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Bruce Marks

"presence & purity of form..."

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 meet Bruce Marks Image

meet Bruce Marks

Bruce has been working for Peter Layton since 2001, as a trainee and assistant, then as Studio Manager and most recently as Peter’s principal colourist. He completed his Masters’ Degree at the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham in 2010. He was the winner of the Gold Award in the Glass category of Craft & Design Selected National Awards 2014.

Born in South Africa, Bruce creates blown sculptural glass pieces which express a powerful African influence. His work is collected nationally and internationally and his pieces are in Public Collections at the Turner Museum of Glass and Broadfield House Glass Museum. 

Bruce is a member of the Contemporary Glass Society and of Contemporary Applied Arts in London. He has exhibited in major shows including SOFA New York and Chicago, the Miami Art Fair and Collect at the Saatchi Gallery in 2014.

About The Work

Birds, an ongoing series, has been hugely successful and its evolution has attracted an avid and enthusiastic public following. Bruce has achieved deceptively simple abstract forms, which allude to bird shapes. He says:

“I am a long-time admirer of the sculptor Brancusi. I envy his ability to capture the essence of his subject, creating a purity of form with minimal detail, whilst projecting profound presence.”

Bruce’s response has been to strip back his forms to achieve an exquisite simplicity retaining a definite bird-like quality.  

In his new Fish series Bruce blows the form with multiple colour overlays. Wheel cuts through the layers reveal their internal colours.

Simplicity of form and colour is a challenge that he plans to continue to explore.

The Video

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The Interview

While there is clearly no right or wrong way to get into glassblowing, Bruce’s route is more circuitous than most. Running restaurants in South Africa for 16 years, the 46-year-old could have been forgiven for thinking his lamp-working hobby would remain just that.

But Bruce’s burning desire to pursue the passion he loved overtook all reasonable thought and, as he readily admits, “we just took a flier and came over here”.

He explains: “Both Sylvie and I had lived in London before and we both really enjoyed it. I was just at that stage where I wanted to take a chance – we were both willing to do anything to make it happen so we bit the bullet and bought our tickets. That was 12 years ago!”

So keen was Bruce to work under Peter Layton that he recounts offering to sweep the floor or make the tea. And the ‘flier’ paid off…

“I remember walking into the old workshop and asking Peter all sorts of questions about how I could go about pursuing my dream,” Bruce recalls. “He gave me lots of advice and I just thought I had to seize the moment.

“I could see just how important Peter was to this industry and I was prepared to do anything to be a part of that,” says Bruce. “There was such an incredible atmosphere. A really creative vibe.”

Peter took him up on his offer and from a one-day-a-week post Bruce is now the studio manager, blowing his own pieces as well as assisting Peter.

He acknowledges his route into the arts wasn’t textbook but urges other students to plot the right course.

“You can go to college and do a BA but in my experience a lot of people come out of college not knowing how to blow. I did it the other way round – I learned to be a glassblower and then I went to college.

“I have changed quite a lot as a result of the M.A. It gives you a framework to work within. I went into college thinking one thing and left with a completely different direction.”

Drawing on his African roots, Bruce’s work is mesmerising. From bowls and vessels through to sculpted heads and totems, each one evokes the country of its origin.

However, it’s his current work which is gaining critical acclaim. He was the winner of the Silver Award in the glass category of Craft & Design 2009 and followed up with a Gold Award in 2014.

“I love Brancusi’s work – how he simplified everything, distilled it, yet still managed to retain the very essence of the subject,” he explains.

“His attitude to sculpture is inspirational and I use it a lot with my work, especially the Birds. The Birds have no features, no details, yet they’re instantly recognisable and I love that.”

“It’s been fun seeing the collection grow,” he smiles. “A couple came in recently and they commissioned me to make a specific pair for their home. That gives me an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction and I am constantly looking to develop the collection.”

One of the amazing things about Bruce is how much he’s an ambassador for London Glassblowing. Despite being hugely successful in his own right, he’s truly evangelical about his surroundings.

“Every time I step into this building I’m blown away by the talent that’s here,” he says humbly. “There is always something really interesting on display and anyone with a love of art and glass would be in their element.”

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