1. A dialogue of steel and glass.
I would like to use this blog post to share my thoughts, experiments and other new experiences that happen as a result of recently winning the Amanda Moriarty Prize.
In February 2019 CGS magazine announced this year’s award was a two week residency in the studio of Colin Reid. Although a newcomer to the glass world I knew that Colin Reid was something of a casting guru and since finishing my Master’s degree at Farnham UCA in 2017 the process of casting has begun to intrigue, delight, obsess and frustrate me in equal dollops. For me to apply was a no brainer.
I am not a glass artist and have no pretensions to reach such giddy heights. I might call myself a metalsmith in its broadest context. A BA in fine art from Coventry Polytechnic many moons ago gave me little in terms of skill and structure but it did give me a thirst for process and a curiosity about material combination.
Using a TEFL certificate as a way to fund my travels I made up my skills working for the next 5 years with blacksmiths, farriers, archaeologist’s and copper smiths in the US, Portugal and Germany, raised a family, set up various workshops, made loads of ‘stuff ‘and eventually found myself back in education when the density and darkness of the material I had loved for 25 years began to wear thin.
“To bring light and translucency into my sculptural work” was the bold statement that gave me a passport to enter the kiln room at UCA Farnham .The kiln room led to the plaster room and the rest seems to be becoming part of my material history. Now my material vocabulary has two departments and the casting process is where they meet in the hallway.
My final degree work explored how things fit, slot and hang by friction and gravity. A metal icicle like shard fabricated from a piece of angle iron 150mm x 150mm x10 mm. was the 14 kilo monster that became the master form from which all the other 6 glass elements of a hanging installation were to be cast. I also cast fabric halters into bronze enjoying the visual tricks that a cast object can play on the eye.
More recently smaller experiments developed in my own workshop have resulted in a “Clod “series. Folded copper landscape forms embedded in spade dug clods of soil, the copper removed and clods cast in glass. These pieces stem from ideas of earths fragility and what lies beneath its “pastoral” crust.
My subject matter returns repeatedly to something organic with a manmade intervention. Perhaps this is a result of growing up on a farm and an awareness of both man’s ability to shape nature but also nature’s ability to hold its own. I see parallels everywhere in organic forms (both living and non-living) and the human condition. It could be a plant growing to the light, a tree defiantly growing over barbwire strangulation or the stretch of texture in bark as it hits a wall and changes course.
A series of photos taken of young saplings near my home are the starting point for my new residency work with Colin. Their tree guards haven’t been removed (as is so often the case) and the saplings have split, bent, twisted and engorged them. This energy and its evidence is what interest me. How to translate this organic energy into steel and glass forms is the challenge.
I find myself analysing types of energy, scanning woodland, streets, lanes and farmyard for evidence like some bizarre detective. Violent man-made ugly energy such as the mangled traffic bollard or slow, strong and powerful growth energy of wisteria trunk wrapping cobra like round its rusting steel support…Its all grist to the mill.
I got to visit Colin in his Cotswold studio this summer. He has great facilities and although I left clutching a delicious slab of boro silicate glass generously given for experimentation, my home grown glass facilities were looking pitiful as I creaked open my barn door.
Slowly I am working my way through a series of small experimental pieces using forged steel cages and the borosilicate glass in modular cuboid forms. I am loving it’s honey translucency and the way it tries to crack my (frugal) non quartz plaster moulds. Already its energy is in evidence. I am discovering new ways to show movement and impress texture into clay and wax peeled away from gel flex moulds. My casting world is expanding. It is all highly enjoyable and feels secretly self-indulgent waiting for each kiln cycle to end so I can crack open the door of my small but hardworking garage kiln.
I can’t wait to return to the Cotswolds, to push these metal impressed cast forms to their limits in Colin’s far larger kiln and I have no doubt that his excellent cold working facilities will open up as yet undiscovered avenues of finishing potential.
However most of all, I’m sure that no amount of experimentation will take the place of tapping into Colin’s life time of knowledge and expertise. I am very grateful for this opportunity.
Please follow my experiments further on more of these blog posts and on Instagram. This is my first ever blog so I’d love any feedback….