Notes on the Masterclass:
Luke Jerram – Communicating with Glass
with Luke Jerram, Louis Thompson and Max Jacquard
Friday 5th – Monday 8th June 2015
This was a course that we had dreamed, planned and prepared for, for over a year …and it was finally here. Mixing up art and craft, concept and material, artists with makers, and seeing what happened. The content of the course was based on what we had learned from Luke Jerram during his residency with us at the Hub, and what he in turn had learned from us, about glass. We discovered there was no hierarchy of concept over materiality, of art over craft. There is no right or wrong way to practice as an artist and maker …and with glassmaking at least – ideas can inform outcomes as much as glassmaking techniques can inspire ideas.
Participants were a mix of glass artists/makers and also non-glass artists, but they were all nine risk-takers, all willing to take the plunge and open their minds to different ways of working.
Meeting up with Louis Thompson and Max Jacquard the night before, we fine-tuned the difficult task of scheduling in the proposed mini technique workshops, designed to loosen everyone up and perhaps prep them with ideas for the rest of the long weekend. We had written and planned this course for months, but now was the time we needed to turn it into a reality.
Luke started the weekend with a slide presentation of his projects. His fresh attitude to working with a diverse range of materials and on any scale was inspiring. Luke has a “why not try it” attitude. He has done everything from flying musicians around cities in hot air balloons to his well-known “Play Me I’m Yours” project where he installed pianos in city centres, now hosted in forty different cities around the globe. His interest in glass started ten years ago, when he was looking for a transparent material to make a series of sculptures based on viruses. He found a glassmaker and the ‘Virus’ series was created and has achieved international acclaim.
Uninhibited by lack of specific experience and knowledge about materials, he communicates with makers so well, that they are able to translate his ideas into reality, allowing him to focus on many other aspects of …being a successful artist. Being an artist involves ‘making’ and ideas’ and I think our conclusive opinion after this ground-breaking course, was that both need to exist for the best outcomes. Artists and makers working together and drawing strengths from each other will help push glass into being a respected and appreciated art form …outside of the glass world. We look to a world where glass artists need not compete with low priced supermarket tableware, and also one that encourages concept alongside material crafting skills.
After Luke’s slide presentation, participants were assigned into two groups, one hot-shop and one warm to begin mini-workshops, while Luke began 1:1 tutorials throughout the day, discussing with each participant their personal journey, current work and ambitions.
With Max jacquard and Helga in the warm shop and Louis Thompson, James Devereux, Niki Steel and myself assigned to hot, we were a well-qualified team. We also had Kim, Karen and Sam on hand to manage everything else. This was a full-on assignment that needed many hands on deck!
In 45 minute sessions we “drew with hot glass”. This involved Louis and James demonstrating many forms of loose sketching with a molten pencil of glass; draped onto forms, bent and sculpted by the torch and assembled inside and outside of hollow forms, dropped and drawn on the marver, then picked up and folded. We gave the students a real insight to the possibilities of sculpting with glass.
Meanwhile, next door they had a window of 45 mins to explore some simple and fast 3D forming. Choosing from a wide selection of glasses, including all sheets glasses, tubes, rods, fruit, stringers and globes/cullet together with props, bricks, wire, students were encouraged to create something sculptural as an assemblage and to see what would happen in an overnight fuse and slump.
Later that day in the hot shop we began to distort some of the charity shop glass we had asked students to bring, and that we had supplied. This is an interesting and fun way of reforming, ready-made glass. So in effect, we were redesigning and reinventing glass artefacts, and uncertain things did happened. In the warm shop students focused on surface features and finding ways to tie bundles of glass together for sculptural effect.
We all assembled for a well-earned a large tabled dinner at The George Inn that night, all relaxing and catching up with the day.
The day started with more mini workshops, this time we were 3D forming hot glass, sculpting and mould blowing into clay, even drilling hot glass. Both known for their taste for unconventional glassblowing, Louis and James excel in working with the unexpected, which we most certainly were! The warm shop had now extended into the big barn, with students working on pattern and repetition, moulds being mixed for a firing that night. The evening began by a wonderful demo from Louis and James, Louis blowing the form to James’ instruction (a first for James, as this is normally what he does for others) then James got out his trusty hammer, and started to “Knapp” (delicately carve by splintering) the edges of a bowl. With a glass in our hands (full of beverage this time), Max then gave a truly informative slide talk about his work, and his career and we finished off the day with a delicious curry before heading off to our beds.
We began with a collective discussion about the progress so far. Helga and I then explained about using ‘decals’ to transfer images to glass, and how to use them in their work, fused, blown and on ready mades.
Students were now working more independently, choosing techniques they wished to work with and exploring avenues, suggested or inspired or not by some of the mini workshops. The emphasis was very much on making prototypes and sketching out ideas, rather than on finished objects. We encouraged participants to experiment and involve a sense of play in their work. While Helga, Niki, Sam and Karen held the fort, Louis and Max gave their own tutorials to each student, with their focus being on manipulating the material, balancing out Luke’s ‘concepts and promotion’ based mentoring. We rounded up the day with a delicious Stowford Farm cream tea in the shady garden adjacent to the workshops.
The last day, and as always, a certain amount of energy and vigour returns to the students, as they realise it’s the last opportunity to try and get things made. Luke started the day with another slide talk about his residency in Tucoma, Washington, and about his residency here at The Glass Hub. Unfortunately we had to pull the plug on an interesting and heated debate about “art vs making” as it was cutting into the day. Luke then finished off his tutorials, and had to made a quick a get-away, at 4pm to prepare for his trip to Heller Gallery in New York and Wheaton Village, New Jersey scheduled for the following day.
A whirlwind and sometimes chaotic symphony of glassmaking ensued, with students darting from hotshop to cold to warm and back again until the final whistle blew at 5pm …phew! When the Minimelts were turned off and the last kilns loaded, we started to review the assembled amazing personal collections of work created by the group.
This workshop was a little like a super intensive degree course, without any red tape and little restriction …crammed into four short days. Just seeing the creativity and individuality of each and every student was so rewarding. Exhausted and creatively wrung out, but happy and satisfied, we retreated to some semblance of normality. The course had developed its own life and exceeded our expectations and we hope that the students found it equally as inspiring and rewarding.
To everyone who made it happen, Tutors, students and staff alike …THANK YOU!