the contemporary British glass artist and craftsman
For centuries glass has been valued for its visual and tactile properties which have allowed for the creation of many beautiful objects. Our conversation today, in our VIP creative lounge will explore today’s modern craftsman 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 first glass vessels were made in the Near East 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, then adding trails of colour. This glass was regarded as an artificial precious 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 still held as the birthplace of modern glass art.
“ the Sunil Vilas 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 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 that I remember making that actually had something to say was a piece of ceramics when I was aged 13. I don’t remember 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, in the palm of my hand was my ideal house – complete in every detail. The hand rose up from a beach scene and hundreds of steps are carved into the wrist and forearm, however, the steps do not actually make it to the outstretched palm. Down at the base of the forearm, a train is disappearing into a tunnel in the forearm, coming from the ocean side and reappears on the beachside as an ocean liner scattering the beachgoers. The other kids in the class were making 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 that my classmates were odd – 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 to seek 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 tough question. For a long time after graduating from a Design: Glass BA(Hons) degree I struggled to give myself the title ‘artist’. I would look at the artists from history that I had studied and found 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 that I realized that I was an artist when that was the title I was given by means of 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 effective description of what one does, so I still refer to myself as a glassmaker because it is the word ‘maker’ that is so important to me.
Sunil – Interesting observation – all painters, sculptors, potters, craftsmen, glassmakers are artists. It’s how we develop our skills to be recognized for our 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, that is where my strength lies, 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 to describing my work, but I am not skilled in that way so when I describe my work it is quite clumsy: for the purposes of this interview, I would say that I make abstract sculpture. Visual arts have to be seen to be understood, and after the seeing comes the subjective part, the validation of what we see, the sense-making. In this day and age 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. With each work we finish, it becomes a process of learning 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 also therapeutic.
Q4. Sunil – If you had the opportunity to change something in the art industry what would it be?
David – I would change the way that glass and the artists that use it are viewed by the art industry. 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 do not seem to be accepted as fine art. I am still not sure why, it could be because one has to be a true craftsman to manipulate glass that it holds the label craft very strongly perhaps. People have been creating with glass for thousands of years but as a material for true self-expression, it is not well thought of. I find this odd.
Sunil – David thank you for your explanation but more to the point is that other forms of art have been around for centuries perfected by old master artists and today we are able to enjoy and appreciate Fine art. With Glass art, it is quite a recent phenomenon and with the development of studio, 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 hope with our interview today we have gone some way to initiate an awareness program around the globe.
Q5. Sunil – I know you recently become an active member of Globalization ICAS and 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. That use it thus as fine artists. You have the ability to connect to collectors of art, to promote the wonderful variety that is to be discovered. 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 out there, people who are excited by new materials and fresh visual languages in fine art, you can forge connections and begin to put glass art within the reach of collectors outside the very specific ‘glass collector’ bracket. For two thousand years we have been using hot glass to make objects of desire, no material has the history of the lineage of glass. No material is as flexible, delicate, as commonly used, or as routinely unseen. Imagine a life without it.
Sunil – I had my own 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 your major projects you have completed?
David – I work by commission to make sculptures for interior spaces, usually people’s homes. A piece that I am particularly proud of is called ‘Journey’ and it describes the life of the client from birth to the present day. I love making sculptures for someone specific, I talk to my client about their life and try to weave this information into the piece of work so that the final piece is as much about them as it is about my need to create. In this way a piece of 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 understand the sculpture fully, we share this secret and this experience, and that is such a privilege. Clear Space was created for a client that worked inside an office in his house when all he wanted to do was be out in his garden, so I created a ‘projector’ for him. This piece was made to sit on the windowsill of his south-facing office and use the sun to cast its green patterns onto the walls, the clear crystal block would interject with beams of multiple coloured lights, 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 or an aspect of their character or in attempting to improve an environment using glass and light.
Sunil – David thank you for giving us an inside into the process of making your glass art more unique as the work you undertake in your commission becomes an interaction of ideas involving the journey of two parties which is finally completed when presenting your glass art to the client.
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 colour is a warm and positive colour associated with our most physical needs and our will to survive.
Red is energizing. It excites the 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 ultimately 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 that trust me, that are open to my way of working, ie extracting some part of them to go into the work. I am very fortunate in that this has always been the case for me. It is this part of the process, this desire to include the client in some way in their commissioned piece, that 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, 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 out?
David – Only do it because you love it and truly loving it involves hating it, just a little.
Sunil – Nicely put and very well summarised but I am sure a lot of artists viewing examples of your works today will be inspired by your collection of contemporary Glass art and in the future will take up glass art as one of the accomplishment to add to their development progressing further to become a Fine Artists.
Q10. Sunil – Its looks like we come to the end of our amazing journey of following your development and having an inside to modern contemporary glass artists therefore leaves me to ask our final question, What are you working on just now?
David – You catch me working on two projects with a third in the pipeline. Unfortunately, the first two cannot be spoken about, one is bound by a non-disclosure agreement and the other is a very private commission from a shy client. The mystery is always so much more tantalizing don’t you think? The third is a rare personal piece involving ten thousand glass balls, each one blown by a member of the public, 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 with us projects that have kept you busy through the year. Perhaps we could do a follow-up discussion and get an update to 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 and understand your own personal experiences and see that all Art is never-ending. Also had the opportunity to see how Glass art has 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 10 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 has the lead on £250,000 sculptures alongside completing chandeliers, dining tables, and his own 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 that is impossible in the glass. The material must be listened to, respected, and worked with but ultimately will be coaxed into becoming. You cannot force it, but then again you cannot let it force you, you are in a symbiotic relationship with it; if you don’t love it then it will not love you back.”
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