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Anthony Scala

"bending the laws of 3D space..."

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 meet anthony scala Image

meet anthony scala

Anthony Scala has worked at London Glassblowing under Peter Layton’s guidance for over 14 years and his unique technical style won him international recognition as early as 2005, when he became the youngest artist ever to win the prestigious Glass Sellers Award.

Optical illusion is at the heart of his work. Perception is dependant upon light, angle and distance from an object. ‘Is what we see actually there or is it a trick of the light’? Take a step in any direction and the perceived image of an object can change. These shifting perceptual qualities have come to dominate Anthony’s work, and are clearly an infinite source of inspiration. 

Anthony’s pieces utilise these quirks of perception to their maximum effect through the use of meticulously made refractive components, painstakingly pieced together. The end result being beautifully constructed optical sculptures which seem to bend the laws of three dimensional space.

biography

After completing his training in architectural model making in 1999, Anthony began an apprenticeship at London Glassblowing, where he first discovered an aptitude towards coldworking (the meticulous process of cutting and polishing glass once cold).

Over the following years, Anthony experimented with various glass disciplines, as well as incorporating many unusual materials into his work. However, there is always a strong architectural aesthetic at the root of Anthony’s creations, which he puts down to his architectural background.

‘As an artist, my model making training has proved invaluable, as it has given me a unique perspective from which to approach my work both in hot, and cold glass, not to mention the discipline and patience needed for the sheer time scale many of my projects require’.

In 2005 at the age of 27, Anthony won the prestigious ‘Glass Sellers Award’ (other recipients include Alison Kinnard, Colin Reid, Richard Jackson, and Bob Crooks) making him one of the youngest ever recipients of the Glass Sellers main prize.

Over the past fifteen years Anthony’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the UK. Featured exhibitions include the British Glass Biennale (2004, 2006, 2008, & 2012), Modern & Contemporary Glass at Bonhams 2009, Remarkable Glass at Contemporary Applied Arts 2010 and Collect at the Saatchi Gallery.

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the interview

You can thank Anthony Scala’s mum for the fact he’s here. Not only biologically, but because she brought him to see Peter when he was eight years old. Sat at the back of the studio, the young Anthony watched transfixed.

“She had seen an advert in the back of Good Housekeeping,” Anthony admits. “It was for one of Peter’s open weekends and she thought it would be a good idea for me to come along.

“I remember the first time I came. It was just incredible…I couldn’t take my eyes off the furnace.”

While his passion was ignited, visiting the studio every few months, it wasn’t until Anthony was 14 that he finally had a go himself. Again, Mrs Scala was responsible.

“Mum entered me into a raffle to win a glassblowing class and my name came out of the hat. To have a go myself after watching for years was simply mind-blowing.”

Yet despite the impression left by his experience Anthony ‘forgot’ about glassblowing for a while, heading off to university to study architectural model-making. His love of precision, later to feature heavily in his work, was fostered here.

“It was very precise, intricate work,” he remembers. “In fact, my one abiding memory of the course is that I left university knowing I did not want to be an architectural model maker.

“Thankfully when I left I got a call from Peter. We had stayed in touch, sort of, and at the time he was doing a lot of installation work and thought that having a model maker on board would be extremely useful. We had a brief catch up about the sort of work I’d been doing and then he offered me an apprenticeship. It felt completely out of the blue but at the same time a really natural progression.”

Those who know Anthony’s work – he was the youngest ever recipient of the Glass Sellers’ Award back in 2005 – will appreciate the detail that goes into his pieces; each one exploring the optical laws of light dispersion and refraction in glass.

The level of detail is unsurpassed, although Anthony admits it wasn’t always like this.

“I used to like winging it in my early 20s,” he chuckles. “In some ways it was fine if you were making a small piece but the more intricate the piece becomes the harder it is to predict and a couple of times I came unstuck. From that moment on I knew this had to be approached with an architectural mentality.

“Now I start by doing drawings to scale, then a mock-up model in 3-D because that gives you a set of instructions for what needs to be done and when.”

With sculptures, glass swords and scent bottles sitting within Anthony’s highly varied portfolio, how has his style changed over the years?

“When you first start out you don’t really know what your own style is. In many respects you’re just beginning to understand and enjoy the material. It probably took me three years to get my head into the right mindset.

“I did a lot of blowing in my spare time and a lot of that was experimentation; combining glass with other materials; pushing the boundaries of what was seen as conventional. The best thing about coming to the studio was that it was alive with ideas. None of the other artists stood still. They were all developing their craft and it was a brilliant place to be.”

But like many new apprentices, Anthony needed the hand of experience to guide him.

“I think in lots of ways it’s natural that the young kids are full of confidence,” he says thoughtfully. “When I first started making things I thought I was the only person in the world doing it that way. I remember one morning Peter coming up to me and saying that I should go and see this fantastic exhibition nearby of Slovak glass. I walked in and felt physically sick. The work on show was impeccable. I must have spent three or four hours trying to find some flaw to make me feel better and that was a really important lesson. I left thinking that I knew nothing and it completely grounded me. No matter how great you think a piece is, chances are you can always do better.”

Of course, for every artist the buzz of someone actually paying for your skill and efforts is unsurpassed.

Anthony still remembers the first time it happened.

“The first major piece I sold was a set of three glass ammonites set in slate. It was bought by a lady on the Isle Of Man for, I think, £600. The excitement that someone had actually liked my work enough that they were willing to part with money for it was such a buzz.

“When people buy art, whether it’s glass or a painting or a sculpture, they need to understand that they are buying that artist more time to develop their talent and create something spectacular. Artists in this industry are struggling. They’re all doing two or more jobs just to stand still. But we should all do our best to support it. These pieces haven’t been bashed out in China, or in a European factory – they’re made with heart and soul right here in the centre of the most creative capital in the world.”

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