I recently had the honour of sitting down with the incredible talent and rising star of glass art that is Sophie Layton. Her latest work for London Glassblowing’s COLLECT 2022 exhibition is visually striking, using a blend of colours, prints and textures to achieve a wholly unique result.
Daughter of the grandfather of glass himself, Peter Layton, Sophie has been surrounded by artistic expression and influence her entire life. In this intimate interview, we explored the extent to which her upbringing has impacted her body of work, alongside how she hopes to inspire future generations with her own art (at the time of writing, Sophie is nine months pregnant and ready to give birth to her first child with renowned glass worker Tim Rawlinson, a London Glassblowing alumni).
What can you tell me about your work for COLLECT 2022 at London Glassblowing?
My COLLECT work is based on a series of ten prints that I made in 2016, which comprise bright, loud, flat coloured shapes which dance around photographic imagery. The series of ten prints each depict photos of different landmarks around London Bridge – The Shard and newly built train station being the most notable of buildings.
Within my COLLECT work, I have revisited this SE1 series and tried to develop it onto glass objects. I am using the very same photographs I snapped, manipulated and used in my prints 7 years ago. This time, however, I’m working with ceramic transfers and firing these photographic images onto the glass. I am combining this with enamel glass paint to create my flat coloured shapes, as well as sandblasted areas of transparent coloured glass.
Can you provide a further insight into the making processes involved with your work?
I start by resolving and developing my idea in my print studio. The 2D print I make becomes a thumbnail or sketch for Louis Thompson, who I work with in the London Glassblowing hotshop, to create the form. The two pieces I’ve made for COLLECT are both layered with clean, transparent coloured glass and an overlay of white opaque glass on the surface of the form.
I then take the glass pieces back to my studio and begin to add and plan my composition on the surface of the glass. I do this by collaging and sticking paper shapes and cutouts I’ve made onto the form. This allows me to be spontaneous and try out lots of different shapes. I can move them around, sometimes just a fraction of a millimetre until I’m happy with the composition. The negative white space (surface of the glass) is just as important as the shapes I choose to incorporate.
Within this collection I have sandblasted areas to remove the opaque white glass and reveal the transparent glass beneath. The opaque glass is lovely to work on and apply enamel and photographic imagery onto, as it’s similar to a sheet of paper or canvas. However, the incredible and completely unique character of glass is that light can pass through it and I want to utilise this quality.
Once areas of the piece have been sandblasted I then apply my transfers using water and a squeegee to push out air pockets and water and then after 24 hours I can start to add my enamel paint.
I have been using electrical tape to make my shapes as a stencil. Most of the shapes are geometric with straight edges and lines so electric tape lends itself very well around the 3D object.
Where do you draw inspiration for your artwork?
In October 2020, Tim Rawlinson and I visited the National Museum of Naples whilst on holiday. At the museum I saw beautiful ornate urns and vessels made around the 16th century. These intricately gilded and decorated pots inspired a series of prints I made in October ‘21 as plans for the glass forms I’ve made in this show.
Conceptually, how do you translate your printmaking into a new three-dimensional medium? How important is it to look back on your art and think of new ways to develop it?
It’s been very important – working with glass has breathed so much fresh energy into my prints. The prints are the starting point for the glass, then in turn the glass changes and develops my prints in very exciting new ways I could never have imagined.
I love the process of applying enamel to the glass and handling a 3D form. It’s very new to me, having just started in the summer of 2020. It is very exciting to have both 2D and 3D creative practices which are becoming circular, informing each other. A painter’s canvas starts off white, but glass can be transparent, opaque, coloured, smooth, shiny, textured or matte and in a variety of form that can be viewed in 360 degrees. My brain boggles from the myriad choices to explore. This is just the start!
How much of an influence has your father, Peter Layton, had on your art throughout the years?
My dad has influenced me so much – I think we work in quite similar ways. Colour is at the centre of what we both do. Like my dad says, he likes to sketch on the blowing iron – I work in a similar way at the etching press or in my studio. His energy and work ethic give me so much inspiration.
Who are the other artists who inspire you?
I have also been inspired by the ceramicist Betty Woodman. Woodman combines 2D painting and 3D objects in such an exciting way. I love the spontaneous, naive and kitsch application of paint onto her ceramic objects. She makes very interesting forms which seem to look both geometric and figurative at the same time.
How do you hope to inspire the future generations with your art?
I would love to be able to help other young creative people launch their careers in the arts in the same way my dad has done by providing internships and employment, alongside a sense of community at London Glassblowing.
Looking towards the year ahead, what most excites you?
I’m due to have a baby in February. This will change things a great deal and I will have to adapt. Time and money will become a lot more precious and I plan to create a studio in my home so my life can adapt around my family. I’m sure children and the change of my working environment will no doubt evolve my creative practice and the work I produce.
Interview Conducted by James Asady
Article Structure by James Asady