Domestic Gospels to Essex Crystals; looking back

I’ve put together some images and text to give a sense of my work and how it’s developed since 2006 when I graduated. I started with Domestic Gospels and Corner of My Eye – both presented for my Degree Show and at Batch, an exhibition that was part of the International Festival of Glass that same year.

Domestic Gospels

Domestic Gospels reimagined women’s work and women’s place in the home, inspired by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who stated that her heart’s desires could be found in her own back yard. I wasn’t so certain. Some might be found in the back yard to be sure, but women have fought for a long time to seek their heart’s desires elsewhere. One of the dustpan pieces was selected for the British Glass Biennale in 2006.

Corner of My Eye

Corner of My Eye drew on Alice in Wonderland (a favourite source for artists at the time). Alice’s musings didn’t just fill a dull afternoon; they opened up a portal to another world. I can see my interest in the imaginative potential of tiny but constrained worlds opening up here. And also the use of imagery, in this case little domestic scenes.

Swathe

Swathe came next. Laborious processes shape these mixed media sculptures that use fine glass stringer in various ways; cutting, arranging and constructing. But there are elements that stray from the predicted path – reflections throw green fire back up out of the bucket in which cut elements sit in swirls like a crop disturbed and then flattened by the wind. This work was selected for the British Glass Biennale in 2008.

Untitled

I found these polished reflective buckets very compelling and stuck with them for my next project, imaginatively titled Untitled . Selected for the British Glass Biennale in 2012, and for the International Glass Prize exhibition, Glasmuseet Lommel in 2015, light bends and flows around shining stainless steel buckets that contain a mysterious black substance that could be oil or tar. Only on exploration do you find the substance is glass (the pieces are a nightmare for curators; they always have greasy fingerprints all over them. Although I like the fact that people feel the urge to work them out with their fingertips) . There’s a sense of infinity contained in these illusory art works – an infinity that you could dive right into, and slip away slowly into another reality.

Day Trip to Utopia

Ice Cream in Utopia was part of a few pieces exploring Utopias: how they are patched together pictures of what we want and what we have; how strange they look when taken to their bizarre conclusions. The piece was designed to be a postcard from the impossible to the present day as part of the Contemporary Glass Society’s Postcards show at the International Festival of Glass in 2015. Made for fun, the use of imagery resurfaces. The images are created from staged scenes with dolls, drawings, domestic objects and photographed, before being converted into ceramic enamel transfers that are fused onto glass in the kiln.

Spoken / UnSpoken

Spoken / Unspoken was a contribution to Monika Auch’s  participatory Stitch Your Brain project – all about stitch, mindfulness and wellbeing.  Spoken / Unspoken was shown with a selection of Stitched Brains at Gawthorpe Textiles Collection in Lancashire in 2015. I’ve represented just a few of my family using glass gems set into goldwork embroidery mounts and floating on a sea of grey ruffles. It’s clear to see that all sort of elements emerge that I’ve continued to develop; the gem-like object, the strangeness, tiny little optical worlds…..

Spoken / Unspoken is an exploration of the spoken and unspoken relationships and connnections that make up who we are and references rather weird 19th Century ‘Lovers Eye’ jewellery. I was hugely taken with the textile element of this project, which happened simply because Monica is a textile artist, and her project was about textiles. I felt that the pieces should be gem like, and as I’m a keen amateur sewer, the most practical way to do this in harmony with Monica’s project was to use the embroidery technique of goldwork to stitch them.

Essex Crystals

And then next came the Essex Crystals. This work in development was displayed in the conversational space Discuss at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in October 2019.

These are crudely painted and there are more technical glitches than I care to mention, but I think that something is happening here. A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a tiny antique crystal jewel with an equally tiny lap dog engraved and painted on the reverse. Here it is….

From Annina Vogel Jewellery – the original crystal gem that inspired my current project

Entirely captivated by this peculiar object, I discovered that these were very much the thing two hundred years ago. Sometimes dubbed Essex Crystals, they often depicted pets and animals, plants and flowers that were hand-carved and painted onto the back of highly polished rock crystal gems, creating a startling animated and three-dimensional effect. Full of symbolism and extremely weird, it felt to me that they had a visual language that I could use to say something today. What have emerged so far are gloriously coloured optical mini-worlds with a feeling of personal myth, and more than a little strangeness. In order to get imagery onto the surface of the two and half dimensional form I couldn’t rely on my enamel transfer method and I’ve had to model and paint human and animal forms from scratch. This is a massive development for me and one that I hope to explore fully over the next year.

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