Try glass­blow­ing!

From fiery fur­nace to beau­ti­ful glass, we meet Cathryn Shilling who found an ex­cit­ing hobby – and a new ca­reer – in glass­blow­ing

YOURS (UK) - - Inside - By Katharine Woot­ton

It doesn’t get more mes­meris­ing than watch­ing molten glass on the end of an iron trans­form be­fore your eyes into a beau­ti­ful piece of art­work. That’s why, ten years ago, Cathryn Shilling, a former graphic de­signer, de­cided she’d try her hand at learn­ing a brand-new skill by tak­ing up glass­blow­ing. “I’d lived in Amer­ica for a while dur­ing which time I’d taken up stained glass­mak­ing as a hobby and fell in love with glass,” says Cathryn. “When I came back to the UK I wanted a new chal­lenge and dis­cov­ered Peter Lay­ton’s Lon­don Glass­blow­ing, where I took monthly classes.” To be­gin with, it was all about learn­ing the ba­sic process of glass­blow­ing. “It starts by dip­ping a long iron rod into a pot of molten clear glass inside a fur­nace. You then turn the iron to gather a glob of glass on the end, which has the con­sis­tency of runny honey. Ini­tially the glass on the end of the iron is shaped in wooden blocks that are soaked in wa­ter and a bub­ble is blown into the glass. Colour can then be added to the clear glass by rolling it in chips or pow­der made of coloured glass. All the while you have to keep pop­ping your glass in re­heat­ing cham­bers called glory holes to keep it warm and mal­leable. Once it’s ready you then use news­pa­per be­tween your hands to care­fully han­dle it.” It’s a pre­cise, del­i­cate art that can take years to master. “The main chal­lenge is to con­stantly keep your iron turn­ing or else the glass falls off. It is very hot work and the glass can get fairly heavy on the end of your iron. Most pieces take about an hour to work but some of the big­ger ves­sels other artists make can take up to six hours.” That’s why Cathryn now spends most of her time de­sign­ing and as­sist­ing glass blows, as spinal cord surgery a few years ago left her with lim­ited mo­bil­ity. In 2010 she was also made a mem­ber of staff as gallery cu­ra­tor for Lon­don Glass­blow­ing, and also sells the large glass ves­sels with dec­o­ra­tive cloaks she’s now spe­cialised in. This proves that de­spite glass­blow­ing be­ing a more ex­pen­sive hobby – be­cause of all the equip­ment in­volved – it can, with a bit of de­ter­mi­na­tion, even­tu­ally blos­som into a new ca­reer. “Glass­blow­ing has com­pletely changed my life. I’ve met many peo­ple in the glass com­mu­nity around the world,” says Cathryn. What’s more any­one can try it. “It’s never too late to try glass­blow­ing and I have stu­dents older than me in my class,” says Cathryn (60). “It’s an in­cred­i­bly di­verse art form in that you could give ten peo­ple the ex­act same tools, ma­te­ri­als and colours and ev­ery one of them would cre­ate some­thing dif­fer­ent. It can be quite spon­ta­neous, too, as some­times un­ex­pected things hap­pen to the glass and you make some­thing even bet­ter than what you’d orig­i­nally planned. For me, it’s an op­por­tu­nity to be cre­ative and I love mak­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary things.” Lon­don Glass­blow­ing holds reg­u­lar classes for be­gin­ners. Call 0207 403 2800, or visit lon­don­glass­blow­ For glass­blow­ing stu­dios across the UK, check your phone di­rec­tory or Google ‘glass­blow­ing UK’

‘The main chal­lenge is to con­stantly keep your iron turn­ing or else the glass falls off’

It may be hot and heavy but Cathryn loves cre­at­ing art pieces from molten glass

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.