12 Glass Artists: Between Tradition & InnovationByLaure Lansonneur
As a decorative art, glassmaking is often overlooked - but it's actually one of the hardest and challenging artistic medium to work with. Characterized by transparency, fragility, and strength, glasswork requires mental and physical strain.
Founded in London in 1999, Vessel Gallery aims to be a major destination for all those who appreciate contemporary art-glass sculpture and decorative lighting. From the stunning simplicity of Scandinavian crystal, via flamboyant Italian art glass, to the best of British and International creative talents, all pieces are unique or limited edition and have been carefully edited to show an unparalleled selection of contemporary design and craft.
Vessel Gallery also edits its own editions, an on-going programme working with emerging and established studio artists and designers, producing unique collections of exclusive limited edition art works in glass and other materials. The collections span from lighting, wall panels, hanging sculptures and interior objects. The majority of the collections are handcrafted by the artists and designers in their studios but also handmade in collaboration with skilled craftsmen from all over the world.
Here, The Artling looks at 12 innovative glass artists from Vessel Gallery, who are working with glass and taking fresh and contemporary approaches to the medium!
Angela Jarman is an artist with over 20 years of experience in glass. The technical skill and an understanding of her material, combined with a strong aesthetic voice, have meant that her work constantly retains a distinct identity and language of its own. Lost wax casting is a very lengthy and multi-staged process and Jarman’s passion is to be able to realize the work that she wants to make, without compromise. This pursuit of perfection means that she stays true to her ideas and the material qualities of glass.
The themes for Jarman’s artworks originate from a lifelong interest in biology and the natural world.
"my inspiration comes from a range of sources; animal, vegetable and mineral but the one common aspect that unites all her thinking, are the core concepts to do with growth & reproduction, duplication, decay & transformation"
Jarman studied at the Royal College of Art receiving her Master’s degree in 2001. She exhibits both in the UK and internationally and has work held in public and private collections worldwide. She teaches regularly and has been a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art as well as teaching masterclasses within the UK and France. She lives and works in Hertfordshire, England.
As one of a handful of glassblowers in the world who focus solely on a technique called 'Massello', it takes extreme dexterity, speed, and precise temperature control to sculpt and master the molten glass. Combining a novelist’s ability for storytelling with his astonishing array of skills, Walker literally sculpts his glass, creating artworks that are the essence of curiosity, inviting the viewer closer.
“The process of coaxing a complex form out of the liquid glass is unlike working with any other material. The pieces are not cast, carved or ground into shape, but modelled from a cooling liquid so that until the very last second the sculpture is a moving living entity, frozen in time as the glass sets”
After graduating from Bangor University with a psychology degree, Elliot Walker discovered glass. With its vast spectrum of color and texture, its ability to mimic other materials, it provided Walker with the ultimate palette to create his three-dimensional compositions and sculptures.Elliot Walker is one of the UK’s finest rising glass stars and in his relatively short glass blowing career, has already become one of the most active and inspiring artists of his generation.
Sabine Lintzen studied 3D Design, Sculpture, Ceramics, Applied Arts and Monumental Arts at the Maastricht Academy and the HBK in Berlin.
Originally an artist working with ceramics and creating sculpture, Sabine Lintzen has transformed herself into a master of glass.
Since 1981 she has had her own studio and from 1995 she began working with blown glass, developing historical making techniques, drawn from Italy, the Arabian world, and Dutch culture. These techniques enabled her to translate old knowledge into new applications. Every piece is handcrafted in the local studios of Limburg and Amsterdam. With a gifted team of glassblowers, Lintzen forms the fluid material into solid shapes and structured patterns. With every step she takes, a new path arises that catches her interest.
"My works in relation to their surroundings live together as a symbiosis. With luminosity, an exploration of light and colour come into existence. It is always a captured expression of a positive result of my thoughts. Therefore my work never stops and shows a continuous movement."
Since studying simultaneously at the Royal College of Art in 2008, Hanne Enemark and Louis Thompson have worked together successfully on a number of commissions and personal projects, becoming increasingly aware of a common interest in the tension between chaos and order, fragility and strength, internal structure and external form.
"We found that taking a more intuitive and performative approach not only results in a magical spectacle but in sculptures that embody our passion for this material with integrity and freshness"
Maarten Vrolijk is an Amsterdam-based artist and designer who considers it important to elaborate on the simple, unequivocal nature of a product and has been creating his works for over 25 years. His aesthetic and ‘art language’ is particularly unusual because it consciously plays with shapes, colours and materials in an uncontrived way. He also believes his pieces should also make people’s everyday lives that bit more beautiful through the many little details that evoke the unexpected.
“Even as a child, I was amazed by nature and what they call everyday things — the things that seemed to just pass others by, but which to me became lifelong fascinations. I remember, for instance, the old cherry tree in my parents' garden, which in spring would unfailingly come out in a riot of pink before conjuring up its delightful red fruit. Having seen that show, I asked for a school desk in the same wonderful loud pink for my next birthday. That present remained a testimony to my wonderment at the cherry tree.
To my mind, flowers are nature's gems and have long been a recurrent inspiration in my designs: the bold tulip, the sculpted rose, the delicate lily.What grips me is not so much imitation of the "'real'" world. I am on a quest for the fresh image, the place where fascination becomes something visible and the design gains more worth from adding something to what already exists”
After 9 years of teaching hot glass at Sunderland University, Muir set up his own studio in 1999 with a main objective to solely concentrate on his own work. Graham’s main aim was to create glass that holds the viewer captive through it's sheer audacious beauty not simply via 'good looks' alone, there had to be more. With his ‘Wave’ series, he exploits gravity and the way in which the soft, molten glass responds, no mean feat as often both this physical force combined with such an unpredictable material can have their own ideas.
'I find glass to be a material that does not respond well to being dominated by the artist. For me the concept of the work is just the starting point for a conversation between the artists idea and the material. The artist flags up the idea, the medium responds and the discussion begins. However the material must not dominate proceedings either and hot glass, as most who work in it know, can be very persuasive in having its own way.
This is where technical skill plays its part. I have discovered in my efforts to instil these qualities into my work that my ideas have moved far from the traditional glassmaking I was taught at Art College. I have been required to develop new techniques, resurrect and adapt some old ones to move on from the inevitable constraints on form that glassblowing produces.'
The Danish town of Hundested is steeped in maritime history and richly from the Viking Age. It is the majestic imagery of the Viking ships passing that has inspired two of the harbour’s contemporary craft companies; cabinetmakers Egeværk and glass artists Backhaus & Brown. These two award-winning workshops have combined their masterful crafts in an innovative collaboration; namely a series of sculptures named ”Glasskibe” – Viking ships in hand blown glass and carved oak.
This is a unique collaboration in the truest sense, drawing on the skills of two crafts, based in two workshops and from two Nationalities, British and Danish:
Nanna Backhaus Brown and Andrew Jason Brown have been creating their glass art works for the last 30 years. They have sold their pieces to individuals, companies, collectors and galleries throughout the world and have exhibited in Denmark and extensively throughout Europe as well as in the USA, Japan, China and Australia.
Wood artists and cabinet makers Lasse Kristensen and Mette Bentzen specialise in creating unique hand-made furniture with sculptural expression. They have exhibited throughout Europe.
Samantha Donaldson is a contemporary glass artist specialising in hot and cold glass techniques. Having graduated from De Montfort University in 2009 with a First Class BA Honours Degree in Design Crafts, continuing her time at De Montford as an artist in residency, Donaldson went on to study her Masters at the Royal College of Art in 2012.
Throughout her studies, with the early exploration into other materials, Donaldson was continually drawn back into the glass workshops, resulting in a deep fascination with glass, the beginning of her artistic exploration and long term commitment to her chosen material. Having initially developed a body of one-off sculptural free-blown glass forms, realising the potential of using glass in an expressive and imaginative way, Donaldson continued to sculpt her glass to create mesmerizing pieces, exploiting the hot blown glass to create layers of colours, which are then revealed through to extensive cutting and polishing.
Inspired by the internal structures of naturally occurring geodes, it was during these investigations that Donaldson created a series of work influenced by the exploration of the 'vug', which is the internal space within a geode. A continuous theme to her work, the aim is to draw the viewer into the internal movement of each unique piece.
“Rock collections fascinate me. I am particularly interested in ‘Lapidaries’, the professional craftsmen that became skilled at cutting precious stones to obtain the best optical effect. I am therefore exploring the parallels between this and my work, individual specimens capture the succession of events and hint at the transformation to its present state. Minerals like agate form under intense pressure and heat, I am intrigued by the way that such multi-layered and multi-coloured order forms out of such chaos.
An associated interest of mine is ‘Stratigraphy’, the study of rock layers and layering. Deposition of one layer is separated from the next by a clear interval or change in texture, colour, or mineralogy. Layers may merge with one another so that boundaries between them are unclear. As I cut and polish the surface of my specimens, my excitement of enquiring cold work techniques liberate the curious lore of this precious material and bring my forms to life. I thrill to see the freshly exposed interior, reveal the captured fragments of the moment of its formation. I have always been particularly interested by the interactions between humans and objects, how one encounters an unfamiliar object of desire”
Liam Reeves has been making glass professionally since 1998 when he graduated from Middlesex University with a BA (Hons) in three-dimensional design. During this time he has honed his skills whilst working in the glass industry for some of the best glassmakers in the UK. He is currently hot-glass technician at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London.
While at the RCA Liam discovered a passion for investigating pivotal techniques from glassblowing’s two-millennia of rich history. From the mould blowing of ancient Rome to the complex goblet-making techniques of Renaissance Venice and on to the finesse of factory manufactured glass after the Industrial revolution.
In 2009 Liam studied for an MA at the RCA in order to explore the creative possibilities of the medium of glassblowing. A large part of these studies took the form of an investigation into ways in which the historical techniques that he found so inspiring could be put into a contemporary context.
'As technology advances, the ways that we perceive, understand, and influence the world around us are changing. As more aspects of human experience permeate through a filter of electronic manipulation, actual experience becomes entwined with the virtual. Through the use of digital tools, it becomes possible to understand form in terms of mathematical co-ordinates, existing only in a theoretical space. In parallel, the concept of craftsmanship itself is also transforming; skill in using digital media is being equated with skill in manipulating molten glass or other materials.'
Mørch’s inspiration often derives from simple expressions and in the contrast between the linear and the tilted. She sees beauty in the natural realm of geometry, in architecture and in her own experiences with other people: the various ways of human expression such as music, dance and words. She is also hugely influenced by the characteristics of her chosen material, the unique properties that can only be found in glass, it’s transparency and ability to create optical abstractions, or as Mørch like’s to put it: “reflections of the world as she sees them”.
"My starting point is to create space whilst also giving form. This process is often repeated and through that action, variations occur with new developments, where additional ideas or even new shapes can arise. This process of continuous change is the key element that keeps, retains and even drives my curiosity"
In her career, Wåhlström has designed wares for many international companies; glasses for the likes of Ikea and Kosta Boda, ceramics, metals and textiles for brands from Cappellini to Boda Nova, Wåhlström’s work is as varied in material as it is colour. Her strong aesthetic ties together her wide use of graphic lines and sweeping arcs whether applied to the flat surface of textiles or the fluid forms of glass. Wåhlström has also taught at Pilchuck Glass School in the USA and at the Beckman’s School of Design in Stockholm, Sweden. Her inspiration comes from nature, ancient architecture and children’s book illustration, she cites Moomin creator Tove Jansson as a huge influence.
"In this series of objects I have used the classic techniques of canes and murrinis but worked with a more organic approach to create the loose patterns in the glass that I am after. I start my design with watercolor sketches and the result of the patterns in my glass objects are a bit "floating" which I really like. I make the pieces together with very skilled glassblowers, in this case in Seattle and Tacoma USA, and enjoy the collaboration very much! The pieces grow in the hands of the glassblower and the colours and patterns follow the glass as more and more air, heat and gravity make their marks. I only know what will happen to a certain level! My colours are often strong and the shapes classic. The inspiration comes from the sea world as often as traditional textiles and patterns in nature"
Allister Malcolm has become a renowned craftsman within his field. He is continuously expanding upon his portfolio of handmade, blown & contemporary glass artwork and his strong design sense combined with an impeccable standard of finish, has created a dedicated collector base. Each of his works are individually signed and dated by the artist.
Malcolm has exhibited extensively throughout the UK & the USA and has artworks in the collections of the Imagine Museum, Florida, USA and the Glassmuseum Lette, Germany. He was appointed a Trustee of The British Glass Foundation for organising the fundraising event “The Worlds Longest Glassmaking Demonstration”, which involved Malcolm blowing glass for over 26 hours to claim the title, raising over £10,000 and gaining huge attention for the charity’s objectives.
“Acquiring the skills to produce handcrafted glass to a professional standard has been a long battle. This journey has taken me twenty years. I now strive to push this medium of glass and explore the versatility that it offers utilising all the skills I have gained over the years. Hopefully, when you view the glass gallery it will convey the enjoyment it has given me to create these works!”.
Interested in these pieces? Browse Vessel Gallery's artworks here, and our curated collection of glassworks. If you need any additional assistance or have a specific requirement, you can chat with our expert art curators here.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.