In this, the UN International Year of Glass, we asked glass engraver Katharine Coleman MBE for her overview of the year’s events.
The UN International Year of Glass 2022 was formally opened in Geneva in February this year and continues to celebrate the diversity, beauty, usefulness and magic of glass in all its myriad forms worldwide.
UK glass makers are highly regarded alongside the best international artists. Kiln casters Colin Reid, Heike Brachlow and Bruno Romanelli are the leaders of their field here in the UK, but there are also cutting-edge technologists like Vanessa Cutler pioneering water jet cutting and the famous glass gallery in Bermondsey – Peter Layton’s London Glassblowing – who are top of their game.
This year sees another British Glass Biennale 2022 in Stourbridge which opens in August, and there is a strong contingent of British artists competing in the finals of the Coburg Contemporary Glass Prize 2022 in Germany, the prize of prizes in the glass world, awarded approximately every ten years for the best of European glass.
In London there is certainly plenty of talent in this field.
Glass artist Michèle Oberdieck, glass engraver Katharine Coleman, glass artist-formulator Lulu Harrison and designer Amber Khokhar are among the many talented crafts people based at Cockpit’s Bloomsbury and Deptford studios and who will be showing their latest work at the Summer Festival in June 2022.
Lulu Harrison, winner of the 2022 Glass Sellers’ Scholarship Studio, is a graduate of Central St Martins, with an MA in Material Future. Inspired by ancient glass making processes and techniques, she has been making glass from local and waste materials and is particularly interested in finding alternative means of making and colouring glass.
Using knowledge from crafts and science, she is aiming to redefine the meaning of luxury, helping local communities deal with otherwise unwanted material like shell into an essential ingredient of her glass. Shellfish debris in Cornwall led her to experiment and she is now helping Thames Water find a use for the shellfish nuisance that builds up in their pipes and outflows. The glass she has made so far is amazingly beautiful in both colour and transparency.
At Cockpit Bloomsbury, Michèle Oberdieck displays a range of her latest blown glass forms, playing with both balance and asymmetry in their shape, their colours and form creating subtle sculptures, either individually or as they appear to move together in a group. Michèle plays with both transparent and opaque glass in her flowing glass forms, avoiding the symmetry so commonly associated with blown glass.
Her recent work has included graals, where glass forms are blown with layers of colour, which are later cut through when the glass is cooled. The glass is reheated, dipped in more molten clear glass so that it can be blown further, softening and extending the cut pattern which then blends softly and magically into the body of the glass.
For Amber Khokhar, glass is just one of the many materials which she designs and decorates – a range of cut crystal goblets for Asprey’s being but one of her many products. Inspired by Islamic designs, Amber has designed modern carpets, textiles and many other decorative objects, including the first modern carpet ever fitted in Buckingham Palace, commissioned by HRH Prince Charles.
Katharine Coleman MBE is regarded by the V&A Museum as one of the leading glass engravers in the UK with work in the museum and many international public collections in Europe, the USA and beyond. Highly sought after and collected, her work is mainly on colour overlaid lead crystal. Katharine’s glass requires close collaboration with glassblowers Potter Morgan Glass in Cornwall who blow to her own designs. Most of her clear lead crystal forms have been overlaid with a thin layer of coloured glass, Once blown, the top surface of the glass form is cut away and polished, so one can see inside the piece. The rest of the glass is then cut and engraved on the outside surface. The reflection of the engraving on the outside of the vessel appears as a miniature inner vessel, although there is really nothing but clear glass there.
Visitors to Cockpit Summer Festival will surely be impressed by the wide range and extraordinary talent of our glass makers. There’s more details to be announced shortly, so add these dates to your diaries:
Bloomsbury 10 – 12 June
Deptford 17 – 19 June
Friday 2-8pm, Sat & Sun 12-5pm
And finally, top galleries to see the finest glass:
Peter Layton’s London Glassblowing Gallery
The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh