Published in Issue 19, October 2012
An Interview With
Creative Crafting speaks to Helen Rose Glass
I am a glass artist living in the Essex countryside just outside Chelmsford. I’ve worked with glass for 8 years now and while fusing is my main skill, what I create is constantly changing and developing as I learn new glass techniques. Over the last few years this has included stained glass, lampwork beading, glass casting, printing on glass and restoration work. I find it interesting to see how these techniques can work together to create something new and exciting.
I am currently in a period of major change where my crafting life is concerned as I’ve just left classroom teaching after 11 years to do this full time. I was starting to find that opportunities were presenting themselves and having given more hours than I’d care to remember to my school and going part time last year, I decided it was now or never. So here I am all excited and scared about my future crafting career.
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering my teaching background I run various glass fusing workshops which take place in my home studio and at ‘Handmade’, Colchester and ‘Make, Do and Mend’, Chelmsford.
I sell my work at ‘Glass from the Past’, Billericay, Essex, ‘Handmade’, Colchester, Essex, via my website www.helenroseglass.co.uk and at local craft fairs. I am a member of The Guild of Essex Craftsmen and regularly attend their craft events.
When did first begin creating your designs, and why?
I first discovered glass fusing at a local craft fair and after buying huge amounts of it over several months, I decided to learn how to make glass for myself. I’d been looking for a craft to do at home that was completely different from what I spent my days as an Art Teacher doing, so this was ideal. I found a day course in London and loved it. That was it, I was hooked. I signed up for their evening classes. For 10 months I took the journey from Essex to the studio which involved 2 trains and a 20 min walk. I loved going so much that it didn’t seem like a huge effort.
What is it that you enjoy about your work?
I love being creative. When I don’t craft I just don’t feel like ‘me’ so can happily spend hours making glass, printing, felting, sketching ....pretty much doing anything arty or crafty. Being creative is so relaxing and it’s the ultimate compliment when someone else likes your work enough to buy it. I am so thankful that I am now able to do this full time.
What is your biggest crafting achievement, and why?
Last year I learnt how to do traditional leading with a view to making my own design for the kitchen/hallway door. So not doing things by halves, this was my first project in a new technique. I decided to have a peacock as the image and designed it to include elements of glass fusing alongside the traditional leading. I even melted my own sheets of mixed coloured glass in the kiln to create the peacock ‘eyes’. It took around 6 months of evening classes to complete and then with the help of my Dad, I installed it into the door. The peacock design was perhaps more adventurous than I’d first envisaged but when I see the light come through it every day I am glad I took on the challenge.
If you had to choose your favourite from your creations which one would it be?
I love my koi carp coffee table. For ages I’d wanted to make a wood and glass table for my house for ages but finding a piece of wood with a hole was trickier than I’d realised. Thanks to Ebay though I found a company in Scotland that had the perfect piece. I made a template for the hole, spent hours shaping the clear glass and began experimenting with ways to create the various elements of the design, whilst also keeping a sense of the movement of the fish. I’m pleased to have such a unique piece of furniture in my home that I can proudly say I made.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I find inspiration in many different things and keep sketchbooks of images I like, postcards from artists, photos I’ve taken etc. As someone who studied design at university, it’s a process I’ve always followed and even as a glass novice couldn’t follow pre made designs in books. I just didn’t find it inspiring enoughand the process of creating my own work always starts with design and experimentation. I’m currently exploring ways of combining printing and textiles within my glasswork. At the same time I’m also using nature within the imagery e.g. prints of leaves, peacock feathers, shells.
If you could change one thing about what you do, what would it be?
I’d like to be working alongside other like-minded people in a craft studio but at this stage when I’ve only just stepped into the full time craft world it’s an expense that I can’t justify. For now I’m going to work at home and pop into visit friends in their studios instead.
Do you have a favourite website?
I know most people use Facebook to stay in touch with friends but I also find it great for coming across new and exciting crafters on a regular basis. I’ve found loads of inspiring designers via people who tag them in their posts or pictures. This year I visited ‘Art in Action’ and managed to talk to several people whose work I’d only ever seen online before which was fantastic.
Has anyone helped or supported you more than any other?
There are 2 people who have helped and supported me more than any other but each in vastly different ways. Jan Waller of ‘Love, Make, Think’ and Caroline Weidman from ‘Glass from the Past’. I first met Jan when we worked together as art teachers and she helped me through my first years in the classroom. Since then we have been firm friends who support each other emotionally and artistically. We can openly discuss our ideas/designs and give each other encouragement at the points when doubt starts to creep in. I know I can call Jan for advice whenever I need it and thanks to Skype we can still do this even though she’s now in USA. Caroline has been a kind of glass mentor after I randomly met her in a car park at a craft fair! When she opened her glass gallery I was honoured to be asked to display my work for the 1st time. Caroline has taught me copper foiling, traditional leading and has now taken me on as her studio apprentice where I am restoring stained glass windows. The experience is invaluable and one I am very grateful for.
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I grow lots of my own fruit and veg in the back garden.