into the garden every time she works, I also remembered the reason I  am moving…. there came a point when my studio tipped from being organised chaos to simply being chaotic, and ultimately I am putting up with being studio-less for the next few months in order to build a better space for myself in the long term.

Studio Thoughts: Part I

Hello Herne Hill! I haven’t lived here since I left home twenty five years ago, save for a few months when we temporarily moved back to my parent’s home whilst buying my house. And now it is ten years later and I’ve just sold that house, so we are bookending the decade with another stint at my parents until the new house is ready to move into. Phew!

Goodness knows how long we will be here, as builders are often slower than they say they will be and there is the small issue of obtaining planning permission for various building works from Lambeth Council, which is not known for its competence or efficiency! So in the meantime I am making do with a small kiln and a cramped workspace in my parents’ garage.

I’ve gone from a lovely warm organised studio (left) to a freezing cold mess in my parents’ garage (right), but I keep telling myself it will all be worth it in the end.

Goodbye Home

Without even so much as a chance to unload my car after my October shows, I was back at home packing up my house and studio. We had spent the last month living among towers of boxes but I had ten days to fully pack up and move out. Then the day arrived when Pickfords turned up with a huge pantechnicon lorry, ready to take all the boxes away. Rarely do I consider new orders coming in to the Glass Studio as an unwelcome irritation, but unfortunately the post show orders were flowing in by telephone and email while I was trying to pack up the studio. I had the extraordinary situation of printing out my last batch of dispatch labels for the courier and turning my back for a moment only to discover that my printer, my computer and the desk that they had been standing on had been spirited away by the removal men!

The final thing into the lorry was the heaviest and the most difficult to transport – my large kiln – which was forced grudgingly up the ramp with the last of the muscle power. After two days of high pressure, and a scramble of Pickfords men scurrying up and down the stairs, I found myself in an empty house. Nothing was left and the home in which I’ve spent the last decade felt strangely smaller. Before dropping the keys off with my estate agent at midday, I had twenty minutes of solitude, walking from room to room, and allowing ten years of memories to come flooding back.

A forgotten memory returned of the first time I came into the house in 2005. I had been looking for a house on the market with a space that could be used as a studio as I was just on the verge of graduating from college and starting full time as a glass artist, but none quite fitted the bill. However as I walked in through the front door of of 47 Pymers Mead – literally as I crossed the threshold into the garage space which was to become the studio – my mobile phone rang, and it was a call from the Worshipful Company of Glaziers telling me I had won the Stevens Competition. Knowing that the prize money would allow me to buy enough equipment to set up a studio, I took this as a sign that this was the house for me.

Walking around the empty space I reflected on how much this house has been about work. My work has been woven in and out of my family life until it is impossible to separate the two. And strangest was seeing the studio walls, which were formerly groaning under the weight of shelves covering every spare inch of space. The industry of this studio had literally imprinted itself on the bare walls in the grubby silhouettes of shelves, folders, jars and tools, like the dusty ghosts of a decade of toil.