29 December 2005

Jelly glass

I don't mean jelly glasses as in glasses for jelly, but playing with jelly as you might with kiln-formed colours. These are stripes of jelly (not packet) set within hollowed-out oranges. Then cut in quarters longways. A pretty effect. You could do this with glass -- one technique being hot and the other cold. Which is easier to control or predict? I'm not sure. Another seasonal deployment of creativity. Should I be getting back to my sketchbook?

28 December 2005

6 glasses each on Christmas Day

In addition to the 4 shown on the table were champagne glasses and jelly glasses for the kumquats in orange brandy. What a pleasure to have all the right kit for a festive table. Also visible is a slumped glass plate decorated with orchids (centrepiece) and white asparagus wrapped in smoked salmon ribbons. The coup de grace was also in an asparagus form -- ice cream pressed into 19th century pewter moulds, with perfect green tips.

For the last 2 weeks all creativity has gone into Christmas. I even based my Christmas card on the cube project.

13 December 2005

2nd Floor space

Today I went to see the venue for my 'location-specific project'. This is it. The view is from the lift looking straight ahead and I have my eye on the window furthest to the right of the group of 4. It is inset by about 11 cm so I could trap something within a double-glazed panel. That neatly solves my health and safety problems. The offices will be open plan, so if I use the full height, it will be seen from all offices.

10 December 2005

Disheartening term end

Here I am at the weekend wondering what to do with a bunch of cubes. Realise I have been putting energy into objects I don't want and can't find space for. Yes, it was all about learning, but the way the term fizzled out felt a bit like slow-cooking a complex dish, putting it out on a carefully laid table -- and then no one came to eat it.

09 December 2005

Wasted day

No pix of my 'assessment display' because I've shot them on the internal memory of my camera and have no idea how to transfer them. Anyway, what a farce! Each of us went through a charade of presenting our work to the tutors while the other students sat in the canteen twiddling their thumbs. An entire day of nothing achieved and nothing learned while next door the potters were happily potting, with no need to do all this ludicrous form-filling. At least if we had all listened to each other's spiel about our work, that would have been worth-while, but yesterday was costly both in emotional energy and in extra (and unnecessary) expenditure. Do we get to assess the way the course is run, I wonder?

03 December 2005

Cut, opened out and slumped

Here are 3 more versions of the cube: cut across to make two hexagons, which I have reshaped, engraved and glued side by side. The middle one represents the solid opened out into its component slices and copper-foiled - the mottled effect is created by sandblasting the back of a mirror. The 'bra cup' shape is what happened when I allowed a cast cube to slump by itself.

01 December 2005

Still floating

Next Thursday is our assessment day and the end of the cube project -- hurrah! But actually, after a bored patch, I started to enjoy it again. Even now I don't feel I have squeezed everything I could out of it. There's a lot you can do with float glass. I am still hoping, for instance, to do something out of white float, but the bit I have ordered hasn't arrived yet. I nevertheless have 10 pieces to show (5 requested). None are beautifully finished, but I now know what I should have done to improve them. If our group had been allotted lead glass instead of float, I think I would have gone the extra mile and spent time on hand-finishing a perfect cube because of the optical illusions one could then get by engraving one, or maybe two, sides.

22 November 2005

Diced cubicles

I've got the 1 and the 6 and I quite like the 'diced' word-play, even though it's slicing; not dicing. But anyway, which arrangement shall I go for? And there are lots more. Nice effect when polished; and I was trying different polishing effects.

19 November 2005


All the WAES groups went to visit the glass installation by Thomas Heatherwick at the Wellcome Trust. These are my pictures seen from level 3 and level 7 (the top) of the the building. It's an amazing achievement, but completely didn't work for me as it's meant to represent the pouring of bleigiessen into water - nothing we have all done over many years has ever looked like this. Also odd not to use lead crystal glass. And what's it really got to do with what the Wellcome represents.

18 November 2005

Door in Cumbria

I am now working on the first of my site-specific projects. This one is for a door joining the inside of a Victorian Cumbrian vicarage to the outside porch. Here's the space it will close off and two trial effects using the curtain motif in one and details from a Chinese painting hanging next to the door in the other. Both have been done in PhotoShop as rough visualisations.

17 November 2005

Cubic boredom

I intended to finish with the cube project today as I am terminally bored with it now and want to move on, but I am still grinding away at a curved surface on one of them and trying to slump another through a potato masher (picture shows Heath-Robinson-like structure). I really feel that interesting as it has been to think around the cube (as it were) the actual mechanics of sufficient workshop time (and reasonable equipment) are disheartening in the extreme.

16 November 2005

A smashed cube gave rise to these two developments from the original: 'Wear it' (personal dig at the 'Wear it, Flaunt it' exhibition of glass jewellery now showing at the Oxo Tower Gallery), and 'Rocks'. Smashed unworked cube cut from the fritted block. Each of the four sections have been differently cold-worked: a) drill-engraved to emphasise the strata naturally formed by the fritted glass, b) lathe cut to mimic a crystalline structure, c) smoothed and partially polished to make it look like jade, d) as a) and additionally sandblasted. Oil-paints have been rubbed into some abraided areas for extra emphasis.

06 November 2005

Engraved lettering

I couldn't upload this picture before as these 4 glasses were for Vita's birthday (yesterday). I blew them with Martin and engraved them with her name at home. The plate is for my 3rd cousin Hannah who has the same birthday as I do.

30 October 2005

Wear it, Flaunt it

Went with Charlotte to the Wearing Glass exhibition at the Oxo Gallery. Lots of interesting uses of mixed media, though as Charlotte pointed out, if the glass craftsmanship was up to the mark, the chances were that the metalwork wasn't. In other words you can't be a butterfly -- which is essentially what I am. However, I wasn't that struck by the craftsmanship generally: some of it very naff. And if it's wearable glass, then shouldn't that be part of the brief? That you actually can wear it, I mean. Not pose for a photo in it.
not my picture

21 October 2005

Polished cube

Best I can do. Pretty much square - maybe half to a whole millimetre out on some faces. Polishing could be better, but the college has a disheartening polisher -- a jewellery one with bumpy cork wheels. Oh for the cold shop in Brierley Hill. Did I really say that!

14 October 2005

Progress of the cube

The cube project is moving forward by fits and starts. Is this really Week 5 and all I've made is this one little cube (and the makings of 5 others)? We learned how to square it up yesterday. I'd done mine by eye, but I'm not a precision girl and getting it to an exact 50mm on all facets is going to be a challenge.

12 October 2005

Brierley revisited

Not rosy-tinted about Brierley Hill, surely? Not really. Saw all my old pals up there when I went to have a glass-blowing lesson with Martin. I miss all the exhileration of the everyday focus and activity. I miss access to really good cold-working machinery. I miss helping myself to free materials. I can't seem to reproduce that sense of immersion here at home. But I think it would be a mistake to go back next year. Those who'd stayed on seemed jaded, not enthusiastic.

07 October 2005

Ticking educational boxes again

Thrilling picture of cutting glass into 5.4 cm squares ready to fuse into cubes. The class at Westminster is moving too slowly for me. Can't yet get on because of all the hoops we have to step through before being unleashed on our own projects. Like spending a precious workshop morning doing cubist collage portraits of each other. And the afternoon talking about programming a kiln (I got it in one; others didn't). So a level of frustration is setting in. Remembering similar thoughts last year, I have decided to stick it out at least a bit longer.

19 September 2005

First day of my second year

Today I started my self-devised second year - the morning at an engraving class at Morley College and the afternoon at Westminster Adult Education (WAES) doing a Certificate course in kiln-formed glass. I think they are both going to be quite challenging and I hope more rigorous that the IGC. But I will still have to stumble through those assessment criteria hoops, specially at WAES. At least I know what I am up against now and how to play the game. First assignment is to cast a cube to be precision finished at 5 cm cubed. Then to derive 4 other forms from the same model using a variety of kiln techniques.

17 September 2005

More goblets

We tried to make an infinity table with black paper and I photographed these (from their best angle, natch).

16 September 2005

Our end of course display

Our pieces are floating on water ın the central meeting place: the agora, we call it. I have chosen to show my six best goblets. There are another 8 ın varying stages of wobblyness and there are 3 still in the lehr - one of which is pretty fancy.

15 September 2005

The Black Sea

We went by boat from the bit of river that runs past the back of the school to the mouth of the Black Sea. There we had dinner on a restaurant boat - good fun. Raki flowed and we sang all the way in the boat back (a 50 minute journey).

14 September 2005

Spinning incalmo

You can't see, but this is the most amazing bit of incalmo spinning. In case you don't know, that means joining two blown sections while they are hot -- so this was twisted canes joıned to clear glass. There ıs a Turkish style of doing this that is different from the Venetian way; they rake it before twisting so you get swirly twists.

13 September 2005

Golden Horn

I am writing this on the old bridge over the Bospheros where we are participating in IstDesign week. We have made an installation using about 500 wine and beer bottles wired together in huge rings. I wrote some pretensious rubbish about them being circles of cultural intermixing through the medium of glass. I have got into the Press tent to get internet access while waiting for the event to open. Deafening music.

I blew 4 goblets today and 2 yesterday. Pictures to follow. Am well pleased. They still are not straight, but better shapes.

12 September 2005

Factory day

Today we went into production making tumblers with little round Swedish-style handles. There were 6 stages and we worked as a team doing one stage for 20 minutes and then moving on to the next when the whistle blew. It was terrific fun, if a bit nerve-racking as you held up everyone else if something went wrong and you had to start again. But it went pretty well -- the idea being to work fast, as if on a production line and not worry too much about perfection. I'm not sure how many of them will have come out well, but I we made about 30 during the morning.

In the afternoon I started my wine glasses.

10 September 2005

A day in The City

So at last I have been to Constantinople -- so exciting in concept. But it is just another big city with too much traffic, too many people, too much hassle and too much tourism around the main sites. I did enjoy it, but I'm not sure how keen I am to go again.

Picture shows upvieeew of the Blue Mosque.

09 September 2005

Two steps back and one step forward

Couldn't get into any sort of rhythm today; just seemed to be blundering about. Two almost bottles - ruined at the last moment. The only thing I started to get the hang of was little curly bits going up the sides of my ruined bottles - don't know what they are called. Picture follows after our day in the City. Going tonight and staying all day Saturday. We will have our own guide and have decided by majority vote what to go and see. Not the Topkapi - but the other major places.

The picture shows Onur at the silver bazaar.

08 September 2005

The Stourbridge of Turkey

This area - Beykoz region - sounds like the parallel of Stourbridge. In the hot shop where we work are 6-7 factory workers churning out saleable objects - water jugs that look like hookahs, par exemple. When they finish the shift, they rinse out their T-shirts in the pipe-cooler and hang them to dry behind the big furnace. As in Brierley, there is a gaffer and his assistants. He can make a large jug without any reheats. In odd moments, the assistants pull cane.

I boxed 2 bottles and 2 baubles today - lots on the floor, but a good day because I understood something. Out to a resto en groupe in half an hour.

07 September 2005


Three types and methods of bowl-making demonstrated today. I put away three, of which one was much too thick. But I am discarding a lot when I know the set-up just isn't going to work, whereas in the past I'd have ploughed on because it was my turn. We're doing an hour each, twice a day as there are only 2 glory-holes (IGC had 6). I wonder how previous groups managed when they had 10 students ın the hot shop.

06 September 2005

My companions

On second thoughts, maybe I'm not necessarily the duffer. There are three who are pretty good. Miya, Amber & John. And two who are roughly about like me. Gamze & Yasmine. We have an hour blowıng ın the mornıng and the same in the afternoon. We are three to a chair, so there is some slack time, but actually bursts of an hour at a time are as much as one can take. Boyd ıs very good. He talks you through a piece, but he doesn't 'fix' ıt. So anything I take home with me really will be my own work.

[Picture added retrospectively - our group wearing the T-shirts that we designed by committee, with the poster I designed]

Cylinder day

Today we are blowing cylinders - wide, long and squat. The starting point for this is more familiar ground (blocking rather than holding the pipe up in the air) so I got on a bit better this morning and knocked off 2 squat ones and then 2 ın the afternoon. We're workıng much thinner than I am used to, which is hard, but what I want to learn. Stopped for a swim at 5 (as I did yesterday). It's warmer today so the pool was warmer. We're lucky - it is sunny with a light breeze. Pictures when member of our group refinds hıs password.

05 September 2005

Strange Turkish drinks

Under the influence of something called Raki (I think) - anyway a sort of Pernod - I report my day. Shared a bench with Gamze and Yasmin who are quite roughly the same level as me, and from Istanbul. I got 2 miserable specimens ınto the lehr: the others at the other bench who were producıng tumblers to perfection were chucking them all away. Why?

04 September 2005

Blowıng tumblers

Today we learnt a new technique for blowing straight-sided objects. Boyd's demonstration pieces were beautifully thin. We then had an hour each repeating and repeating the stages -- and several of the others were doing really well. Not me. I'm the dunce of the class. Stıll, could have been worse. Picture shows Boyd and Louise who is his teachıng assistant (from Sweden).

03 September 2005

Rainbow over Istanbul

As I arrived in Turkey for a fortnight of glassblowıng, a huge raınbow arc was spread across the bay against an unexpected grey sky. It is cooler than expected, but I will be hot tomorrow as we get down to work. 6 of us ın the glass-blowıng class and 5 doing fusing. Quite a small group, but that is good from my point of view. Am sharing a room wıth Debra from Trinidad.

[Image copyright 2005 john wilkes]

30 August 2005

Glass blowing near the Black Sea

These bowls are made by the tutor, Boyd Sugiki, running a 2-week course in Turkey that I am about to depart for. Am looking forward to it, but with some trepidation as I haven't been in practice and am rather afraid I won't be up to standard. Also nervous about the heat. But an intensive go at it should help me get to grips with learning to control the stuff.

Nothing to report on the rest of the summer, glass-wise. I have been scratching away. And am joining classes in the autumn at Morley College (engraving) and Westminster Adult Education Service (kiln-forming). I am creating a second year for myself.

29 August 2005

Trip to Sunderland

Yesterday I went to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland to see the Edge exhibition and attend a symposium in which the curator and artists talked about their work. Interesting to reflect on the extent to which the exhibits spoke for themselves and what was added by hearing the artists talk about their intentions. I am writing it up for the Contemporary Glass Society.

Quite taken by the university facilities attached and flirted briefly with the idea of doing an MA next year, but it's not really viable.

02 August 2005

Long time scratching that plate

Yes, it took some time. Probably most detailed thing I've done. And various summer jollities, like opera picnics at Glyndebourne , intervened. I am missing the full-time dedication of the full-time course. So far a kiln day at Westminster College and an engraving afternoon at Morley College are my only two autumn commitments.

23 July 2005

Life on the ocean wave

What's this got to do with glass? Is the woman showing off? Sort of. But this is on its way to being an engraved plate. Wonderful 2-day experience. And it'll be my thank-you to mine host and hostess. Am designing it this weekend.

10 July 2005

Commemoration of the London bombings

I did this bowl as a celebration of multiculturalism in the wake of the London tragedies. The figures are based on apsaras on a relief in an Angkor Wat temple. Apsaras are minor goddesses in Hinduism who 'marry' celestial musicians. They were born during the Indian creation myth of 'Churning the Ocean' for the ambrosia of immortality. I don't know why, but the iconography seemed right to me.

29 June 2005

And so back home via Oxford

With the car packed to the gills with glass, I journeyed back via Oxford for a last KK meeting at the President's Lodge (pictured) where we were treated to a dinner with 1979 claret and an equally exceptional Sauternes. But the real treat was entering the controlled book bubble to see a fragment of the St Matthew Gospel about Mary Magdalen, written in 60 AD. Also the Venerable Bede - in his own hand, and a selection of other treasures. So from one sort of a bubble to another, ending where I began my journey of discovery: with the book.