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.
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.
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.
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!
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.