Friday, 20 November 2015

Narrating Process - a Northlands Glass Experience

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
My first experience of Northlands was in 2008 when I got the opportunity of being a teaching assistant for american hot glass sculptor Richard Jolley.  It was one of those complete shot in the dark applications that surprisingly, and dauntingly paid off!  Luckily I wasn’t the only TA, seasoned Northlands gaffer James Maskrey was also there.  This put me in the comfortable position of being Richards second assistant and also to work directly with the beginners to glassblowing.  It couldn’t have been a better experience to build up my confidence in the studio and also in teaching.

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.  
making murrini

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

Friday, 2 October 2015

Glass Highlights from Sculpture in Context 2015

Louise Murphy - Arderin
If you have not ventured to Glassnevin this autumn to see the gardens in all of their glory, this is the time to do so. Once again talented glass artists have made themselves known at the Sculpture in Context exhibition at The National Botanic Gardens in Glassnevin. This year’s exhibition had the highest amount of entries to date. It was a challenge for the judicators to choose just 160 of artworks from 384 submissions. Congratulations to all artists who have participated in Irelands largest and most prestigious annual outdoor sculpture exhibition. Here is just a glimpse of works from this year’s show. (All photographs by Karl Jordan).

George Walsh - Spirit of the Harvest
Classically trained stained glass artist George Walsh shows two exquisitely made pieces Fishermen, (painted and fused glass) and Spirit of the Harvest, (Painted Antique Glass) greeting you as you enter the gallery space. 

Also in the gallery is some emerging talent from NCAD glass student Louise Murphy. Arderin, is a sculpted mountainscape that displays the reflective and optical qualities of shot glass. Just beginning her final degree year, this is the first time Louise has shown in this exhibition. 
Gwyn Grace - Sundew Sparkle

There are quite a few familiar names in this year’s exhibition: It is exciting to see the work of recent NCAD graduate Gwyn Grace, this year returning with Sundew Sparkle (cast bronze, glass and bog oak). 

Sinead Brennan - Gone to Pot
Sinead Brennan, GSoI board member and Waterford the Glass City project coordinator is showing some beautiful hot sculpted pieces in a mini installation, Gone to Pot. Both artists’ works this year are finely displayed in the gallery window directly in front of Whole world in your Hands, a piece by Beth Newman Maguire (bronze and Cavan Crystal).

Whole world in your Hands, a piece by Beth Newman Maguire

Another returning exhibitor in the gallery, Dublin artist Eva Kelly shows her vibrant and colourful wall mounted glassworks ‘Oranges and Lemons’. Last but not least, before we venture outside, Willie Foley shows Gilded Cage made from glass and steel.

Eva Kelly - Oranges and Lemons 
Willie Foley - Gilded Cage

Out in the gardens don’t forget to stop and smell the Deise Daisies by William Harvey made with glass and bronze.  
Deise Daisies - William Harvey

Mags O’Dea is dressing up the trees again (you might remember her award winning glass piece from 2013 so we thought we'd bend the rules and mention her again).Another recent graduate from the glass department at NCAD, she is currently studying an MA in sculpture. Mags’ Burlesque (coloured waxes and textiles) can be also found as you venture through the gardens. 
Mags O'Dea - Burlesque 

Of course, there are over one hundred more pieces to be found as you explore the exhibition nevertheless I hope we have given you a showcase of this year’s glassy entries.

Be sure to check out Sculpture in Context 2015 at The National Botanical Gardens, which will run until 16 October 2015. Admission is free and it's a great visit for all the family to enjoy. Opening times are 9-5 weekdays and 10-6 weekends and bank holidays. Free tours of the exhibition every Tuesday 10.30am - 11.30am and every Saturday 3pm - 4pm. Full programme of all the artists and works is available at the reception. More details and contact info see their website

Written by: Louise Murphy
Photographer: Karl Jordan
(Thank You to Jackie Ball for your help!)

Friday, 5 June 2015

CRAFTed Stained Glass with Gerlinde Kugler

The Design and Crafts Council Ireland’s pioneering CRAFTed Programme has been connecting primary teachers with professional crafts peoples for several years now. The programme gives schools the opportunity to teach many techniques that wouldn’t ordinarily find their way into the classroom. Earlier this year GSoI member Gerlinde Kugler undertook one such project 

to share her experience in stained glass with teacher Rebecca Ivanoff and her 4th Class in Carysfort National School in Arklow. 

We asked Gerlinde to tell us a bit more about how it went: 


During March and April 2015, I was awarded a CRAFTed Project by the Crafts Council with Rebecca Ivanoff and her 4th class for 10 time hours. The theme was to be ‘Construction’ and the teacher wanted to introduce the children (10 years old) to glass.
Plastic and Wire Necklace 

To introduce the children to the tools, metal and wire we started by making some jewellery using silver plated wire and coloured plastic strips (cut from plastic folders) as they were coloured and transparent; a little bit like glass. Mother’s Day was around the corner so even the boys were motivated to design and make a necklace.

Next we did some wire birds. First the pupils did a line drawing and then bend fencing wire to the correct shape. They tied some pieces of coloured transparent plastic and some beads into the birds with tying wire and a button or jump ring as an eye.
Wire birds

For the next stage in the project I introduced them to glass and showed them some of my work. The teacher had already researched with the class how glass is made and which materials we would be using.

I demonstrated the Tiffany technique, smoothed the edges of a glass bird and explained and showed how the copper foil was wrapped around the edges.

Each pupil could now choose a pre-cut glass bird, the colour and shape they liked and a beak to go with it. As everything thing was pre-cut, and smoothed there were no dangerous sharp edges in the classroom. 

We worked in groups and were fortunate to have some mums as helpers. The children also made a tail and/or a headpiece from wire for their bird. When it came to soldering, for safety I took just two pupils at a time in order to be able to supervise closely as they worked. While that process was happening, the other pupils could choose to do more jewellery or wirebirds.

The 28 glass birds were going to be mounted on a tree in the window in the hall for everybody to enjoy.

I shaped the trunk of the tree from a wide timber board, 160 cm high, painted it and fixed sculpture rods (RPM Supplies) onto it which then were shaped to become the branches.  As I could only use one half of the window for the display the branches of the tree had to be on one side only. I tied and soldered the birds onto the branches and fixed the tree into the window.

There was just one problem: All the pupils were in love with their bird and did not want to part with it. The solution: Everybody made a second bird to take home and all were happy and proud.

For more information you can contact me by email: - And have a look at my website


Thanks Gerlinde for sharing your experience with us. Other glass artists who have completed projects with Schools include Deirdre Rodgers and Michael Ray.  For more information on CRAFTed Projects see the DCCoI Website - and tell us if you have been involved in a similar project! 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

RDS Christmas Craft fair 2014 - The Glass Edit

It’s all over now but I was delighted to get out to the RDS Craft Fair last weekend for both Christmas shopping and GSoI journalistic reasons. Maybe I was just more attentive but there seemed to be more glass on offer than there was the last year I attended in 2012.
Word amongst the stalls was generally quite positive, there seems to be more buyer confidence this Christmas than in recent years and  I was told by many that weekend was especially good for sales.

Here’s  the lowdown on all the lovely traders I had a chat with:  

First up was Terrence McSweeney from Kerry Crafted Glass. I had met Terry before once at NCAD and once at an RDS Craft fair from Christmases past - He's a yearly staple at this stage, generally to be  found in the main hall along the perimeter.  All of Kerry Crafted Glass is made using recycled glass and his priduct range covers, lamps, mirrors, all kind of table wear and decorative ornaments. 

Tara Crystal Chandeliers: Here again we see more of the former Waterford Crystal employees that are putting their long earned skills to use. Tara Crystal specialise in bespoke lighting and occasionally do other commissions such a trophies. All their woks uses traditional Irish lead crystal for brilliant clarity and optics. 


Jonathan Ball: Jonathan is an artist and craftsman who described himself to me as being 'into too many processes'. His primary materials are glass, metal and wood. Glass is the newest of his passions, having recently graduated from the glass programme at Edinburgh College of Art.  Amazingly Jonathan only set up his new glass studio in Leitrim this September and has managed to produce the huge quantity of work he had on show in a few short months. 


Catherine Keenan's stall had a beautiful display of her both her jewellery and her decorative sculptures. Her colourscape necklaces and matching earnings were doing particularly well and were also featured in The Gloss magazine last week. 


 Jerpoint Glass is another yearly staple at the RDS and was looking delicious always with a great variety of colourful vessels and also some decorative pieces. Jerpoint Glass is a family business in Kilkenny started by Keith and Kathleen in 1997 which now delivers to customers worldwide. The new Zest Collection pictured belowwas particularly eye-catching.

I didn't get a chance to speak to Ruzica Ruane of Cadenza Glass Beads because she was too busy with customers which can only be a good thing but I think this was her first year at the RDS. Ruzica's lampworked beads create beautiful statement jewellery pieces and if you're interested in leanring some of her techniques she also offers workshops for small groups at her lovely custom built studio in Dun Laoghaire. 

Some more glass jewellery - kiln-formed this time - from Shards of Design . Based in Dundrum in Dublin and operated by Fergus Quearney, this company had lots of playful fused glass jewellery, decorative wall pictures and clocks.

I had a great chat with Richard Parish who's been working with fused glass for a number of years now from his studio in Edenderry, Co Offaly.Richard was mostly selling decorative Christmas pieces at the RDS but he also works to commission on architectural pieces and special awards. 

Some more glassy exhibitors I didnt have a chance to talk to were Agnes Preece Stained Glass Lamps, Celtic Heritage Kinsale and Rainbow Stained Glass

Well done to all the exhibitors and we hope you all had great successes from your time at the RDS. 

PS: Also on display over the 5 days were the award winning works from the RDS Craft Awards 2014 - Here's some photography that does them no justice, but it was great that so many people got the opportunity to see them - congratulations again Dennis and Sadhbh! 

Dennis Brown - calligraphy on glass, winner in both the RDS Glass and RDS Calligraphy categories 

Sadhbh Mowlds 'Into the witches eye' - winner of the GSoI award 2014

Written by Meadhbh McIlgorm
GSoI Media and Communications Officer 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Irish Invasion - Pilchuck Session7, 2014

Fred Curtis and TA Conor in the Cold shop 
Glass. Rarely seen glass. Mother Teresa. Water/Waader/Wawsher. Hot Glass. Painting Party. Crown Jewels. Irish Glass. S’mores. Beer. The Pond. Falling into the Pond. Cold Glass. Volleyball. Cartwheel Races. Golden Apron. Laughing. Crying. Glass Music. The Bell. Hot Shop Party. Climbing Walls. Silent Auction. Crazy Hair. Glass. Glass. Glass. Pilchuck was something else. A week just wasn’t enough.

The cold shop on a beautiful day

Unlike other summer classes at Pilchuck, Session 7 was an open-studio session where students were free to work in all areas of the campus. This session attracted students of all levels and backgrounds many using the open studio experience as a chance to explore glass for the first time. A diverse and intriguing programme was on offer from instructors Róisín de Buitléar (hotshop), Fred Curtis (coldshop), Walter Lieberman (glass painting), Armelle Bouchet O’Neill (kilnforming) and Amber Cowan (flameshop).The enthusiasm of the students, the knowledge, skill and personalities of the instructors and the addition of inspirational live-wire Laura Donefer as the Artist in Residence into the mix resulted in the creation of some distinct, exciting, experimental art and enthralled students.
Fred with his TA's
This was my first time at Pilchuck and I was both delighted and nervous to be tasked with serving as a Teaching Assistant (TA) to the great Fred Curtis, Master Glass-Cutter from the Waterford Crystal Factory. I spent my time in Pilchuck’s fantastic cold shop, organising materials and equipment and attending to the students. Despite being a fellow Wexfordian, this was my first time meeting the famous Fred. My glassy adventure began at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, where I met Róisín, Fred and Antoine Brodin (one of Roisin’s TA's). The ground-breaking Caution Fragile! Exhibition was just about to come down. It was really great to witness such inspirational pieces of Irish Glass in such an important international venue. I was delighted to get the chance to see it before the end.
Fred Curtis getting out of his comfort zone in the Hotshop

 My day at the museum set the tone of the trip; I was already in awe of Fred, relaxed, laughing and surrounded by Irish artists. For such a small nation we were exceptionally well represented that session, to to the roll call there was: Róisín De Buitléar, Fred Curtis, Meadhbh McIlgorm, Aoife Soden, Andrea Spencer (English but now lives in Antrim so we're claiming her), Rozarii Lynch (Irish now living in Seattle) and myself - plus other honorary Irish (shout out to Conor McClellan Fred’s other TA, Irish in name)! It was great to see the appreciation that the students and staff, including the other instructors, showed towards us, with Fred being held in particularly high esteem. His reputation had definitely crossed the Atlantic with his demonstrations attracting the awe and complete attention of the audience. His cold shop grew in popularity throughout the week with students of all abilities getting their first experience of the infinite possibilities of cold glass.

A bunch of Irish people and some honorary one's half way around the world :) 

The week was a whirlwind - nonstop from start to finish. The campus was a real hive of activity with artist talks on all week when we weren’t making use of the world class facilities. Two talks of note were presented by our own Róisín De Buitléar and Fred Curtis. Róisín gave an excellent heartfelt presentation on the plight of Waterford Crystal and her work in response to this. Fred’s slide show took a different direction with a montage of some of his most famous and technically ingenious pieces. Its fair to say there were a few amazed expressions while Fred presided over the room.

Pilchuck Olympians Aoife Soden and Roisin de Buitleir

The old mantra of “work hard play hard” definitely rang true in the misty mountains of the Pacific Northwest. There was a real sense of fun about the entire week and this manifested itself in a number of interesting guises: From the tamer pursuit of hiking up the mountain to inspiration point - bottle of wine in tow and floating along the lake with fellow Irish TA Aoife Soden, to some more exuberant activities including an end of session hot shop party, dancing in the ‘Trojan Horse’ and the international athletic extravaganza that was the Pilchuck Olympics. With such a frantic week in the creative bubble of Pilchuck Fred, Aoife, Antoine and I eased ourselves back into the real world with a visit to the Dale Chihluly Gardens and Glass before leaving. A fantastic end to a truly ‘awesome’ week! ;)

At Chihuly Gardens, Seattle. 
End of adventure selfies

Written by Sinead Brennan 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Glass in the Gardens @Sculpture in Context 2014

Benjamin Just, 'Bonsai Model', Glass Wood Pvc, 20x40x10

Hard as it is to believe that a whole year has gone by since I told you about ‘GLASS GALORE @Sculpture in Context2013' - I’m delighted to say that we have done it again and glass art is once more making a big impression at Ireland’s largest and most prestigious annual outdoor sculpture event Sculpture in Context.

Madeleine Hellier, 'Jinny Joe, Jinny Joe Bring me back an Egg', Engraved Watch Faces

Gracing the gardens and glasshouses Dublin’s Botanical Gardens every September/October since 2002 this exhibition features over 150 pieces from both Irish and International artists.There is always fantastic variety with works in all mediums from both established and emerging artists. 

We have counted an amazing fifteen lovely pieces made with glass this year.
 Here's the list of their creators:  

Gwyn Grace, 'Bog Sundew Tentacles', Glass
Benjamin Just
Eva Kelly
Gwyn Grace
Lisa Sarsfield
Madeleine Hellier
Mags O'Dea
Margaret Tuffy 
Merce Canadell
Rose Sinclair-Doyle
Sadhbh Mowlds
Michelle Maher
Susan Cuffe

Rose Sinclair-Doyle, 'Past Whisper', Glass, 35x25x8
Margaret Tuffy, 'Small Breaths', Blown Glass

Continuing the theme of glassy excellence, I'm delighted to report that one of the three cash prizes for an Outdoor Work of Distinction in Any Medium’ was awarded to Merce Canadell, a final year student in the National College of Art and Design glass department, for her piece Embracing Water. Her cast glass piece is partly submerged in the water feature in one of the greenhouses where the running water makes the sculpture glisten and seem to come alive. (Though you should obviously try to see it in person – there is a great shot of it at the end of this short youtube video).
Merce Canadell, 'Embracing Water', Cast Glass, 150x40x35

Some returning stars from last year’s exhibition are recent NCAD graduates Gwyn Grace, Mag’s O’Dea (who was awarded a prize last year) and Sadhbh Mowlds (The GSoI Prize winner at the RDS awards this year). The NCAD students are ones to be watched in this exhibition for sure!

Sadhbh Mowlds, 'The Good People', Blown Enamelled Glass Wood
Mags O'Dea, 'Nurturing The Seed Within', Blown Glass, 10x10x26 

Another familiar face from last years show is Eva Kelly - whose mixed media piece 'Buried Treasure' features some very sweet cast glass dog bones. Well done also to Benjamin Just, who has not one but two glass pieces chosen for this years exhibition.

Benjamin Just, 'Tree Rings', Glass, 40x10x10
Eva Kelly, 'Buried Treasure', Cast Glass and Mixed Media, 25x19x10
Sculpture in Context 2014 at The National Botanical Gardens will run till 17 October 2014. Admission is free and it's a great visit for all the family to enjoy. Opening times are 9-5 weekdays and 10-6 weekends and bank holidays. Free tours of the exhibition every Tuesday 10.30am - 11.30am and every Saturday 3pm - 4pm. Full programme of all  the artists and works is available at reception. More details and contact info see their website

Lisa Sarsfield, 'Accumulate I', Acetate Silk Glass, 10x30x25

Written by Meadhbh McIlgorm
Photos by Eva Reddy