The Art of Glassblowing at Messums Wiltshire

This was a welcome return to Messums, Wiltshire, the stunning setting of the largest Tythe barn in Europe, and the rural wing of one of the country’s leading British art galleries. Johnny Messum kindly invited us back to host some of the finest glassblowers demonstrating their skills, as a finale to their 2019 Glass Festival. What an absolute delight to have such a setting to showcase the fine art of glassblowing. The line-up was set, tickets were sold, and thanks to the seamless organisation from Messums and Minimelt Glass, everything was in order, kit ready.

This year the two main exhibitors at Messums Glass Show “Material Light : Glass” were the legendary Dante Marioni from Seattle, and our own home grown Elliot Walker. Their shows opened in December and brought the subject of glass art to Wiltshire, exquisitely presented in the two Messums barns. Joining them were Scott Benefield from USA/Northern Ireland, Katie Huskie from Devereux Huskie Glassworks, and Dave Barry from Bristol Blue Glass.

Read more on our blog……


The Art of Glassblowing at Messums


This was a welcome return to Messums Wiltshire, to the stunning setting of the largest Tythe barn in Europe. Johnny Messum kindly invited us back to host some of the finest glassblowers demonstrating their skills, as a finale to their 2019 Glass Festival. What an absolute delight to have such a setting to showcase the fine art of glassblowing. The line-up was set, tickets were sold, and thanks to the seamless organisation from Messums and Minimelt Glass, everything was in order, kit ready.

This year the two main exhibitors at Messums Glass Show “Material Light : Glass” were the legendary Dante Marioni from Seattle, and our own home grown Elliot Walker. Their shows opened in December and brought the subject of glass art to Wiltshire, exquisitely presented in the two Messums barns.

Seating was tiered, so viewing was perfect for the audience, which topped 120 people by the end of the day. Tickets were allocated per artist, but many grabbed the opportunity to buy day tickets with a lunch included. People had travelled from as far as the Highlands of Scotland (the Northlands Glass crew), and many a familiar face was there as we started the first show at 10am.

First up was David Barry from Bristol Blue, as he bravely took to the floor and effortlessly created a Swan Stem Goblet, Venetian style. With the help of Tyler Sheppard, and our amazing assistant James Devereux (only the country’s leading glassblower as an assistant that day!), Dave made this tricky three part assembly look easy and seamless. And with a bit of time left over, we also got to see a “ampholina” – small flask/pourer – with pincered decoration and a blown spout.

Next we welcomed one of the country’s top female glassblowers, Katherine Huskie. Katie gathered over a ruby pink colour bubble, and blew it out to a desired spherical form, and then covered the vessel with hot, fluid glass trails of molten glass, pinching and forming the ribs on this sea urchin inspired form, another addition to her “Echinus” series. She showed to the crowd the perfection of teamwork and timing, and together with Emma Baker and business partner James Devereux, this Huskie/Devereux team showed us why they are producing the country’s finest glassware from their Wiltshire studio. and

Lunch break allowed some time to heat up a tile of around 24 small square slices (Murrine) to then fuse together into a rectangular mosaic tile. It was the turn of Scott Benefield, from across the sea in Northern Ireland, where he runs his studio Benefield/Spencer Glass with partner Andrea Spencer. Scott blew out a colour bubble, cut it in two, and then put it away in the kiln, to add later. Next, he took his thin slices of “Murrine” (small slices of square glass he had made at home) and squeezed them together into a long tile, using a long heating fork called a “Pastorelli”, to heat in the Minimelt furnace. With an ease that only comes from decades of experience and practice, he rolled this rectangular tile up into a cylinder, sealed off the end and blew it up. He then joined one of the colour sections to this (“Incalmo”), then puntied and joined the other colour section to open up. Scott, assisted by James worked in complete unity and were an absolute joy to watch, relaxed and clam, and, as if rehearsed, they made an incredibly tricky piece look easy!

The crowd had steadily grown, not many seats were left, and many were standing as Elliot Walker took to the floor. Somewhat of a maverick in hot glass, and never one to repeat a piece, he chooses, always, a work of art he’s never tried before, and followers get to choose the theme… the idea of making a hat proved to be the most popular (apart from with those dealing in risk assessment!). Elliot started with a small flower, sculpted with hot glass. Then, a feather, made with some iridescent colour. Both these were held in the kiln, until Elliot and Bethany had blown out a shiny black bubble, then hand sculpted this quickly to a hat shape. It was then puntied, opened and the hat rim spun out. They then they added the feather and flower. It was a show stopping performance from Elliot, better than any magic show, and had us all on the edge of our seats……and as for the risk? Well, he pulled it off, or should we say “put it on”, as when it was finished (and still at around 600 ⁰C!) Elliot fitted it to the head of his most glamourous assistant Beth, who wore it for a good few seconds, (with the help of a kevlar beanie!).

The final act was from one of the most internationally acclaimed blown glass artist on the globe. Dante Marioni, from Seattle USA, is undoubtedly a world class artist, with an ability to create forms of beauty and elegance, pushing the limits of the procedural possibilities of glass, as he so naturally moves the glass around, with a familiarity that makes the observer feel he’s known it forever -which, in fact, he has. I first watched Dante demo at Pilchuck in 1991, and still get the same kick as a spectator today, as I did then. This was such a privilege for all of us to work beside him. Dante had pre-made some “cups” in his trademark “leaf” pattern, a complex mosaic of cane (latticino style), that had been rolled up (similar to the murrini process) and blown into a pointed egg form. Dante picked this preheated cup up and after careful marvering, gathered over it, blowing it out into an acorn shape, even though this was not the standard reticello design! The leaf form, was too long and delicate for our mobile furnace operation, both in terms of annealing and heating. So with sheer delight and a hush in the crowd, we all watched this artist make a one off “leaf pattern” acorn, a rounder and more suited shape for the Minimelt and the small kilns we had brought. It was a supreme finish to an amazing day, and an experience I will never forget. Many thanks to all the artists, and to Messums Wiltshire, who gave up their time to bring the British public this unique opportunity to see some of the best glassmakers work in the best setting possible.

Finally the Sunday brought yet another day of performance in glassblowing, this time, it was the public who showed off their skills, as The Glass Hub team taught beginners some bauble blowing, and allowed people to have a go themselves. This day was opened with a premier performance from local glassblower Emsie Sharp. She blew a beautiful decanter and several wine glasses, in front of a small crowd, displaying the skills she has developed over the years since setting up her studio in Dorset. Emsie trained at Farnham UCA, and also trained for several years on the island of Murano.

And so it ended……another year, another success, and some fabulous glassblowing observed by the public. Thanks to Messums Wiltshire for giving this ancient, yet also contemporary, and treasured art form a magnificent platform to stand on.

Don’t Miss …Messums Glass Festival!

Saturday 26 – Sunday 27 January 2019
On the last weekend of January Messums gallery in Wiltshire will be hosting their second Glass Festival. The weekend will be made up of a day of demonstrations by contemporary masters using one of The Glass Hub’s Minimelt furnaces set up in the barn, followed by a chance to have a go yourself on the Sunday. This festival accompanies the current exhibition at Messums, ‘Material Light: Glass’, with artists Dante Marioni, Elliot Walker and an amazing installation by Michael Hulls ‘Tungsten Requiem’ – not to be missed!

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When Scott Chaseling Rolled-up!

We were so delighted to have the opportunity to host master glass artist Scott Chaseling, who arrived from Australia in September inspiring us all with the mechanics and beauty of the ‘roll-up’ technique using fused glass.

Primarily triggered by work developed by Claus Moje and Dante Marioni in the ‘90s, Scott Chaseling has further developed the technique where fused glass is rolled it up into a cylinder and then blown out as if gathered from the furnace. Chaseling and his team pick up fused tiles on a “collar” of glass at the end of a blowpipe. This collar could be made from sheet glass fired in a kiln, thus eliminating the need for a furnace. We have great facilities here at the hub with our Minimelt mobile furnaces suppling small quantities of glass, yet with all the aspects of a Glory hole. Scott’s assistants this time around were talented and established glass artists in their own rights. The inspiring Cathryn Shilling from the fused glass world, and the multi-talented, Katie Huskie from her busy studio, Devereux & Huskie. Both barns here at The Glass Hub became one, as students cut, fused, carried, shouted and married the dual processes of warm and hot glass.

Read full post on our blog…

When Scott Chaseling Rolled-up

scott-chaseling-masterclass-roll-upWe were so delighted to have the opportunity to host master glass artist Scott Chaseling, who arrived from Australia in September inspiring us all with the mechanics and beauty of the ‘roll-up’ technique using fused glass. Primarily triggered by work developed by Claus Moje and Dante Marioni in the ‘90s, Scott Chaseling has further developed the techinique where fused glass is rolled it up into a cylinder and then blown out as if gathered from the furnace.  Continue reading

‘Hot Start – Cold Finish’ – Masterclass with Louis Thompson and Anthony Scala

Day 1.

This course developed from the bold concept of creatively merging hot and cold glassmaking processes and inviting two of the best from each arena to steer the ship – master glass artists, Louis Thompson and Anthony Scala. Participants arrived from as far as Australia for this course, armed with an open mind and eager anticipation for the five-day adventure to come.

Following an inspirational introduction by the tutors, students were given a roll of paper to fill with their creative ideas and to use as a diary over the coming week and selected some coloured blown cylinders to work with. The group split into two teams and each team would spend half of the day with Anthony dissecting and deconstructing the cylinders; learning to use cold-working tools, to cut, carve and make marks; removing colour; adding detail and simply learning the processes. The other half would be spent with Louis in the Hot Shop, assisted by the wonderful glass artist Niki Steel, to sketch out their ideas in 3D glass – to be used as either components for sculpting, or core pieces to carve on the following day. The coolness of the river and the evening shade at Stowford Manor Farm were most welcome that evening, as all had the opportunity to wind down and share their experiences with a well-earned drink.

Day 2.
The rising temperatures outside were largely ignored this morning as we only cared about the kiln temperatures. The top loading kilns, were packed full of the previous day’s ‘pickups’, ready to be assembled with heat, torches and hot glass, alongside a menu of ideas already forming on rolls of wallpaper, and the newly stretched minds of participants. Louis and Anthony were both intent on expanding all the possibilities available through exploration and experimentation, keeping everyone away from the restrictions of creating single, completed pieces. A whole variety of shapes, techniques and trials were explored as the group began to gain both hot and cold confidence in the studio. Homemade pizza with G&Ts by the river later on …in cool shade, well-deserved.

Day 3
By now, everyone was showing signs of loosening up, and students’ personal themes were naturally becoming evident. This kind of creativity flourishes within a space where ‘letting it happen’ opens outcomes. In the cold-shop, Anthony and Jess monitor the slicing, chopping, cutting, blasting and sectioning of yesterday’s work. In the hot-shop Louis and Niki work on blown pieces, sculpting solid components, working with colours, additions, blanks to carve and rings to blow into. Looking at each piece of glass with an open mind to the creative possibilities has allowed unique details to emerge, and the anticipation of what could be created fills the air. After an exhausting yet inspiring day, we fired up the BBQ, and enjoyed a wonderful evening of food, drinks and live demonstrations from Louis and James Devereaux, with a roman jug and wine glass demo from Dave Barry from Bristol Blue.

Day 4.
Everyone’s work suddenly seems to be coming together – cogs, decorative rings to blow into, stones to stack hot, amphoras and spinning wings are filling the hot shop along with the sound of the oxy gas torch heating and gluing glass together. Students are now more confident with the machines, are able to move more seamlessly from lathe to bench, between hot and cold in their nest of creativity. Anthony gave a brilliant gluing demo …who knew there was that much to know about gluing!

Day 5
And here we are on the last Day. There was a palpable rush to get as much finished as possible. A glass equivalent of ‘The Bake Off’ ensued, but with more dangerous edges and much nicer judges. Participants were all on-track to get their work finished and when the furnaces were turned off at lunch-time, an unusually tranquil atmosphere filled the studio. We concluded this fantastic week with a reflective fifteen-minute presentation from everyone, rolls of drawings on the floor. How different each story was, and with so much experimentation, discovery and a real sense of achievement by all.
Led by two of the most talented and happy guys to be around, it was impossible not to enjoy this week. A big thank-you to Louis Thompson and Anthony Scala, who gave their ‘all’ to this brilliant and creative group of glass artists.

A Glass Spectacular at Messums Wiltshire

We were approached by Messums Wiltshire in November 2017, to take part in their “Glass Festival: Alchemy in Art” due to take place on 28th Jan 2018. The plan was to take our mobile Minimelt glassblowing studio to the event for demonstrations. Messums is a spectacular new fine art gallery in Tisbury, Wiltshire, showcasing fine art, and more recently, crafts. Glass ‘art’ has generally been segregated from the fine art world, and so this was a unique opportunity to showcase not only beautiful glass artworks and fine craftsmanship, but also the physical process …live in the gallery!

The concept of the day, evolved from simple participatory glass bauble blowing into a unique display of live master glassblowing demonstrations for the public to watch. Previous events at Messums have included operas …so why not?  Within twelve hours we had confirmed a schedule of great glassblowers and things were in full swing. The talented line-up consisted of: Dave Barry, James Devereux (featuring Cathryn Shilling), Katie Huskie, Elliot Walker and then a surprise guest from overseas – Dante Marioni.

Transporting the Glassblowing Studio

Loading the van

It’s extraordinary how much “stuff” one needs to create a glassblowing studio at an event like this. Thankfully we’ve held many hot glass demonstrations out in the field including festivals as diverse as Glastonbury and The international Festival of Glass together with performances in cathedrals and workshops all around the country. While a full class was running at The Glass Hub, we packed up the Minimelt Mobile Glassblowing studio, including four mobile kilns. After a very steady forty minute drive we arrived at Messums beautiful tithe barn to set up the studio on a specially prepared stage of shiny new steel.

Glass Festival: Alchemy in Art – Sunday 28th January

We fired up at 7am, on the 28th. Kiln 1 was on and heating up Cathryn Shilling’s fused tile (at a scarily rapid rate) and the MiniMelt furnace turned to full blast, preparing the glass for the first demonstration…

Demo 1.  David Barry assisted by Bliss Hill

With only a small amount of time to practice, check layout and set the stage, David Barry and Bliss Hill were the first demonstrators. They performed a beautifully perfected piece of choreography, as they moved together and connected with molten glass, to create a fine piece of English handblown stemware. Both work for the local company Bristol Blue, the fluidity of production glassblowing shining through. Dave then went on to create some sculptures. He crafted a stunning dagger with clear glass that had its handle dipped in the rib mould and twisted on the marver. The blade was then dropped on hot, cut with shears and perfectly stretched to a point.


Demo 2. James Devereux, featuring Cathryn Shilling, assisted by Katie Huskie

The kiln temperature was up, and a sigh of relief as the 6mm tile that we previously added and heated up rapidly was still in one piece. Cathryn Shilling took to the mic’ while Katie and James prepared the tile ready to roll. Cathryn talked us through the history and process of the “roll-up” whilst the young master James Devereux, (himself a local Wiltshire lad) was glassblowing on the stage, assisted by the talented Katie Huskie. Cathryn and Devereux-Huskie performed their well-rehearsed technique, creating a blown vessel from a flat sheet of fused glass. As expected, they dealt smoothly with the new situation, location and audience as if they blew glass there every day. We feel so honoured to work just down the road from these guys Devereux and Huskie, and are privileged to have them demonstrate for us at The Glass Hub on many occasions.


Glass: Craft or Fine Art? Debate

After a lunch break we all took our seats in the barn again for a discussion about glass – “Craft or Fine Art?”. A panel consisting of Cathryn Shilling, Emma Woffenden, James Devereux and Dante Marioni responded to a range of questions on glass in relation to the craft/art debate. For me, just the fact that we as makers and designers were there talking about it in a fine art gallery is progress.

Demo 3. Katie Huskie

1.30pm and Katie Huskie was up next. Katie was assisted by James Devereux, together they performed a wonderful display of team, gathering and bit work as Emma Baker and Dave Barry were pulled in to assist. Katie blew up a coloured cylinder and added strands of hot glass by trailing and tweezing them into shape. There was a solid and retro quality to Katie Huskie’s piece that we loved, it captured light beautifully and was awesome to watch …but no time to linger, It’s time to get the next show on the road!


Demo 4. Elliot Walker

Elliot Walker is no stranger to the limelight of performance and doesn’t like to stick to any kind of rehearsal or script, but loves to go with the flow. His aim was to make a “bird inside an egg” which was in fact, a solid bird, sitting in a nest, encased inside a clear blown egg. Like a magician, he talks with perfect ease to the rapidly increasing audience. His few years of working as “The Bandits of Glass” lending confidence and a natural agility. This ambitious piece of work was executed brilliantly and finally flew to rest in the lehr with no time to spare! His work is incredible.


Demo 5. Dante Marioni

And so the moment arrived and the audience extended all around the centre stage now. With about two minutes to go, I looked into the kiln to check on a pre-fired reticello cup that Dante had given me to heat up earlier. Phew! It hadn’t smashed into pieces and Dante Marioni was ready for the off.  American born glass artist Dante Marioni has achieved international acclaim for his work. Having trained with such masters as Lino Tagliapietra, Benjamin Moore, and Richard Marquis, he is best known for his venetian style colourful free-blown vessels. I’m not sure that he was fully aware of the limitations of the mobile glassblowing set-up in the barn that day, but he seemed to be confident that he could go further than just a Reticello vessel, and would make one of his ‘Acorns’.

The crowd hushed, and a serene silence filled the building. Dante admitted that he was more comfortable with American noise, music and stadium sound rather than this tranquil silence, but being truly British, we politely continued our stillness, in awe, watching a master of this calibre. He picked up the preformed Reticello cup, sealing it into a perfect object in itself, then gathered over and produced the most incredible piece of glass. Assisted expertly by James Devereux, he managed to deal with any equipment limitations to effortlessly create the most stunning Reticello Acorn.



A massive sigh of relief was released from the silent crowd as the final piece was tapped off into gloves and popped into the last space of the top loader kiln. We had five incredible pieces in. Not one had smashed on the floor; the equipment had lasted, but more than that, we had demonstrated to the audience at Messums that day the extraordinary skills and the beauty of glassmaking in action!

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