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Glass artistry that’s in a class of its own

A special exhibition explores the endless versatility of glass

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Glass artistry that’s in a class of its own

July 05 2011
Dominic Lutyens

Opaque or transparent, figurative or abstract, jewel-bright or monochrome, glass is an endlessly versatile medium. Its mercurial viscosity allows it to adopt any form, as you’ll see at Just Glass’s selling exhibition on July 6 in Notting Hill, London. Just Glass is an organisation that showcases work by glass artists who teach or study at Richmond Adult Community College, a leading college teaching glass-making. The show is one of a series of art and design events called First Wednesdays, held locally on the first Wednesday of each month.

Glass may be an elastic medium, but the exhibition has a focus – mainly on the technique “warm glass”, which shapes glass in a kiln, as opposed to “hot glass” (glass-blowing using a furnace). Warm-glass techniques can be subdivided into fusing, slumping (shaping glass by draping it over 3-D moulds in a kiln) and casting glass in (hollow) moulds. Some artists paint and gild glass decoratively instead.

Angela Thwaites’ 35cm-tall, one-off, faux-naïf, cast-glass piece Grey Flower (first picture, £3,325) reflects her interest in using “non-naturalistic flower forms like those in children’s-book illustrations”. Frances Federer’s unique, offbeat insect-motif pendant (£240) is made by gilding and painting glass. Wendy Newhofer has also alighted on an insect theme with her kiln-formed glass butterfly captured as though in amber and by the frame around it (second picture, £130). The image incorporates metal leaf and wire since Newhofer likes to “draw” within glass.

One interesting aspect of the show, to be held at Mary Portas’s Mary’s Living and Giving Shop Supporting Save the Children on London’s Westbourne Grove, is the artists’ ability to confound expectations. Thwaites’s piece, for example, is deliberately paradoxical. “It’s made of unyielding float glass,” she says, “but I’ve made it look soft, melting, relaxed.”