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The London Glassblowing studio has nurtured and produced some of the world's leading glass artists and continues to do so to this day. The exhibition presents sculpture by four of its star glass artists:
Artist, pioneer, mentor, Peter Layton is one of the founding fathers of British studio glass. He discovered the art while teaching ceramics in the US in the 1960s, and has played a major part in elevating glass from an industrial medium to a highly collectable art form. Most importantly, he gave it a home in the UK.
Peter started with a small glass studio in the Highlands of Scotland while relying on pottery to ensure a living. However, the big city called, as did glass - it needed more dedicated champions. In 1976 he opened the first London Glassblowing Workshop in an old towage works on the Thames at Rotherhithe and later on moved to Bermondsey.
Peter takes inspiration from his environment, natural or manmade: a stone wall on a snowy day, the London skyline, or works by great painters. From a mere detail, a flash of a Klimt orange or a slick of oil on the Thames, he creates painterly works with a masterly use of colour. Throughout his career, he has been courted by major art institutions, commercial buyers and private collectors. His work is held in various museums in the UK, Europe and America, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.
Bruce Marks' Birds have attracted an avid and enthusiastic public following. Bruce has achieved deceptively simple abstract forms, which allude to bird shapes. He says: I am a long-time admirer of the sculptor Brancusi. I envy his ability to capture the essence of his subject, creating a purity of form with minimal detail, whilst projecting profound presence. Bruce's response has been to strip back his forms to achieve an exquisite simplicity retaining a definite bird-like quality.
Laura McKinley's fascination for glass as a creative medium stems from its capacity to constantly alter her initial thoughts and expectations. The spontaneity of the hot material demands instant visual judgments that give rise to shifts in her ideas. These allow her to make tangible her explorations of volume, scale and the random interplay of forms. Serendipity and the unexpected often point the way to the next starting point for making. An element of her inspiration is the Italian technique Incalmo. This involves the hot joining of two separately blown glass bubbles of different colour to form one piece, the join then becoming invisible. Once cold, the fluidity of these objects is interrupted by cutting to expose voids which enable the viewer to see both the internal and exterior spaces. The varying thickness of glass and polished angled surfaces create ever-changing effects of light and shadow, a characteristic that is exploited to create an environment of illusion. Laura's work is an invitation to engage with the tranquil beauty of the incidental.
Vezzini & Chen's work is defined by the artful marriage of hand carved ceramics and blown glass. The collections tread a fine line between functional and conceptual, with the design duo creating sculptural hand crafted lighting, glassware, interior accessories and installation pieces.
20 x 13 x 6 cms
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Glass is extraordinarily seductive, explains Peter Layton. Every piece is an adventure and you never know exactly what you have created until you open the kiln and see how a piece has turned out. I love that moment of surprise.
My pieces appeal to a wide audience and everyone from Elton John to the Duchess of Kent have bought my work. It is designed to be lived with and enjoyed as the light changes, not just viewed in a museum.
Peter Layton is one of the world's most widely respected glass artists and he has done more to promote glassmaking as an art form than anyone else in Europe. He has influenced, encouraged and nurtured several of this country's leading glassmakers and has inspired many more internationally. Peter remains extremely active and is regarded as the 'grand old man of glass'.
Peter Layton originally trained in ceramics, but the discovery of hot glass was the beginning of a love affair. He was inspired by the immediacy of this engaging yet elusive medium, and as much by the demanding process as the magical qualities of the material. Each piece represents an adventure and a challenge to control form and colour, while allowing the fluidity of the glass to contribute its own qualities and characteristics.
Self-taught as a glassmaker, Peter Layton's work is organic and tactile, striving to achieve a form of controlled asymmetry. His series evolve by 'sketching on the blowing iron' in the belief that an understanding of the work is best achieved through making. An inveterate beachcomber, his work is often drawn from some aspect of nature or something observed while travelling.