Remember back when it was summer and some of us lucky few got the chance to travel and take some amazing glass classes? GSoI member Catherine Keenan travelled to our friends at Nothlands Creative Glass, an amazing glassy place not too far away from us - find out about her experience!
|'The Worst Journey in the World' James Maskrey|
I had forgotten what a special place Northlands is and this time I was the student and James Maskrey the teacher. Since I last saw him in Scotland in James has become a leading figure in British glass, and deservedly so. He masterfully marries his virtuosity in a variety of glassblowing techniques with his talent for storytelling to make sublimely elegant vessels that subtly suggest narratives in the form of marks, colour, text, and figurative glass miniatures. A large body of his work brings to light fascinating details of historical journeys such as that of Cook, Scott and Shackleton.
“Narrating Process” was the course title and we had nine packed days to explore themes and means of employing storytelling in blown glass pieces. There was a clear structure to the course, we had two projects to complete, a short ‘one-liner’ and a more substantially researched final project. The first day was spent exploring the local area to gain inspiration, we then had allotted ‘bench time’ (glass blowing) and also the opportunity to see demonstrations by Jim. I was particularly interested in seeing incalmo and murrini and also his ‘Working Solo for Sad Singletons' - how to blow glass without an assistant.
For me this was the first time since I was a college student, seven years ago, to really indulge in the creative process. Since then I have hired studios to make my work and therefore experimentation has been very limited. The nine days at Northlands was a chance to play with the material, to be less precious and not worry if the piece ended up in the bin. It was a chance to generate new ideas and approaches, to be challenged and thereby consolidate what I do and why I do it. It was essentially a more intense and condensed art college experience, and I loved it!
|Catherine's class experiments|
As our masterclass leader, James set the tone for the group dynamic. There were six in our class, of a variety of ages, skills and backgrounds. I’m not sure whether it was due to being so closely involved with previous masterclasses at Northlands, or because he was in a rugby team in his youth, but James made great efforts for our group to bond. One particularly clever ploy was a game he devised, we each had to choose our favourite music track, tell this only to Emma Baker our TA, who made a list of tracks at random and then we had to guess who’s track was whose. We each threw some money in the pot and the winner got the lot...although they had to take everyone else to the pub and buy the drinks! I think this investment in the social side of the class was very insightful on James’ part. It made for a very pleasant working environment, we all enjoyed and benefited from hearing each other’s ideas and half of the experience of going away to do a class should be the time spent with new people.
|The class group|
The staff of Northlands are also obviously aware of the essential social aspect to the experience, with amazing dinners arranged every night, a programme of students and tutors giving presentations of their work in the evening, and a day in the middle of the course to explore the local area in groups (I joined the boat trip that followed the breathtaking coast from Lybster up to Wick)
The studio experience was brilliant, with unlimited access to materials and more than enough bench time to make work. Just being at Northlands however, meeting interesting people in a ruggedly beautiful landscape, was equally enjoyable...and I even saw the northern lights!
Written by GSoI Member, Catherine Keenan