Monthly Archives: November 2015

If Turner had had a spraygun – he would have used it!

A surge in the use of the word ‘craft’ has caused creatives to look hard at the core ‘hands-on’ aspects of their trades.   The term has overtones of looking backwards, espousing heritage techniques as hallowed foundations to our craft.  But not necessarily!

Crossing technical boundaries has long been important to me because the locations of my commissions range from the most modern of buildings to the most ancient of structures.

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Blending is the key, blending ideas old and new.  Not thinking it’s a matter of Traditional -v- Contemporary.  Embellishing the qualities of the traditional with the opportunities of the contemporary keeps a designer/maker able to change as architecture has changed.

Good contemporary artists – of any era – use all available resources to create their work.  In the tradition of the designer I focus on the vision of the installed design, but in the mould of tomorrow’s maker I will use any and all opportunities available for creating my designs. Taking full opportunity and full advantage of all creative approaches – traditional and contemporary.

For example, in my enamelled façade for J Sainsbury’s I used buckets of silver nitrate stain and applied it with a spray gun.  Silver nitrate is a material traditionally used in stained glass, and it used by the thimble-full.  Rather I took the irreplaceable qualities of silver nitrate, and applied those qualities using a modern toolset.  Today I ran my enamel samples through a toughening plant, rather than the usual sample kiln, because the pieces I am working on will be fired at large scale and the toughener gives rise to a need for a different approach.

Keeping our traditional ‘craft’ techniques going is important, as it’s a solid foundation for the future.  But I argue that it is even more important to keep them relevant to our time, to ensure the survival of our arts as the world changes around us.

In the Thick of It

My work throughout the last decade has centred on scaling-up the art I create in my chosen medium of glass and allied materials.  I have always treasured the benefits of being a designer and maker, and it has been a challenge to remain hands-on when the physical size of commissions increase.

Since 2009 I’ve been entirely UK-based, in a specialist glass engineering environment that has allowed me to explore the wider possibilities for art and glass, and art in architecture.  I use as my daily tools the very equipment used to meet modern-day building regulations.  I use them on the large-scale and when intermixed with creative applied techniques, they give rise to thrilling new combinations.

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Designing, making and installing art is a lengthy and complex business.  Maintaining artistic inspiration and purpose is harder still when a work is scaled-up.  Staying hands-on throughout the project, from its concept to its delivery, maintaining the artist’s eye and seeing that every step feeds into your vision for the piece, provides the best opportunity to sustain the work’s integrity and quality.

Despite the challenges, my experience is that if you change your environment and your tools, it will open your mind to new perspectives, and new ways of designing and creating.  Whilst it takes courage to step away from well-trodden paths, it’s worth the investment if you’ve the stamina.

My work right now is the result of personal study and extensive practical research at the coalface of the decorative glass industry, from which I’ve created new techniques and new processes that will pay dividends in future works. I’m afraid I crave invention like other people crave chocolate!