Shaping the Future of Glass
Our exhibition, Summer Solstice, presented exciting new work by 28 of the UK’s leading glass artists. Themed exhibitions are a challenging opportunity for our exhibiting artists to push the boundaries and explore new techniques and concepts. The creative response to this theme really highlighted the incredible talent that we are nurturing here at London Glassblowing.
Exhibiting as part of our Summer Solstice show, we were thrilled to introduce a selection of the glass world’s rising stars; Bethany Wood, Theo Brooks, and Sarah Brown.
Bethany Wood graduated from De Montfort University with a Design degree. Specialising in glassmaking, she has since worked with many renowned glass makers around England. To her, glass is a performance of art; there is rhythm and adrenaline, within a carefully curated routine.
Theo Brooks studied glass at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham and gained his Masters in Fine Art from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA. He was an apprentice in a number of cutting edge studios across Europe. Theo has works in permanent collections and has exhibited globally.
Sarah Brown graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Applied Arts from the University of Hertfordshire in 2010. Her specialisation in glass and illustration has shaped her artistic practice. Based in Gloucestershire, she initially used illustrative fusing techniques to create flat panels inspired by everyday life. However, she has recently delved into glass casting and has exhibited work in the Glass Biennale and Collect at Somerset House.
Bethany Wood first became interested in glass at University, having previously favoured photography. She was taken by the expressive nature of the medium and bold and much less controlled way of working.
‘I enjoy my work so much more because I don't have complete control over it. I have to work as a team with the material. I can control the colour and shape but I'm really just letting the glass do what it wants to do.’
Similarly, Sarah Brown also discovered glass at university. Having set her heart on ceramics, it was a one-off workshop in sandblasting that opened her eyes to the wonderful qualities of glass.
‘I appreciate its ability to create depth and manipulate light. My discovery sent me into complete obsession and gave me a new way to convey ideas that I wasn’t able to through drawing alone.’
Theo Brooks came to glass as a way to express his British-Cypriot heritage and connection to his identity. Much of his recent work explores ritual objects and the practices of ancient Cypress.
‘The motifs of the bull and birds were popular on objects and the iconography held symbolic value in particular rituals. These objects had specific uses, from marking out ritual spaces to apotropaic functions.’
We asked the three artists a series of questions in an attempt to further understand what the future might hold for glass art in the UK.
‘Sculpting glass with a focus on themes from my Cypriot heritage, allows me to explore parts of my culture that haven’t been expressed through the medium of glass before. There are only a handful of Cypriot glass makers, and an even smaller number working in hot glass. Therefore I am presented with an opportunity to continue representing my country through the medium of glass, but also to continue the conversation of identity for someone of mixed heritage. I hope that through my work, I am able to connect with and inspire Cypriot glass makers around the world. I would love to see more Cypriot makers in the future of glass art.’
‘Developing techniques and pushing the boundaries of glass as a material are an important component of my recent work. I use traditional methods of glass making; casting, pâte de verre (French for glass paste) and fusing, but by exploring methods that push beyond traditionally recognised outcomes, I step away from the rule book and allow myself to explore the medium.’
‘In my work, there's always compatibility issues between the different coloured glass. In my work for the Summer Solstice exhibition, I used a lot of colours that you can reduce. At the testing stage, there were many attempts where those pieces were coming out of the kiln black because the atmosphere of the kiln wasn't correct. We spent a lot of time working out the temperatures to keep the metallic effect I was trying to achieve. You can never control the outcome once it's in the fire. I think the challenge is relinquishing control.’
‘My work is heavily influenced by street artists such as Remi Rough and L’Atlas. I enjoy the blend of South London street style and my ancient Cypriot heritage to create a fusion in my work. There are so many influential and talented glass artists that inspire me, the list is truly endless.’
‘This year, I reached a longstanding career goal of mine; exhibiting my work at both the British Glass Biennale and as an Open artist at the Collect Art Fair. Showcasing this new body of work has been so gratifying. There has been great excitement surrounding my processes and developed techniques. I’ve had the chance to meet so many people and I can't wait to see where I can take my practice in the coming months and years. With all the time I had in almost complete solitude whilst developing the collection during lockdown it's been so lovely to finally share it and receive such enthusiasm.’
‘I’ve signed up for a photography course with the aim to incorporate some screen printing in my glass making. I want to keep developing my work and I do love the idea of layering and distorting images and textures through my glass. I’m planning to take some time out to focus on my making process. I’m keen to create a new collection of my work and I aim to get it seen in galleries throughout Europe and the US.’
‘In the future I would love to work on site specific projects, and to explore scale within my work. Glass is a material that can be worked in many ways, probably why I’m so drawn to it. I enjoy the ability to make sculptural pieces, but also panels in which to portray depth. My ultimate dream would be to create a huge piece for a tube station, something that’s able to tell a story and trigger a familiarity in my work.’
‘I have both short term and long term goals that I aim to achieve. I would love to have work collected by more museums, and a dream of mine is to have a piece collected by the V & A Museum. Another more short term goal is to have another solo show, this time in Europe.’
The future of glass art in the UK is undoubtedly promising. The art form has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years, evolving from traditional techniques to embracing modern technology and innovative approaches. The UK's rich heritage in glass art, combined with a vibrant community of artists, institutions, and enthusiasts, has set the stage for continued growth and development.
Looking ahead, we can anticipate further advancements in glass art as artists push boundaries, experiment with new materials, and explore interdisciplinary collaborations. The fusion of traditional craftsmanship with contemporary concepts will give rise to captivating and thought-provoking artworks that challenge our perceptions and redefine the possibilities of the medium. We are eager to see what our artists do next and where their creativity will lead the future of glass and here at London Glassblowing we will continue to nurture and showcase the best talent from the UK and beyond.
Written by our Gallery Assistant Abi Pooley