Jessamy Kelly talked about her Master’s scholarship at Edinburgh Crystal and the routes she has since taken which have brought her back full circle to Edinburgh College of Art at the recent ‘400 Years of Glass’ Conference in Edinburgh.
Having completed a BA in ‘Glass and Ceramics’ at the University of Sunderland in 2001, I went on to complete a Masters in ‘Glass Design’ at Edinburgh College of Art. This involved an Industrial placement at Edinburgh Crystal as a student glass designer. This opportunity allowed me to develop a creative and experimental approach within the reality of a commercial environment. I then went on to work as an in-house glass designer for Edinburgh Crystal until 2006, when the business closed. I continue to work on a freelance basis as a glass designer for industry; this collaboration informs and influences my studio work in a unique and innovative way. I set up Jessamy Kelly Glass in 2002 and a second company called Juo Ltd in 2006 with glass designer Joanne Mitchell. I also work as a freelance industrial glass designer; this collaboration with industry helps to inform my creative practice. In 2009, I completed a practice-based PhD at the University of Sunderland that focused on the combination of glass and ceramics in studio practice. After the completion of my PhD, I returned to Edinburgh College of Art as an artist in residence, which in a way led me full circle back to the educational institution that initially brought me to Scotland. It was an honour to take part in this residency programme which helped me to further develop my artistic practice.
Anyway back to what brought me to Scotland, after graduating I worked at Edinburgh Crystal as an in-house glass designer for 4 years, until the factory closed after a major fire in 2006. Initially, I was rather anxious that, as a designer, I would be handing over the actual hands on contact and making elements of the work, but in fact having people in the factory making my designs for me was like having an extra 20 pairs of hands to work with. It gave me the opportunity and freedom to broaden my designs, to research and develop ideas within Edinburgh Crystal’s production facilities, allowing a creative and experimental approach. I learnt a great deal at that time, especially from the craftsmen who created the glass in the factory.
For me, there is still a hidden story in the skilled factory workers of Edinburgh Crystal, the glassblowers, the cutters and the engravers. Their great passion, talent and skill will always remain an inspiration to me; it was such a unique experience. From day one as a young art student going into a factory environment the first lesson I learnt is that you can’t work alone. I can vividly recall sneaking into the factory early with the workers to ensure my work was seen to first. Memories still remain of my time there, arguing with the management, fighting for precious overtime pay for my glassblowers at the weekend to blow my degree show work. Sometimes you might have found me hiding out in store cupboards trying to get some peace from the hectic pace of the factory. My experiences at Edinburgh Crystal were not always easier however I think they influenced and formed my work in a unique and unrepeatable way. The designs I created there and the changes, rises and falls that I experienced in the factory will stay with me forever. I could go on with my anecdotes but the over ruling memory for me was the skilled factory workers, my colleagues, my friends – the true face and craft of Edinburgh Crystal.
It was at Edinburgh Crystal that I met my business partner Joanne Mitchell (also a glass designer) and in 2006 we set up Juo Ltd, creating contemporary fused art glass for galleries and private commissions. We produce a lot of work for public buildings, colourful, specially designed pieces for corporate commissions. We’re both designers as well as glass artists, which gives us a unique insight into the requirements of our customers, interpreting their ideas in a way which will match their budgets. We learnt a lot about the design process and trend forecasting at Edinburgh Crystal, developing cost effective production to meet a definite price point. We design and launch new ranges for Juo every six months. Juo plays an important and successful role as “a practice that supports our further practice,” we wanted an independent brand to create commercial studio pieces with a distinct identity that were focused at specific ‘interior design conscious’ clientele. This allows us both to take an entirely different path with our own studio work. It’s been extremely beneficial as it has enabled us both to work in two very different styles, in parallel. It makes work varied and interesting and it’s good to have a partner to collaborate on projects with (we both have different skills and challenge each other in different ways).
I wear a few different hats, as well as having the dual aspect to my glass work and businesses; I am also involved with a number of organisations and companies. I co-curated the delightindesign exhibition at the Design&Made Gallery in Newcastle and ‘Migrate: 30 Years of Scottish Glass’ for the Scottish Glass Society (SGS) of which I am an active board member and Vice Chair. I am also on the board of the National Glass Centre and the Contemporary Glass Society for whom I work one day a week as their marketing and events coordinator.
I like to describe myself as a designer-maker, working in the two mediums of glass and ceramics; since my undergraduate degree I have worked with both materials in juxtaposition. I gained my BA in Glass and Ceramics at the University of Sunderland in 2001, I was the only person on the course who was permitted to specialise in both ceramics and glass - my current interests have all flowed from there. In February 2009, I completed my doctoral research into the combination of glass and ceramics in a hot state, within studio practice. Glass and ceramics are material with many common qualities; they are both made in similar ways, and transformed into functional objects. But it is their transparency – translucency and their reaction to light which intrigues me. The qualities of the materials when light passes through them to reveal inner luminosity inspires me to combine them and to examine their relationship in my work. My research examined the combination of glass and ceramics in a hot state within my studio practice and offers a potential new route of practice for artists working in glass and ceramics. Renowned for being difficult to combine, glass and ceramics are usually regarded as being incompatible due to differences in structure; through my research I have managed to combine them in a hot state to create a unique series of artworks. Very few artists work in both materials, and whilst my thesis presents substantial, specialist reading, I hope that it will have an impact on future practices for artists working in glass and ceramics.
Based on the handcrafted sensitivity of craft practice; my early work was inspired by organic and naturally repeating forms. Minimal amounts of cutting are used working with the simplicity of the form to create a soft sensitive aesthetic. Diamond cutting and sandblasting machinery is used to sculpt the pieces. My work shows balance, precision and great delicacy. My current work is based on my PhD research, working with the simplicity of cast glass forms which are then set with a pâte de verre and ceramic core at the centre. The forms display a range of translucent and transparent effects.
Onto Juo, which is a design led creative venture; which I run with Joanne Mitchell. We are based at the National Glass Centre, in Sunderland we specialise in the design and manufacture of fused art glass; creating high quality art glass panels for domestic and corporate interiors. We hope to re-invigorate wall art by offering contemporary fused Glass Art as an innovative solution for a design-conscious clientele. From concept to installation we work closely with interior designers, specifiers and architects on bespoke projects. We offer a bespoke design consultancy for industry and private clients, drawing on their specialist design skills and manufacturing knowledge. Clients benefit from our expertise in prototyping, product development and manufacturing and if required outsourcing and supplier liaison. Design projects can be tailored to meet the client’s needs providing strategic reports relating to competitors, market positioning and trend forecasting; with a view to brief origination and the design and manufacture of new products. Working directly with manufacturers to develop product processes, inspires us to create more innovative and interesting designs in their bold and contemporary style. The innovative glass processes we have investigated in design for manufacture have greatly influenced our studio work in concept and technique. Working closely with clients, we design bespoke pieces, appropriate to their specific requirements. We have worked to commission with a wide range of clients over the years.
For my Juo work, I am inspired by forms and textures found in the local landscape, capturing parts of the north east coast to create a series of limited edition wall panels. I cast selected sand drifted textures and stones in plaster which I transform back at the studio into unique and limited edition art works. The inherent transparent nature of fused art glass is an inspiration for me, the evocative way that light passes through the glassy surface intrigues me. The relationship between glass and light is the central theme which I find myself drawn to examine tirelessly in this unique art form. Given that glass is made of sand this work has an immediate link to the physical materials of the coast. The forms come directly from nature inspired by the play of light and dark shadows on a coastal landscape, seen through the subtle interplay of light and colour. My affinity to the NE coast is evident in the echoes of tidal patterns formed in the sand that appear in my work.
My work is not only confined to the practical side of glassmaking, I have also taught introductions to glass and ceramics, held product design workshops and taught engraving and printmaking workshops at the University of Sunderland and at Edinburgh College of Art. I often deliver lectures about my work to a wide range of audiences. I have won a range of awards for my glass work which include: Outline Student Glass Prize 2001, Edinburgh Crystal Masters Scholarship 2001-2002, Blueprint Business Planning Award: Creative Industries & Overall Winner 2006 and the Craft & Design Selected Maker of the Year Gold award in 2009. I have had my work featured in many national exhibitions in such places ranging from London to Edinburgh and all venues in between. My work has also been exhibited internationally in France, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and in the United States.
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No matter where you live, you’ve probably got a little piece of Sunderland in your home – in the shape of a casserole dish. Pyrex, a revolutionary glassware that became a must-have in kitchens throughout the world, has been manufactured in the city since 1922, following a line of major glass manufacturers that boomed as a result of the cheap coal prices from nearby Newcastle, the excellent shipping links with Europe and the quality sand imported from the Baltic. Sadly, the last gob of glass was be removed from the Pyrex factory’s furnace in September 2007, and Sunderland’s glass making industry came to an end after nearly 300 years.
However, the University of Sunderland’s Art faculty and the adjoining National Glass Centre are keeping the Wearside traditions alive. The Glass and Ceramics Bachelors degree is one of only a handful in the country and is proving an attractive course for artists across the globe.
Jessamy Kelly, who graduated from the course in 2001 is proof of its success. Now a co-director of Juo Ltd, a Sunderland based contemporary fused art glass brand, as well as vice chair & press officer of Scottish Glass Society and events & marketing coordinator Contemporary Glass Society, Jessamy owes a lot of her success in this niche industry to the facilities and tutors at the University.
“When I was looking around for the degree courses I came across the glass and ceramic course at Sunderland and thought it sounded very interesting, especially having never worked with glass before,” Jessamy explains. “The course was brilliant; we got to do everything from turning pots on the wheel to blowing glass. There were students there from all over the place, it’s a world-renowned course and I can see why. The facilities are as good as they get and the experience and passion of the tutors goes a long way.”
After graduating, Jessamy received a scholarship from Edinburgh Crystal and went straight up to the Scottish capital to complete an industrial placement as a student glass designer and was offered a job upon completing the placement. It was here that she met Joanne Mitchell, the other half of Juo’s creative team.
Joanne’s glass making and design skills matched those of Jessamy, and while their individual work had its own identity, they found their influences to be similar and setting up a business together seemed to be an ideal opportunity to collaborate.
“We both realised that at Edinburgh Crystal we didn’t have the creative freedom we felt we needed so we left to start Juo,” explains Jessamy. “Obviously there have been some hard and stressful moments working together but we get on great, so it’s never been a major issue. Artistically our styles compliment each other and we still both have our individuality. Even on the commission projects we get from local businesses we still find we have a lot of creative freedom.”
The dynamic working relationship has led to the company going from strength to strength, and their awards cabinet is filling up fast with accolades including the Blueprint ‘Business Planning Award’ and the Pearson’s Prize for ‘Best use of glass in retail and interior’; Jessamy was also awarded the ‘The craft&design Maker of the Year award’ in 2009. To start up the business they received funding from the Princes Trust ‘Start up Business Award’, NESTA’s ‘Insight Out Business Award’ and Arts Council England’s ‘Cultural Business Award’; which helped them to get the business going.
“We are doing what people in this area have done for hundreds of years and that’s special, especially when you’re hard work is recognised by people in the industry,” says Jessamy. ”We are very skilled artists and I’m proud to be continuing this tradition. What’s even better is that we are pushing things forward and keeping them fresh by always using and developing new techniques.”
Jessamy’s influences are built on her life growing up by the sea in Whitley Bay, 16 miles north of Sunderland, and Juo’s latest collection ‘coast’ is made using casts of rippled sand after the tide has dropped.
Juo’s studio is based in the National Glass Centre – a unique, contemporary building that houses exhibition galleries, artist’s studios and production facilities, a craft & design shop (where you can find pieces of Juo art glass for sale) and an award-winning restaurant. In partnership with the University of Sunderland the centre delivers a programme of changing exhibitions, education workshops and events for schools, families, adults and children – all of which are of huge benefit to the local community, says Jessamy: “We are surrounded by a big community of artists at the Glass Centre. Not only is it educating the local community on our skills but it’s perfect for art students who become part of the growing community of like-minded people.”
The Sunderland area is blossoming with talented artists, Jessamy plans to keep the business in the area, not only because she loves it but also because of the business opportunity it provides.
“The North East has attracted some very skilled creative people thanks to its wealth of courses and generous funding initiatives. A lot of our networks are here and we’re all very well supported. Being a reasonably small area there are a lot of word of mouth sales that we would miss out on anywhere else.”
Jessamy has recently completed a PhD in Glass and Ceramics at the University and hopes Juo will continue to thrive and allow them to keep the Wearside glass making heritage alive.
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In my constant search for and research into British makers, I have just come across the profile and work of Adelle Corrin, only to find out that she died in August of this year.
While I undersatnd that no one lives forever, I couldn't help but feel sad that someone who chose to give so much to the world is no longer here to continue to doing so and that selfishly, I can not see what she would have yet produced.
And so in my own personal tribute to someone that I have only just discovered but need to say goodbye to, please see below some examples of her work so that you too may know of her and the legacy she has left to us all.
The Four Seasons
Private Collection Pieces
You can read more about her here
Apologies for being so quiet for the last couple of months but I have been really, really busy which is brilliant! I am finally busy with my glass full time and things are getting better and better. I have courses published until the end of August with some new additions. As well as the mosaics which I kicked off in February, I am also going to be running half day workshops in fun stuff - copper foiling flowers, glass applique, make a mosaic mirror. These are aimed at people who just want to have a go at something different and leave with something to take home.
My standard courses in Stained Glass and Fused Glass are going well. I have lots of dates for courses every month to see what proves popular - mid-week, weekend, school holidays, no school holidays etc This has meant that numbers on my courses are very variable - some courses are fully booked a couple of months ahead, whilst others have just one person. I can’t see a pattern yet, I expect to get more consistency in numbers as I get a bit more savvy about how often to run courses. I’ve also added some extra course durations - stained glass can now be done as a 2 day course and my first student was brilliant. He made a lovely panel which he is going to be put into his front door and has a schedule of other windows for his house. For fused glass, I am now offering the 2 day course as a part 1 and part 2 one day course or those who don’t want to do a 2 day course in one go. And finally, after much pressure from some previous students I have finally sorted out an intermediate glass fusing 2 day course. The first one ran this week and was really good. My two students came from quite different backgrounds in terms of experience but they both left with new skills, lots of good samples and lots of enthusiasm. Hopefully I will get some more bookings from previous students who are looking for more.
Should you be interested in attending one of my courses please don’t hesitate to get in touch
In two weeks I will have done my first day at the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate which I am really looking forward to this year. I am proud of my work and think it is commercially attractive so hopefully the buyers will think the same thing! Of course, as usual, I want to try and make loads more stuff and get it framed in time as well as all the other last minute prep that always happens!
After that, I’m off to the National Glass Fair on 6th May which should be good. I tried out the Cambridge Glass Fair in February and was really amazed at the interest people had in glass. Unlike a lot of other fairs, people really want to talk to you about the glass and have lots of knowledge which means that the day is more fun and interesting. I even sold some work and took a course booking! The National Glass Fair is organised by the same people as the Cambridge Glass Fair so I am looking forward to an enjoyable day.
Anyway, it’s gone midnight again and I am at my usual spot on the computer - I thought I was a glass artist, but it seems that running your own business automatically turns you into a computer nerd! Just waiting for the latest updates to my website to upload and then I’m off to bed.
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Stained glass designer maker, Jackie Harris, will be moving into the Summer House at Blue Ginger Gallery next week
The Gallery at Home End Farm Stiffords Bridge, Cradley, Worcestershire will be accommodating Jackie as part of their Artists in Residence season - showing visitors how stained glass panels are designed and constructed.
Jackie, who normally works from her garden studio in Malvern, will be shipping glass, lead, soldering equipment and all manner of tools to the tranquil setting of the Blue Ginger grounds where she will be working on designs from Wednesday, June 6th to Sunday, June 10th.
She said: “I’m really looking forward to working at Blue Ginger and chatting to visitors there. It is an inspiring setting, full of beautiful pieces of art and craft. Many people are fascinated by how things are made and I will be delighted to talk to them about how I go about designing and making leaded and copper foiled panels.”
Jackie undertakes bespoke commissions, mostly in domestic settings, for customers who love their homes and appreciate the transforming qualities that coloured glass can bring to architecture.
She specialises in using recycled bottle glass to create large panels and will have a portfolio of previous commissions to browse through.
Visitors are welcome to come and chat to Jackie and watch how this traditional technique, dating back to Medieaval times, of joining pieces of glass together to create a long-lasting weather-proof panel, is still used and has been adapted to contemporary living.
Items of her work will also be on sale at Blue Ginger and Jackie will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about stained glass, or how to go about commissioning your own piece of glass art.
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