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Interview with Art Glass designer Anne Collins

(February 06, 2009)

Interview with Anne Collins

 

 

Tiffany and Murano are usually cited as the epitome of art glass designers. However, we were delighted to discover an art glass designer, here in Wales, who creates wonderful, hand made art glass pieces and whose work is every bit as original and beautiful as those renowned icons of art glass design.

Having collected pieces from Whitefriars, Stromberg and Riihimaki for many years, it wasn't difficult to be captivated and excited by the work of art glass maker, Anne Collins. Anne works from her studio in Llanerfyl (near Welshpool), Powys, mid Wales, designing a large range of items (both fused and cast glass) from dichroic glass jewellery incorporating solid gold and silver findings, to window panels and an amazing range of home accessories. 

All of her pieces are truly unique and are handmade in Wales.

She has successfully secured exhibition space in a large number of outlets both nationally and internationally, (full details of which can be accessed on the links below), which is testimony to the beauty and intricacy of her pieces. She has also been commissioned to make one-off pieces, again a testimony to her reputation and also a reflection of the current revival of individu alism, both in terms of home and fashion accessories.

With particular collections (such as garden sculptures and her furniture ranges) she collaborates with other Welsh artists, combining different disciplines and media creating exquisite sculptures and furniture. Uppermost in her mind seems to be the transformation of the utilitarian, into something beautiful, to give everyday items a sense of both beauty and practicality, both in the home and in the garden.
 
 
CC ... Anne, how did you become interested in designing in glass and how long have you been designing in this medium?
 
AC ... I have always loved glass. It has a depth, intensity and life that is impossible to achieve with any other medium such as; pottery and ceramics. I became fascinated with the process of fusing as, whilst it is an ancient technique, invented by the early Egyptians, it had became a lost technique until it was rediscovered in the late 1980s. I myself started learning the process about six/seven years ago, and am still learning. I think I will never stop learning.
 
 
Anne Collins Green Swirl
Spring, Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... Who, or what, inspires your designs and collections?
 
AC ... I am inspired by light, colour and nature. Just driving to my workshop every day is an inspiration as the colours of the countryside change daily. I spend quite a bit of time in Andalucía in Spain and love the intensity of the light and the brightness of the colours out there. On a personal level, I am inspired by the early arts and crafts movement such as William Morris and John Ruskin who proposed that people achieve fulfillment through the creative process of handicrafts. I love the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. Those clean lines, elegant women and stylised flowers.
 
 
CC ... Your design catalogue is very broad, ranging from delicate wall art to garden sculptures - is it important to you that all spaces have some sort of artistic expression in them, or some sense of individuality?
 
AC ... My range may be broad, some say disparate, yet I love the work of Charles Robert Ashbee, one of the prime movers of the arts and crafts movement. He made exquisite jewellery, wonderful functional silver items and the most beautiful furniture. If you love what you do, and you have the imagination, you can use it anywhere, in anything. I believe that we should be able to find artistic expression in everything that we use, even something as utilitarian as a bottle opener. I love individuality. I hate mass produced items. Especially those made in China! We can go into any large department store in any town in the country and buy exactly the same dinner service. One that your neighbour may also have. Isn't it better to be an individual by having a unique dinner service designed especially for you. That you can keep and hand down to the next generation.
 
 
 
Anne Collins 4A garden sculpture by Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... Your garden sculptures in particular are wonderful, and you seem to enjoy working with other Welsh artists who specialise in other media, such as ironmongery. Do you think it important that Welsh artists support one another?
 
AC ... I think it important that all artists support one another. I mainly use Welsh artists because this is where I live but if I found an artist in a different medium who's work excites me and would compliment my work, I would use them. I myself was commissioned by Ian Aird, an artist who creates outdoor sculptures in wood, who lives in Inverness. I made a number of 'funky' colourful glass discs to go into one of his sculptures. I find it flattering that another artist admires my work enough to use it within theirs, and hope they feel the same way about me using their work.
 
 
Anne Collins Garden Sculpture
Poppyhead - garden sculpture, Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... Your handkerchief vases remind me of the Chance vases of the 1950s to 1970s (which were in themselves influenced by the Venini vases circa 1950). Are you influenced by the art glass makers of past and present when designing your own pieces?
 
AC ... I am particularly influenced by René Lalique in that he created the most wonderful glass art including perfume bottles, vases and jewellery. His lost wax casting pieces are just gorgeous. Each piece a one off. The wax mould, which in itself is time consuming and intricate to make, once broken to remove the completed piece of glass, cannot be created exactly the same. Hence the term 'lost wax'. On a more modern note, I find my good friend, the artist Andrew Logan inspirational, even though his work is completely different to mine I love the joy of it. I also find modernist artists inspirational such as abstract painters Kandinsky and Piet Mondrain, Gustav Klimt, the sculptor Joan Miró and the interior designer László.
 
 
Anne Collins 10
Hankerchief Vase, Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... I love the bowls you produce, they are stunning. How do you create them?
 
AC ... I hand cut the glass, layer it - this can be up to five layers. I then fire it in a kiln until all the layers melt and fuse together. After the first firing, the piece is cold worked. This means using a diamond sander, either a hand one, or a machine if I am bevelling the edges, the piece is then cleaned, re-fired at a lower temperature to 'fire polish' the piece. The flat piece is again cleaned and placed back in the kiln onto a mould and re-fired. The piece 'slumps' into, or over, the mould, which gives it its shape. There are times when I carry out further layering and firing before the cold working and slumping. It all depends on the piece. It's very time consuming, especially the firing, which can take anything from 18 to 27 hours.
 
 
Anne Collins 6
Iridescent Bowl, Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... Your pieces are unusual in that you use other materials such as copper foil, silver and gold leaf, together with additional layers of glass in your designs.... are the use of these materials influenced by your mood and inspiration at the time....?
 
AC ... Absolutely. Often I know I have to create things for an exhibition or show and I haven't a clue what I am going to do until I start pulling out the glass and all the other bits I can use within it. I put my music on and things just flow. Other times, I might see something which sparks an idea. For instance, the recent hoar frost we had. It was so beautiful. I would love to somehow create that effect.
 
I cannot paint, so lately I have been trying to create pictures on glass by crushing up different colours of glass and layering it onto a base piece. I love the iconic Great Wave by Katsushika and lately I have been trying to create the power of that wave using clear crushed glass.
 
 
Anne Collins Spring Bowl
Spring Bowl, Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... Your website indicates that you'll be shortly showcasing a collection of handmade glass sinks, that's really exciting ...
 
AC ... Mmmm - I have been meaning to make one for ages. I just haven't managed to get around to it. I certainly will if someone commissions one! It's like the glass fountain. It's in my head, I just haven't yet made it!
 
 
Anne Collins Bird Bath
Copper Leaf Bird Bath, Anne Collins
 
CC ... I also note that you were commissioned to design glass panels for a client's kitchen cabinet furniture - do you feel that the inclusion of individual art glass in the home has endless possibilities?
 
AC ... I've actually created a number of cabinet panels, along with internal door panels, wall panels and wall tiles for a number kitchens. I just haven't found to time to put them up on my web site. My New Year resolution - to update it! You can use glass art anywhere in the home. Again, it make what you have different. You can put in a cheap kitchen yet if you individualise it you can make it look expensive. For instance: a few hand made glass tiles, in a colour and pattern to match something else, set within cheaper white tiles. Or, a glass cooker or sink splash-back or, a couple of door panels within a cheaper cabinet. Or just a handmade bathroom shelf. I think there are endless possibilities.
 
When working with a client, I don't impose my ideas on them. I listen to what they like, their favourites colours, what they already have that they love and I try to interpret their style into the piece. This gives the client even more pleasure as they have had a hand in the creative process. For instance, recently, a client, who lived in an old timber framed house, had made a loo under the stairs. It was very dark and she wanted to put in a window from the hall, created from knocking out an opening in the wall, that would give the room light yet still be private. She liked reds, oranges and blues, circles and flowers. I made a 1.2 metre high panel with small circle like flowers, which had circle centres with a second circle centre set on top. This pattern was created on both sides of the glass, which meant two firings, so they could be seen inside the loo as well as in the hall. Using a special firing process I also created a slight ripple effect to the glass, similar to glass you would find in a bathroom window. Along with the pattern, this created a privacy, yet let in light and colour. My client was delighted. Visitors, when entering the house saw a bright piece of art set within a plain cream and dark wooden beamed wall yet it was functional in that it gave light and colour into a rather small, dark downstairs loo.
 
 
   Anne Collins Door Panel
Door panel (in situ), Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... People can also attend the fused class workshops you run, could you tell us a little more about these?
 
AC ... I teach people how to cut the glass, how to layer it and about the process. Obviously, due to the time, I simplify it somewhat. I show them samples of what they can achieve and they decide what they want to make; such as bowls, dishes, coasters etc. They have a 0.50 metre square shelf each, with which they can make about three to five pieces, depending on the sizes of the pieces. I supply all the glass, enamels, copper etc. I carry out the fusing and slumping after the class. The completed pieces are either collected or posted when finished. I absolutely love doing workshops. I guess its because I love the process so much I want others to love it to. I also love it when I see their faces and their joy when they see their completed pieces.
 
 
CC ... As a fellow jewellery designer, I know how wonderful it is for someone to say how glamorous they feel wearing one of your pieces, or to recount the number of compliments they have received from wearing a piece, what inspires you when designing jewellery?
 
AC ... I love colour, and I love big and bold. Which is why I love Andrew Logan's jewellery so much. Although my jewellery is not quite as 'in your face' as his I do hope it's striking. However, I am aware most people like their jewellery a little more conservative so I have to force myself to also create small and neat pieces but still quite bright. And it is lovely to receive compliments from people who wear my pieces. I purr like a pussy cat when they tell me how much they love it.
 
  
Anne Collins 1
Dichroic glass bracelet, Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... Your love of dichroic glass is evident. Why do you enjoy working with this particular medium so much, especially for your jewellery pieces?
 
AC ... I adore it. It has amazing depth and I just love the way the colours change with the light. Dichroic glass is the Rolls Royce of glass. It was originally developed by NASA for the wings of the space shuttle as it transmits and reflects light. I love the brightness of it and the way it dances and shimmers. You can create so many different effects by layering it with other colours of glass. I was recently commissioned to create a very large amethyst coloured glass pendent to match a clients large amethyst ring. I achieved the effect by casting layers of pink and purple glass with layers of purple dichroic, which I then bevelled and surrounded the edges with silver. The client was delighted because not only did it look like an amethyst but it had the depth and sparkle of a real amethyst.
 
 
 
Anne Collins 3
Dichroic glass bracelet, Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... Like myself, you're very keen on originality and one-off pieces. Why is this so important for you as a designer?
 
AC ... Because there is so much of the same around. So much is mass produced. I love things that are one-offs, unique, which is why I try to create original pieces. It makes me very, very angry when I am at a craft show and there are so many people selling beaded jewellery. Anyone can string together beads, even my five year old granddaughter. There is no artistic craftsmanship involved. Real craftsmanship is when something is created with love and passion. Like the jewellery created by Caregos Couture, the way you connect the beads, crystals and semi precious gems with silver wire and silver and gold chain creating unique, one-off pieces. They are all individual parts of a whole. That is real artistic craftsmanship as it is supposed to be, as it was intended to be by the original Arts and Crafts movement. There is so much now that you can buy which states it is hand made. Yes it is, but it's made in a sweatshop in Africa, India, China, Mexico or Turkey where people are paid peanuts to churn it out. It's not made with love, with passion, with commitment to each individual piece. It's soulless. I even see people selling dichroic jewellery, stating its hand made but its made in Mexico and China. Did you know, the Chinese can now produce Amber! Only an expert can tell it from the real thing. They also make Murano glass for heavens sake! Wedgwood, and other china manufacturers, used to employ artists to work on each piece, everything was hand painted and hand created with great skill. The term 'craft' used to refer to the product of artistic production or creation that required a high degree of tacit knowledge, are highly technical, require specialised equipment and/or facilities to produce. Nowadays 'craft' is seen as something that is created as a hobby, like lavender bags!!! As a designer I know that just a little of something original and different either on a person, in a room, or in a garden, can change the whole ambiance of that space.
 
 
 
Anne Collins Green Magazine
Dichroic glass bracelet, Anne Collins
 
 
CC ... Your website indicates that you have shown your work in a large number of galleries, such as Oriel Davies gallery, a range of jewellers and most interestingly, Spain. How did the exhibition in Spain come about?
 
AC ... My husband and I love wondering around galleries. One day, whilst in Mijas, we went into a gallery and the owner, Fazime, commented on the jewellery I was wearing. I told him I made it myself and explained how it was made. He asked me if I would make some for his gallery, along with some bowls and dishes. Which I did. Each time I go out to Spain I take a few more pieces for his gallery. In September, I took over my first Spanish commission, two window panels for a beach restaurant with their palm trees logo shown against a background of sand, sea and sky.
 
 
CC ... Do you have any exhibitions planned for 2009?
 
AC ... My first exhibition of the year is from January 17th in the Gallery at the Welsh Spring Fair in Llandudno, organised by the Welsh Craft Council. My next is at the Workhouse in Llanfyllin, Powys, which runs for a month from the 6th April until the 3rd May. I am currently in the process of organising dates in London and Eastbourne later on in the year. I will also be a the Smallholders & Garden Festival at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, in May, the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod and the Royal Welsh Show, also at Llanelwedd, in July.
 
 
CC ... Where would you like to see 'Warm Glass Art' in five years time?'
 
AC ... I would just like to still be around, creating pieces with continued love and passion that brings joy to people who buy it. I certainly want to be doing more casting, especially of very large sculptural pieces. I don't want to grow any bigger, or employ someone to make the jewellery or wall tiles or cut the glass for me, it would take away the individualisation and essence of me. I also hope that people will become more discerning about what they are buying and will search out 'genuine' 'crafted' art, even though it costs more because like me, they have become tired of mass produced 'sameness'. Even a few pieces of functional art in a home or garden would give the owner that sense of individuality which, due to the increasing mechanisation of production processes and cheap labour in developing countries, is now so hard to find.
 
 
CC ... Anne Collins, thank you.

 

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