Yes I do – in the general sense – but the boundaries between design and execution, between idea and process, become blurred. A piece may start as one thing, but during working, evolve into something quite different. My approach to my glass is now much less formal and constrained than when I first started. This is reflected in the objects I make. Often there is no separation at all between design and construction – I will start with a germinal idea and improvise upon it. Sometimes I will produce variations on a design theme. At best the approach is liberating, generating pieces that would not have been likely with a two-step design and construction approach. I often think of this attitude in musical terms as a kind of glass ‘jazz’.
What are you working on at the moment?
I always seem to have more than one piece on the go at any time. Maybe a mosaic vessel, a window panel and a bowl will be in varying stages of disarray! Then some new idea takes my fancy. Inevitably I struggle to meet deadlines but my clients are very understanding. I am just finishing a small scale model of my Karfreitag window, a simple red cross on a sea of mixed blues. The real thing will probably never be made – not many churches commission glass these days – but I had to get the idea out of my system! I am also working on some ideas for new organic glass shapes – all form but no function. I like that!
What artist has had the biggest influence on your work?
Mostly I am inspired and influenced by my artist friends – there is nothing I enjoy more than talking to fellow glass artists Cathy Barcham, Lesley Ramos, Ray Taylor and Chris MacCormick for instance. We all work so differently but I have huge admiration for this talented quartet.
Of course, if you work in glass as I do, it is impossible not to be seduced by the Seattle-based glass artist Dale Chihuly’s twisting, interweaving, organic shapes. More than any other artist, he has been the driving force behind the studio glass revival of the late 20th century. In many ways his most potent influence is as a stimulus to escape rather than emulate – to seek a different voice.
If you could live with any work of art ever made, what would it be?
Funnily enough for a visual artist, it would be nothing ‘concrete’ but a piece of music. When I first heard it on Good Friday 1979. I felt that Richard Wagner’s last opera Parsifal was the greatest work of art in human history. Thirty years on I still do.
If I had to choose something visual, it would have to be La Pieta by Michelangelo. When I saw it in 2004 in Rome I was – much as I detest the word – ‘gobsmacked’. This is a sculpture that seems almost to breathe. I wasn’t the only viewer wiping away a tear. Unbelievably moving.