A Very Glassy Weekend

The International Festival of Glass, Stourbridge 26-29 August 2022

I visited Stourbridge, the Historical home of British Glassmaking, for the International Festival of Glass. Four days of exhibitions, demonstrations, talks, classes, workshops and even a fashion show!

Including the Exhibitions : British Glass Biennale, the International Bead Biennale, Expanding Horizons, Contemporary Glass Society at 25: Past, Present, the Future, and Vessels of Memory. Though the Festival itself is over, most of these exhibitions continue until the 1st of October.

First up, the British Glass Biennale, showcasing glass artists from across the UK.

A few highlights from the main Biennale exhibition. I loved Julie Light’s pate de verre ‘strange creatures’ the lone orange one just makes the whole grouping pop. Of course Layne Rowe’s Feathers caught my eye too!

Something I particularly like about the Biennale show, is that you can walk around pieces, observe them through and beyond each other. The translucence of glass adding to the effect, but many pieces had voids too which could be looked through.

Another thing that I love is the variety of techniques on show here. Casting, blowing, glass painting and stained glass, engraving, laminating and kiln work to name a few. Though as ever, I feel lampwork is rather lacking in the main show, however…

International Bead Biennale

So, onto the Bead Biennale exhibit, behind glass, behind a wall, and somewhat moodily lit.
Given that beads are often round objects with no ‘back’ side I was a little sad not to see more of each piece. I found these ‘clear’ labels rather hard to read and to see whose piece is whose. Little numbers by each piece and then the labels in nice tidy rows down the sides would have been much better.

But what you can see is the utter variety of beads and techniques, not just lampwork here! There’s blown, cast, pate de verre, kiln formed, borosilicate and soft glass pieces, and both hollow and solid forms, and of course Arthur van Buuren’s own technique of 3D glass Fusion.

Theres a little video walkthrough in my instagram highlights.

The Artists

Among the line-up are Astrid Reidel’s amazing enamel work, Daisuke Takeuchi’s precision murrini pieces, Michi Suzuki’s delicate dot work, a fantastic sculptural lost wax cast head by Michael Bullen, Sakiyo Takeuchi’s intricately detailed bento box, Ian Chadwick’s lamp and kiln worked murrini piece. UK lampwork artists were mainly going with watery themes, Jennie Braid Lamb’s wonderful Ocean Scenery, Sarah Downton’s beautiful flame faceted hollow ‘Glacial Meltdown’, Jolene Wolfe’s charming Goldfish bead set, Tina Smith’s ‘Stormy Seas’ bead and also Rachel Elliot’s Ammonite Pate de Verre piece, International artists getting on board with the unofficial water theme too with Stéphane Olivier‘s Prize Winning Coral Worm, Anu Luht’s Reef beads and Tove Egholt‘s Water bead to name a few.

I am so pleased that they decided to introduce beads (and indeed my goddess beads) this year, I really do hope it continues! I look forward to seeing more artists challenging themselves, and I know that there are many more lampwork beadmakers out there who need to show their work in such a setting.

psst… the best place to get your hands on my beads is currently my etsy shop.

It’s always interesting to me to see artists who usually work at a much larger scale try to come down to bead size! There is nothing wearable about some of these, and I love it! Challenging what it means to be a bead and exploring within unusual constraints. Personally I was aiming UP to the 10cm size limit rather than down.

Biennale Book / Exhibition Catalogue

Once again I’ll say how pleased I am that the beads were not only included in the exhibition but in the same book as the main Biennale. There is a whole section for the beads and their Artists. I’m honoured that they chose my image for the introduction page, though I’m fairly convinced it just happened to be the right proportion to fit there.

Any Glassy event wouldn’t be complete without Martin Tuffnell supplying me with some glassy goodies! Sure enough there he was, not far from the main courtyard with an army of oxycons and tools, as well as glass rods in all colours, and his handmade marbles too! And not forgetting to mention the brilliant Jammie dodger I got from Glass by Daisy.

Expanding Horizons & Daisuke Takeuchi Demo

We watched this master murrini maker construct a floral cane, and then apply 24 pieces to a base bead. Gently gently melting and patting them down until it was smooth. This was all done with the incredibly soft Japanese Satake glass and upright torches with compressed air rather than oxygen. A Selection of his even more intricate pieces were on display in the Expanding Horizons Exhibition. As were his partner Sakiyo’s, lots of precision, patience and of course cold working between them!

Stourbridge Glass Museum & Blowfish Gallery @ The Red Cone

We visited Bethany Wood and Elliot Walker’s new studio space and gallery as well as the New Stourbridge Glass Museum just across the road. Allister Malcolm and Darren Weed were having a Glass blowers Personal Development day, aka trying things they don’t normally get time to do!

The museum’s collection of Cameo glass is just fantastic, most of these pieces are from around 1885. Just think of the tools they didn’t have and the skills they evidently did! They were full of stunning detail and wonderful rich colours.

An interesting contrast, the ‘old’ glass downstairs in dark black background cabinets, again with the moody lighting, whilst upstairs were the CGS at 25 exhibit and more modern glass examples, with white backgrounds and much more light!

Vessels of Memory

An exhibition including the history of glass ships in bottles. Featuring Ayako Tani’s personal collection, and the artist herself, demonstrating how they are made. Prior to this Ian Pearson was demo-ing a tiger in a tiger, whilst wearing a tiger costume. Glass Artists…what can I say?

Also a couple of fish and the glass fountain in the centre of the Ruskin Mill complex. Who doesn’t love a pretty koi carp?

Other interesting exhibits and demos included a display on how glass is used in containing nuclear waste, Some very enthusiastic PhD students talking about their research and explaining via Lego! My friends at Teign Valley Glass helping pave the way for a possible future showing the E-go Electric Glory Hole.

and last but not least, CGS’s ‘Holiday Heaven’ over 100 glass ‘Postcards’ made by their members in many different techniques including casting, painting, fusing and even lampwork, of course that’s my favourite, well done Glenn Godden!

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