Pictured above: Serotonin (detail) (2022) by Catherine Dunstan. 50cmx43cmx6cm. Photo by Nicola Simpson
A new book and two exhibitions, set to launch in March, open a window on life as a glass artist in the UK.
In celebration of Catherine Dunstan’s new book Creative and Professional Development for Glass Artists, the PROCESS exhibition will simultaneously launch at Crystal Mile Contemporary, Stourbridge, owned by Blowfish Glass founder Bethany Wood. Coinciding with PROCESS, a partner exhibition DRIVEN will be on-site above the Red Cone cafe at the historic Red House Cone. The book launch and opening of PROCESS and DRIVEN will take place on 25 March, from 10.30 am – 10.30 pm, and will also feature a roster of demonstrations in hot glass, kiln-formed glass and painted glass. The event is free to attend but you do need to book.
The DRIVEN exhibition will debut 15 artists’ work, including exclusive and limited editions and collections of internationally recognised artists. This range of neon, cast, blown, pâte de verre, kiln formed and intricate cold-worked designs and glass sculpture. “We pride ourselves in working with bespoke objects which have an advanced range of techniques and approaches. Although there are finished pieces in PROCESS, DRIVEN is the final part where the process is integrated into the object themselves. Glass is always developing; there is never an end – you are always driven back by process,” says Director of Blowfish Gallery Bethany Wood.
Both exhibitions will run until 15th April. Specific dates and opening times are available on their websites (linked from the bottom of this page).
Catherine’s book is a practical guide for glass artists looking to find their creative voice and plan their journey in the world of glass. It features insights from numerous glass artists and industry professionals, including contributions from Tamsin Abbott, Simon Alderson, Anthony Amoako Attah, Juliet Forrest, Katherine Huskie, Flora Jamieson, Julie Light, Verity Pulford, Laura Quinn, Elliot Walker and Bethany Wood.
The PROCESS exhibition will provide an opportunity to look into the creative minds of the artists featured in the book. Expect to see sketchbooks and technical drawings alongside test pieces, works in progress and more established works. During the run of the exhibition, a schedule of online talks and panel discussions on themes relating to creative and professional development will be running. There will be a small fee to attend this schedule of events.
Author Catherine Dunstan, in conversation with Blowfish Glass founder Bethany Wood…
Catherine Dunstan: I wanted to create the book I wish existed when I was starting out. I wandered aimlessly through the first six or seven years of my career in glass. If you don’t know what the industry looks like or what opportunities are out there it’s difficult to figure out what you can or should be doing. On top of that, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of repetitive making, to define your success by the number of sales rather than satisfaction with your creative process. I’ve been privileged throughout my career so far to have learned so much from colleagues, tutors, mentors and other artists. This book brings all of that together with my own experiences and the experiences of eleven other artists building their careers in glass today.
Bethany Wood: Catherine got in touch with me last summer to invite me to be interviewed for her book and I thought it was such an exciting opportunity. During the interview process, she mentioned that she was looking for somewhere to host an exhibition of the work of the artists who were featured in the book alongside the book launch and I suggested my gallery Crystal Mile Contemporary. I was delighted to be involved as I already knew some of the artists, and excitingly, some of them were new to me. It’s been a fantastic opportunity for me both as an artist and as a gallery owner to learn about areas of glass-working I didn’t know much about, such as stained glass and kiln-formed glass.
CD: I jumped at the chance to collaborate on this event with Bethany! I’ve followed her career for years. I was so impressed with her launch of Blowfish Glass and the subsequent opening of Crystal Mile Contemporary in Stourbridge, as well as being a huge fan of her work. I knew she was super ambitious and organised by all she achieved during the COVID years and I knew she would be great to work with, and she is!
BW: It has been so much fun creating this event. Alongside the exhibition and book launch, we also wanted to make full use of Blowfish’s facilities, which include Elliot Walker’s hot shop and other event spaces on the Red House Glass Cone site where we are based. So we decided to have the private view and book launch be a full-day event where visitors can see multiple demonstrations from the featured artists including hot shop collaborations and fused and painted glass demonstrations.
CD: There’s going to be so much going on! So many amazing opportunities to see these professional artists at work, meet them, see the exhibition, pick up a book and see how many of the artists you can find to sign it!
BW: We’re so looking forward to it.
CD: And the exhibition is going to be so special. Tying in with the book’s themes of creative and professional development, we wanted this exhibition to allow visitors to look into the minds of its artists, to see their processes, hence the title PROCESS.
BW: We’ll be showcasing sketchbooks, primary source materials, works-in-progress and overworked artworks alongside established works for sale. There will also be a catalogue of additional works for sale.
CD: It’s been a real learning experience for us working together to put on this event. We have quite different backgrounds. While I’ve put on events in the past this is only my second time putting on an exhibition from scratch, so it’s been great gaining insights from Bethany on her niche as a gallery, what her clients look for and how we can best cater to that. Also, it’s just been nice to work with someone else, especially someone whose energy and work ethic is on the same level. I spend much of my working time alone, so it’s been great to make this connection.
BW: Absolutely, and it’s been a unique process of organising an exhibition too, as usually you would know what work is going to be included before the artists are selected. But in this instance, we knew who the artists were before we knew what work they would be bringing, so it’s been a challenging exhibition to curate when you also consider that not everything in it will be completed works.
CD: For anyone who can’t make the big event on 25th March, the exhibition will run until 15th April. Please see the Blowfish Glass website for specific opening dates and times. We will also be running an online virtual event, PROCESS Online, during the exhibition. This will include a virtual tour of the exhibition, three discussion panels, artist talks and I will also run a talk on how I made the book for anyone interested in that side of things.
BW: We hope to see you in Stourbridge on 25 March! Pick up your free ticket from the links below.
CD: See you there!
Gather Books (Creative and Professional Development for Glass Artists is published by Gather Books, a Bristol-based small press with a focus on craft-themed books. They also offer editorial services to artists and galleries.)