For my first blog post of 2015, in the depths of winter, I'd like to write about my summer. It was the most eventful and happy summer, firstly because I got married to my amazing husband.
Then, a couple of weeks after returning from honeymoon, I was fortunate enough to be able to fly out to Seattle, WA in the U.S.A. to attend the celebrated Pilchuck Glass School, as a teaching assistant to the internationally renowned artist, Keke Cribbs.
This was made possible with the support of the University of Sunderland Futures Fund, so I'm very grateful to them. Pilchuck is a very inspiring place, set in breath-taking scenery, and full of highly talented creative people who are inspired by, and choose to make their artwork in, the material glass. People say it is a life-changing experience attending Pilchuck, and I can see why. It is one of those unique places which has a buzz, an atmosphere of exciting things happening. You come away bursting with inspiration, having met amazing people who become new friends.
I met Keke at a CGS conference at the National Glass Centre, UK, in 2013. Her sense of purpose in creating her art, her pure creativity, and her innovation in developing new techniques to make her works, were very inspiring. It was a true privilege to be chosen to be her T.A. along with the hugely talented artist Miguel Unson, for her 12-day course at Pilchuck.
We had a fantastic group of students, from various backgrounds and countries, some of whom are practicing artists with their own studios, others fairly new to glass, all keen to soak up as much as possible from the Pilchuck experience.
Keke's work is made using kiln forming, printing and mosaic as well as numerous other methods perfected through many years during her personal practice. In the class she shared all of this knowledge with the group, and each student developed an artwork which expressed their own ideas whilst incorporating the techniques.
Keke is an artist with a huge generosity of spirit. She is keen to share knowledge and nurture emerging artists who want to learn and are willing work hard. It was a full-on 12 days, we worked most days from 9am until late into the night, but had so much fun and some really great work emerged from the class as they grew in confidence. As T.A.s we also had the opportunity to experiment with our own ideas and personally I learnt so much.
Working with an artist who approaches glass in a very different way made me take a step back and evaluate my own practice, a process which was very refreshing and energising for me. I also had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet, and chat to, the most famous studio glass artist of them all, founder of Pilchuck - Dale Chihuly, who came to site on a rare visit. We watched his team work and heard him talk about his work and setting up the glass school.
I could go on so much more, but perhaps... in a way you really do have to be there. I'm forever grateful to Keke for introducing me to Pilchuck, and welcoming me into her home and studio. She has become a true friend. Keke, Miguel and I have an exciting collaboration in the pipeline with an group of very talented like-minded artists, so keep a look out for updates.
Pilchuck has planted a seed which will continue to grow!
For a glass geek like me, I've found my spiritual home.