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laura mckinley

"the tranquil beauty of the incidental..."

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 meet laura mckinley Image

meet laura mckinley

Laura’s fascination for glass as a creative medium stems from its capacity to constantly alter her initial thoughts and expectations. The spontaneity of the hot material demands instant visual judgments that give rise to shifts in her ideas. These allow her to make tangible her explorations of volume, scale and the random interplay of forms. Serendipity and the unexpected often point the way to the next starting point for making.

An element of her inspiration is the Italian technique Incalmo. This involves the hot joining of two separately blown glass bubbles of different colour to form one piece, the join then becoming invisible.

Once cold, the fluidity of these objects is interrupted by cutting to expose voids which enable the viewer to see both the internal and exterior spaces. The varying thickness of glass and polished angled surfaces create ever-changing effects of light and shadow, a characteristic that is exploited to create an environment of illusion. Laura’s work is an invitation to engage with the tranquil beauty of the incidental.

biography

Laura studied glass at Buckinghamshire University, switching from ceramics almost overnight following her first glass blowing session there.

After graduating in 2008, she was awarded a scholarship to study at the world famous Pilchuck glass school, near Seattle, in the USA. Her subsequent travels throughout the vast country made a huge impression, particularly the extraordinary and monumental eroded stone formations of Bryce Canyon in Utah.

On her return to England, she commenced training at LoCo Glass, following by a stint at the Henry Moore Foundation prior to being hired as a gallery assistant at the Gallery at London Glassblowing. Laura is now the Gallery Manager alongside making her unique works.

Laura has participated in many exhibitions including the Fresh Air Sculpture show in Gloucestershire, for which she created an outdoor stainless steel and blown glass sculpture. This piece sold, and she also obtained four external commissions. Her work will be shown at Collect 2015 by London Glassblowing.

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the interview

Looking at Laura’s work it’s easy to spot just a trace of OCD – an obsession with perfection, a desperation to achieve the ultimate finish, a compulsion to create the most beautiful form. Her pieces are not only flawless, they have an ethereal, mesmeric quality to them.

Admittedly this drive for excellence doesn’t just stop at her work. She admits to driving her housemates mad with her bent for things being ‘just so’.

“I’m very much the girl at home,” she says. “I like things being shiny and I absolutely love cleaning. I’m obsessed. Every room has to look like a picture or a painting.”

No wonder she’s so at home on the grinding wheel and then polishing her works until they positively radiate.

Of course, it could have been so different for Laura who went to university to study ceramics. Yet glass was such a draw that after her first glassblowing lesson she ditched ceramics that same day.

“The course was amazing because it wasn’t heavily structured,” explains Laura. “We had a number of different tutors but essentially they wanted us to learn for ourselves, so for two years I basically played and experimented.

“Glass won me over in an instant. It was amazing to get my hands on something that felt like a living material. Blown work is so spontaneous but I really like control so that’s why I love cold working even more.”

When it comes to inspiration, Laura finds her muse in all sorts of locations. Interestingly, she doesn’t look to other glass art to get the juices flowing.

“I love order so I’m often inspired by things like slides of cells; seeing how they divide and how their shape changes.” Laura laughs as she explains this because she knows it doesn’t sound ‘normal’.

“Maybe that’s because it’s not normal but there’s something quite amazing at drawing energy from life itself.

“When I went to Utah it was the incredible rock formations that really made an impression. But not just the shape, more how these vast shapes were balancing in the most incredible way. I spent some time at Pilchuck, the Seattle Glass School but it was the time spent travelling around on my own, visiting these national parks that left a lasting impression.”

Working at London Glassblowing as a gallery assistant since 2011 and now gallery manager means time at the furnace becomes even more precious.

“I think I was spoiled at university by the sheer amount of time I had to experiment,” Laura laments. “There is just no way I can get that sort of free time again so now life is a lot more pressured because I have to fit a job around my art.

“I’m sure it will happen one day and I can honestly say that the collective here is a big motivation to me. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Peter offering me a job in the first place I wouldn’t be here at all.”

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  • Laura main bannerLaura polishing one of her 'Symbiosis' pieces in the coldshop.

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