Luke Jerram – Communicating with Glass

Notes on the Masterclass:

Luke Jerram – Communicating with Glass
with Luke Jerram, Louis Thompson and Max Jacquard
Friday 5th – Monday 8th June 2015

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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. Continue reading

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Luke Jerram Day 10

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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…… Continue reading

Luke Jerram Day 9

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With my car in the garage, we arranged for Sam (our teaching assistant at the Hub) to meet Helga, and I at Mike’s studio in Yate to collect a second slumping of Luke’s ‘sleeping figure’ from Mike’s kiln. The week before, Helga and I had gone out to Yate to set up the second firing with Mike, this time with a thicker gauge of 6mm glass. We were expecting a more stable result, but inevitably a heavier object to lift. For this firing we had decided on a cooler temperature with a slightly longer soak, and we were 100% certain the plaster body mould would not be coming out in one piece!

On this sunny, alternating with pouring down with rain day, we were anxious about the weight of this new piece and thought four weight-lifters would be better than three! This is not an object that will fit in the back of many cars. Sam had borrowed his Dad’s Renault van. Weirdly, Renaults seem the perfect size for carrying bodies around! This time, not only did we have to remove the glass figure (which we expected to be the last cast), we also had to remove the mould and the four boxes of bricks we had been using to raise the height of the kiln.

Arriving at the studio, we wound up the lid with less nerves this time, but because two variables (sheet thickness and temperature) had been altered, we were nonetheless unsure of what we would discover ..and up it came …to reveal the best one yet! The heavier glass had indeed fallen to make a more substantial edge, not paper thin as before, and the whole thing looked and felt stronger, as we had hoped. It was not as heavy or unmanageable as we had expected, and we found and lifted it from the edges securely straight away, but we really did need more than two people on the job.

We took it straight out to the van, the figure sliding safely onto its awaiting sponge foam bed, then called Luke to discuss the next step; “this is the last chance” …”is it going to be the last one?” Had we a larger budget, we would have loved to continue with just one more firing, one more to get it just right. This is a common dilemma faced by makers; budget and time often taking the parental controls from the drive for perfection. It was agreed this would be the last one and we reluctantly began to dispose of James Devereux’s plaster body into rubble sacks.

Now at the end of the residency, we pulled the final curtain on the sleeping figure, and began to remove the shell of plaster (chicken wire still bravely holding it together, but mould mix beginning to crumble) into rubble sacks and the bricks into boxes. We left Mike’s studio for the last time …on this project anyway.

Back to the hub: this time it was Sam’s turn to feel every pot hole and notice every little bump on the road. The sleeping figure was finally put to rest in the big barn adjacent to our studio. We were hiring this space for the duration of Luke’s residency, and were begging our landlord at the farm to find more space for storage long term. A note to those who are thinking of moving into large scale sculptures: have a very large storage space available!

KT Yun

Luke Jerram Day 8

It was a lovely bright morning, and with the fire stacked and roaring, Luke arrived to a conveyer belt of results from the last session:

– The disguised – slumping sheets of glass over objects;
– The distorted – charity shop glass distorted in the hot shop;
– The eaten away – sandblasted charity shop glass;
– The flag – a solidified flag, cast and then slumped into and over. (Luke was really pleased with the results of this one), and…
– the homeless figure.

Charity Box…

Luke had brought with him a box of cut, pressed, blown and very vintage charity shop glass, Continue reading

Luke Jerram Day 7.5

Fingers Crossed Trip!

We last saw the homeless mould in the kiln, glass balanced on top precariously, as Mike Rowe lowered the lid to seal in the mummified body, and we set it to slump. It was a massive risk, especially as the mould needed drying and mod rock burning off, but we had nothing to lose in doing the drying all together on this first firing of the mould.  When the  controller was set, we felt relief……we had all done our very best to get it this far.

Helga and I were complete pessimists, Mike also backing us on this “be prepared for the worst” feeling we had. The mould was still throwing steam out when up at top temperature…..I thoughts were – Was it too hot? Was the glass going to break when cooling, was it going to melt too much and undercut? There were so many variables, and it’s in these moments you realise that there is power and the freedom in not knowing too much about the technicalities. Luke just dares to try it… Continue reading

Luke Jerram Day 7

Another really cold day, we went to The Glass Hub early to light the fire and try to warm up the barn before picking up Luke from the train station.  On the journey back to the studio the conversation with Luke centred on how likely it was that the large piece of glass would survive the ordeal of firing in Yate. KT reckoned on an optimistic 20% chance, Helga less! Luke cogitated on the various probabilities, and then accepted that the sheer enormity/risk/cost/uncertainty of the piece was highly stacked against success!. Welcome to the world of glass. Yet, throughout this residency, he has continually surprised us with his apparent knowledge of glass, be it through research, and also a fair bit of experience in the past. Mostly, Luke seems to have a great logical and practical brain, that he can apply to almost any material or process.  Not always having to be the maker, allows him a calm sense of perspective. He has an amazing ability of somehow getting everything done and although never shy of getting his hands dirty, he can make more decisions and get things moving without being bogged down by tedious manual labour.

Continue reading

Luke Jerram Day 5

Luke Jerram watching the flag dry
Flying the Flag
We are back at The Hub for our fifth session, and Luke arrived in the sunshine of a crisp, cold morning to a warm fire, with a Union Jack flag in his hand. This time there was no squashing or flattening to be done, as with his trumpet on Day 3, but we did need to find a way to ‘rigidise’ the flag so that Continue reading

Luke Jerram Day 4

spike-island

Today we visited Luke at his Spike Island studio in Bristol. We drew up into the ground floor loading bay, and entered his Batcave. Like a cabinet of wonders, all kinds of objects, prototypes and references were gathered together, on the floor and on the shelves that lined the room. There was a water slide, like the one used for his ‘park and slide’ installation; some glass objects from Washington; parts of the ‘Maya’ face (pixelated girl project), along with glimpses of Luke’s past projects and hundreds of ideas for future projects that Continue reading