The Luke Jerram Residency began with a chance meeting in an airport, the Glass Hub and Luke all travelling back to Bristol from a CGS conference in Newcastle. We had admired Luke’s work as he spoke, and when conversations began about residencies, and the hassle of flying to Pilchuck in the States, where he had been invited, it made sense to all three of us that using the Glass Hub as a place to reside, explore and experiment with glass, near Luke’s hometown of Bristol, made much more sense……
Today, we sat and reflected upon the residency, concluding our thoughts on some of the projects, discussing techniques and projecting possible outcomes. What was a very positive outcome for us was Luke’s feeling about how valuable an experience it was for him, and key to that feeling was the ability for us all to step back and assess during the residency, to use the gaps in between residency days as much for reflection as for practicalities such as annealing, equipment hire etc.This stepping back gave consideration and clarity to the project, rather than the intensity and hastiness of a residency in the format of a straight run of ten days.
As it transpired our equipment ended up being too small for the scale and process Luke favoured in the end, and just by chance we were very fortunate to find another Bristol based company to undertake the kiln firings. Thanks to Mike Rowe and his endless patience and guidance whilst firing in his large kiln. We were stretched way beyond anything we had tried before, so not only was this a journey of real discovery for Luke, but very much for all of us here at The Glass Hub. The experience of this residency will, and in many ways already has, undoubtedly influenced our way of teaching, our thinking about the courses we dare to run, and expanded our expectations of what we believe is possible in glass. If there is one thing that Luke Jerram does, it’s to make you believe that anything is possible…….
To summarise, the projects during the residency were:
The Sleeping Homeless Figure:
Representing the fragility and transparency of the homeless on Britain’s streets, this project was the starting point and the concluding point of the residency. Thanks to the vision of Luke and the technical expertise of Helga, the skills base soon moved away from the hot shop and into into the kiln room. Slumping over the key materials, getting the essence of the model captured in the folds of the glass, gradually this ambitious ‘life size’ idea became a reality, and it was just a matter of ironing out issues withtemperatures, avoiding undercuts and getting sheet thickness right. In the end we got there, and with each firing costing hundreds of pounds, we were never going to get flawless perfection in the body slumps, but we had a very good effect in the wonderful drape of the slumped glass, and the excitement of the sheer scale of the piece. This seems like a very viable project to us all, and Luke is currently talking to Crisis, the homeless charity, about getting these on a photo shoot in London, so we may have one more trip for the glass bodies in the bag. The temporary installation will involve taking two or so of our glass figures in a van to London, and having them filmed and photographed at night, to highlight the plight of homelessness………watch this space!
The Flag Project:
Initially, this was to be a stars and stripes flag, as Luke knew he was on his way over to Heller Gallery in the States in June. We couldn’t pursue this project this as far as we had wanted, as the homeless project took over, but we did get as far as producing three nice final pieces, as a test using the union jack. Originally Luke had wanted them bigger, but we restricted the scale of this project, determined not to move into a large scale until we had small ones perfected. The folds in the flag and the transparency/embossed textures of the design showed up well when sandblasted, and we then tried various oils to turn it back to translucence. This project showed real potential, and the political reference of the patriotic and the not so patriotic offered questions about war and the role of patriotism. Another concept to be filed in Luke’s ever expanding database of ideas.
The Disguised Project
This idea revolved around glass drapped over everyday objects, disguising them but subtly revealing the domestic scene beneath. Glass flows over the edges of the objects, defining the shapes, the outline and the visual content is subtle and intriguing, with a mystery and wonder about what is exactly underneath these ghostly glass tablecloth disguises. The glass slumping draped beautifully to give this effect, and this project proved too good to forget, but didn’t reach full fruition, so it will join the database of ideas until the right time and opportunity arises. The public art possibilities Luke came up with for this idea are endless, with thoughts of precious and historical objects filling the tables of stately homes.
The Wind-Blown Project
As if a glass had been turned into a fluid state and blown by a directional wind, stretched and leaning like a tree that’s grown on a bleak hillside for many years. For this project we used charity shop glass, making something out of the pieces of junk or discarded glass we all see in house clearances, charity shops or car boot sales. Some of these extraordinary pieces are beautifully made – blown, pressed, cast and machine made from processes perfected in the industrial revolution on, they are a chapter in glass history that Luke has re-configured and turned into a frozen moment. The movement is captured and the pieces take on a new meaning. Where this project will move onto next, Luke has not had time to discover, but again we feel this idea has real potential to turn into some sort of installation or interesting art project.
This idea evolved early on in the residency, Luke discovering the joy of sandblasting, and before we knew it, bottles, glasses, jugs, in fact any vessel lying around was being taken into our powerful sandblasting booth and had holes etched into it, and edges carved away. Like time being sped up, the objects are eroded and eaten away, and the feeling one gets from looking at these pieces is that an alien storm of termites has just landed in the room and eaten away all the edges, leaving just a skeleton shell in its wake. Imagine this as a whole room……the table, chairs, table cloth, cutlery, light bulbs etc. all “eaten” and left as if by a plague of locusts. We are sure this idea will resurface again sometime in the future.
The Sand Museum
A museum of sands from around the world, collated and displayed in glass. This wonderful idea has huge potential, and didn’t really get as much coverage as we would have liked during the residency, but we got a good feel for it, and Luke will certainly store this one away, ready for the right space and time and client. Sands from around the world will be collected and enclosed into glass spheres, perhaps on a grander scale than the small baubles we tried when just trying to figure out the process.
And here are some ideas we really recommend you DO NOT try at home……
Encasing badgers heads in hot glass
Casting dead partridges
Putting chicken nuggets on the pastorelli!
Our memories of the smells in our workshop, our kiln and some of our blowing irons may never be the same again, but it was all worth it….. for the sake of Art!
We would like to take this opportunity to thank The Arts Council, who saw the potential of this residency and also Luke, for inspiring us, for being forward thinking and having no limits or expectations about what can be achieved with the amazing material that is GLASS!