Gathering glass professionals across the creative spectrum

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Pictured above: Support System by Catherine Dunstan

Artist and author Catherine Dunstan and Blowfish Gallery director Bethany Wood reflect on their recent collaborative event, PROCESS, as it drew to a close. As two professionals with very different experiences and perspectives on the glass industry, they were able to imagine and create an event that neither would have created on their own.

PROCESS was a hybrid event, combining the celebration of the release of Catherine’s book Creative and Professional Development for Glass Artists with an exhibition and day of demonstrations at Blowfish Gallery featuring the artists who contributed insights to the book. This ran alongside a programme of online discussion panels and artist talks. 

Catherine Dunstan’s reflections:

Just the writing and creation of the book enabled to learn so much through collaboration, before the spark of the PROCESS event was even born. The book features insights from numerous glass artists working in various specialist areas including glass blowing, stained glass and kiln-formed glass. I invited what is essentially my dream team, a combination of artists I’ve known since the first days I put my hands to glass through to artists I’ve admired from afar and whose contributions I knew would be really valuable to my book, because I knew they had wisdom that I personally wanted to access. The book gave me a reason to reach out and make connections, but the value of those connections extends much further than the book.

Support System by Catherine Dunstan

Bethany was among those I’d never met before I was selecting contributors for the book. I saw what she had built with Blowfish, and as we got to know each other, it became obvious our energy was on a similar level. We’re both self-confessed control freaks and we both think nothing of messaging with a query at 11pm on a Sunday evening, which could be a recipe for disaster. But we both had the same vision for the event and had faith in each other’s ability to bring ideas to it that the other wouldn’t have thought to. For example, I suggested PROCESS Online, because I have such a lot of experience hosting online events, and Bethany suggested the hot shop demos as she has vast experience of the performative nature of glass blowing and the appeal that has to an audience. There are so many more nuanced ways that we collaborated too, learning from each other’s communication methods (we naturally fell into roles of good cop and bad cop!), how to split the labour, and most importantly, how to achieve the goal of this event in a way that would have been too big a challenge for each of us without the other. I’ve made fantastic friendships and shared skills and insights with all of the contributing artists to the book and event and there is so much potential for future events and opportunities. 

Catherine Dunstan

Overall, the experience of collaborating with Bethany has filled me with a lot of hope. I’ve always believed that you can’t rely on opportunities to find you, and it’s important to create them for yourself, and putting this event on was a tangible example to myself that I could do that. I hope it encourages others to work together to put on more events that raise the profile of glass in the UK and deepen the connections within the community.

Bethany Wood’s reflections:

Blowfish Glass UK is an artist-led hybrid gallery and hot shop (artist Elliot Walker established the hot glass studio and Bethany Wood the gallery). The Blowfish Gallery offers a different kind of representation to a traditional gallery. Our focus is not only a spectacular showroom and exhibition space to explore and buy the highest quality glasswork but a pivot of collaboration and education expanding into the hot shop. 

Elliot Walker and Bethany Wood. Photo by Annie Benton.

PROCESS was our most recent collaboration with author and glass artist Catherine Dunstan to celebrate Catherine’s book launch. Elliot and I were both featured artists in the book. 

Such collaborative events inspire a vital networking hub where artists can join worldwide to meet, exchange ideas, and demonstrate and exhibit their work. 

PROCESS was a perfect opportunity to test run our space following our initial opening coinciding with the International Festival of Glass (IFOG) in August 2022. It tried our independent marketing, organisational, installation and curation processes, we ran our well-oiled demonstrations to the public, and we could immediately see how successful these events can be and how much the glass industry needs such events. 

Catherine Dunstan’s concept and resources added a new dimension to our space. As a result, I was able to expand my knowledge of glass artists, glass practice and concepts, which opened my eyes to the extensive skill base that revolves around this incredible material. 

I want to be useful to the glass community, and the event Catherine and I composed brought around 250 people together in just one day, which was a fantastic turnout. 

As well as hosting events and exhibitions. I represent 14 renowned artists at Blowfish Gallery online and in our showroom (open by appointment), selling specific collections, limited editions, one-offs and commissions. During the PROCESS event, we held a fringe exhibition, DRIVEN to exhibit the incredible works of my ‘full-time’ artists. 

Poseidon by Bethany Wood. Photo by Simon Bruntnell.

We are located in the heart of glass history at the Red House Glass Cone, Stourbridge, directly over the road from The Stourbridge Glass Museum and a short drive from the Ruskin Centre. The Ruskin Centre, as well as the Red House Glass Cone, hosts independent artists; it is where IFOG is held and Stourbridge Glassblowing studio, one of the few remaining hot shops that rent out the studio for artists to make their glassware/art. 

Financially, because of the current climate and with the UK market for glass in need of some improvement, the team at Blowfish will be looking into funding opportunities to continue such events in the future. In addition, we have recently expanded our team by hiring a marketing and content coordinator. Leanne O’Connor is helping me create funding bids and informative content in blogs and artist profiles, which can expand our physical and online presence, and we look forward to inviting you to our next mission!