For centuries glass has been valued for its visual and tactile properties, allowing for the creation of many beautiful objects. Our conversation in our VIP creative lounge today will explore today’s modern artisans and artists’ work with the medium to achieve outstanding results and how they have added studio glass art as a new dimension to fine Art.
The Story of Glass Art
Glass is made by melting a mixture of sand and alkali—the Near East’s first glass vessels were produced in about 1600 BC. The brightly coloured glass was opaque and was used to make small bottles, jars, and jugs by coating a clay core with molten glass and then adding trails of colour. This glass was considered a precious artificial stone that only the rich could afford.
David Flower Glass Art
As a decorative and functional medium, glass was extensively developed in Egypt and Assyria, brought to the fore by the Romans (who spread glass blowing, invented by the Phoenicians), and includes amongst its greatest triumphs European cathedral stained glass windows. Great ateliers like Tiffany, Lalique, Daum, Gallé, the Corning schools in upper New York state, and Steuben Glass Works took glass art to the highest levels. Glass from Murano (also known as Venetian glass) is the result of hundreds of years of refinement and invention. Murano is the birthplace of modern glass art.
“the Sunil Vilas VIP interview …..”
I am proud to welcome our next guest, known to us as the award-winning artist for our theme “NEW WORKS” in August – David Flower, a contemporary glass artist. I am pleased, David, that you could join us in our VIP CREATIVE LOUNGE for an exclusive interview.
Q1. Sunil – What’s the first artwork you completed that you can remember?
David – The first piece of work I remember making that had something to say was a piece of ceramics when I was 13. I don’t know the thinking behind the concept very well. Teenage angst seems to be the most likely culprit, but I can describe the piece of work: I sculpted my hand and forearm in clay, and in the palm of my hand was my ideal house – complete in every detail. The writing rises from a beach scene, and hundreds of steps are carved into the wrist and forearm. However, the steps do not make it to the outstretched palm. Down at the base of the forearm, a train disappears into a tunnel in the forearm, coming from the ocean side and reappearing on the beachside as an ocean liner scattering the beachgoers. The other kids in the class made pots and bowls with pretty pictures glazed into them whilst I sculpted an idyllic scene that turned to carnage. My teachers thought I was odd. I remember thinking my classmates were strange – we could make anything we wanted, and they all made a pot or a bowl!
Sunil – David, thank you for sharing the early story of your career in Art. We all reach this turning point and make the right choice in pursuit of our passion for seeking a future in Art that is to follow our creative talent.
Q2. Sunil – When did you first realize you were an artist?
David – That is a tricky question. For a long time after graduating with a Design: Glass BA(Hons) degree, I struggled to give myself the title ‘artist’. I would look at the artists from history I had studied and find it impossible to put myself into the same category. Even now, if someone asks me what I do, I am more likely to say ‘glass maker’. My friends and clients refer to me as an artist. I suppose I realized I was an artist when given the title through an introduction, but it is still an uncomfortable moniker. So many people refer to themselves as artists these days that the word is almost redundant as an adequate description of what one does. So, I still refer to myself as a glassmaker because the word ‘maker’ is so important to me.
Sunil – Interesting observation – all painters, sculptors, potters, artisans, and glassmakers are artists, and it’s how they develop their skills to increase their creativity and Art. You are a British contemporary glass artist and craftsman setting standards for other artists to be inspired and emulate.
Q3. Sunil – How would you describe your Art to someone who has never seen your work?
David – I wouldn’t. I communicate via a 3D visual language. My strength lies in using colour and form, texture and shape to represent thought and feeling. If I were talented with words like Thomas Hardy or Philip Larkin, I am sure that words would be an excellent tool for describing my work. Still, I am not skilled in that way, so when I tell my work, it is pretty clumsy: for this interview, I would say that I make abstract sculptures. Visual arts must be understood, and after the seeing comes the subjective part, the validation of what we see, the sense-making. Nowadays, if someone had not seen my work, I would probably show them images of my phone rather than attempt a verbal description.
Sunil – I believe the magical mix here is the passion and determination you have in your work which speaks louder. Each piece we finish becomes a learning process and understanding ourselves better as we strive to improve, always believing our best is yet to come. Glass art and sculpture are visually attractive, tactile, and therapeutic.
Q4. Sunil – What would it be if you could change something in the art industry?
David – I would change how the art industry views glass and the artists that use it. Currently, glass occupies a strange netherworld in that there are 3D artists that use glass as elements of sculpture, but glass sculptures and their makers are not recognized as fine Art. I am still unsure why, and it could be because one has to be a true craftsman to manipulate glass that holds the label of craft very firmly. People have been creating glass for thousands of years as a material for authentic self-expression, and I find this odd.
Sunil – David, thank you for your explanation. Still, more to the point is that other forms of Art have been around for centuries, perfected by old master artists and today, we can enjoy and appreciate Fine art. Glass art is quite a recent phenomenon. With the development of studios, glass has made the process possible to be used by more glassmakers and artists who will recognize it as fine Art in a short period. What we are witnessing in your work is the unlimited possibilities that glass art offers, and we hope with our interview today, we have gone some way to initiate an awareness program around the globe.
Q5. Sunil – I know you recently became an active member of Globalization ICAS and are aware of what we have achieved as an Organisation Globally. How do you believe we could help as GICAS?
David – GICAS can help by promoting the use of glass as a fine art material and the people. They use it thus as fine artists. You can connect us to art collectors to encourage the discovery of excellent variety. The UK domestic art market does not place glass artists very highly, this is merely about perception and promotion, and it is here that you can help. There is a new breed of collectors excited by new materials and fresh visual languages in fine Art. You can forge connections and begin to put glass art within reach of collectors outside the particular ‘glass collector’ bracket. For two thousand years, we have been using hot glass to make objects of desire, and no material has the history of the lineage of glass. No material is as flexible, delicate, commonly used, or routinely unseen. Imagine a life without it.
Sunil – I had my strong reasons to press you further in participating in our exclusive interview, which has addressed your concerns not only for Glass art but other forms.
Q6. Sunil – It has been fascinating following your progress in contemporary Glass Art… Would you like to share examples of some of the major projects you have completed?
David – I work by commission to make sculptures for interior spaces, usually people’s homes. I am particularly proud of a piece called ‘Journey’, which describes the client’s life from birth to the present. I love making sculptures for someone specific. I talk to my client about their life and try to weave this information into the work so that the final piece is as much about them as it is about my need to create. This way, work is a three-way conversation between client, artist, and material; ‘Journey’ represents this symbiotic approach. I won’t tell you what it has to say. That is between the client and me.
Similarly, with ‘Impressions of Wyndham Hodgkins’, I loved the challenge of describing a client, representing him in glass, steel, and wood. Wyndham, his wife Gillian, and I are the only people who fully understand the sculpture. We share this secret and this experience, which is a privilege. We created a clear space for the client who worked inside his house when he wanted to be in his garden, so I started a ‘projector’ for him. This piece sat on the windowsill of his south-facing office and used the sun to cast its green patterns onto the walls, the clear crystal block would interject with beams of multiple coloured lights, and the light and colour of his garden came into his office. Everything I make is a personal response to another person, either in representing them, an aspect of their character, or attempting to improve an environment using glass and light.
Sunil – David, thank you for giving us insight into the process of making your glass art more unique and how your commission pieces become an interaction of ideas involving your clients to find the best place to appreciate their glass art.
Q7. Sunil – Describe yourself in 3 words; one has to be a colour.
David – I would be delighted, and it is no following order
Red.., Crow.., Twins
Sunil – Interesting
The colour red is the colour of energy, passion, and action.
This warm and cheerful colour is associated with our physical needs and our will to survive.
Red is energizing, excites emotions and motivates us to take action.
The crow is a spiritual animal associated with life mysteries and magic.
Tao: The Tao or the Yin Yang is an excellent symbol for “Twins” as it depicts the symbiotic nature of twins: The necessity to be together, yet with a separate identity.
Q8. Sunil – Tell us your perfect scenario for working in glass art.
David – In my perfect scenario, I am working with clients who trust me that are open to my way of working, i.e. extracting some part of them to go into the work. I am very fortunate that this has always been the case for me. This part of the process, this desire to include the client in their commissioned piece, ensures I remain creative and challenged because I am dealing with a complex individual who will require an intuitive and informed emotional response from me when creating their artwork. People are endlessly fascinating, especially in the minutiae of our lives.
Sunil – It is always fascinating how artists look to their work to be enjoyed and appreciated by others, with more emphasis on how they would react. But our lesson here is How we, the artists, enjoy working to present our best.
Q9. Sunil – Do you have any advice for artists just starting?
David – Only do it because you love it and genuinely loving it involves hating it, just a little.
Sunil – Nicely said and very well summarised. Still, I encourage our readers today to enjoy looking at your examples of works and hopefully be inspired to become collectors of contemporary Glass art and, in the future, will take up glass art as one of the accomplishments to add to their development, progressing further to become a Fine Artist.
Q10. Sunil – We are ending our amazing journey of following your development and having an inside into modern contemporary glass artists. Therefore leaves me to ask our final question, What are you working on just now?
David – I am working on two projects with a third in the pipeline. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss them, as a non-disclosure agreement binds one, and the other is a private commission from a shy client. The mystery is always so much more compelling. The third is a rare personal piece involving ten thousand glass balls, each one blown by a public member, all suspended from the roof of a cathedral, individually lit and interacting with the sounds of the cathedral via a computer program—a visual recording of the remarkable audible life of these buildings.
Sunil – Thank you for sharing projects that have kept you busy throughout the year. Perhaps we could do a follow-up discussion and get an update on your Cathedral roof project involving 10,000 well wishes, adding to the list as one of your finest achievements. We have enjoyed this opportunity to explore your life story, understand your personal experiences, and see that all Art is never-ending. I also had the chance to see how Glass art progressed through the period. David, it was a great pleasure to have you in our VIP Lounge for an exclusive interview. We wish you continued success in your career.
David Flower will be exhibiting his Glass art with other award-winning Globalization ICAS 2013 artists as part of our partnership program at ICAS – Vilas Fine Art. The UK.
He has been a leading light in UK glass-making for ten years. He has worked exclusively by the commission to the worldwide glass-collecting fraternity and has pieces in collections as far afield as Saudi Arabia, Denmark, and the United States.
David’s extensive expertise as a craftsman enables him to take on commissions of varied scale and complexity. He leads on £250,000 sculptures alongside completing chandeliers, dining tables, and his beautiful pieces.
As an experienced maker, David is in demand to make the work of many other glass designers. He worked closely with the celebrated Peter Layton for many years, symbiotically designing and making for the great man. Now, as ever, David finds that making the work of other artists represents his greatest challenge and Fran Staniland, Katherine Wightman, and Gary Webb continue to stretch the master’s abilities.
“There is nothing impossible in the glass. The material must be listened to, respected, and worked with but ultimately, form its shape. You cannot force it, but then again, you cannot let it force you. You are in a symbiotic relationship with it; it will not love you back if you don’t love it.”
ICAS ART MAGAZINE