or…. My encounter with Contemporary Glass Artists and Art.
I have been a tour guide and presenter on the subject of Stourbridge glass for many years. My work has concentrated on the history, and sociological impact of the industry; the production of fine quality crystal tableware and its embellishment; the Glassmakers themselves, both famous and unknown, and their pioneering achievements. Resulting from my early involvement and research for our new Stourbridge Glass Museum, I investigated the world of Contemporary Glass.
The Contemporary Glass Society regularly shines a ‘Spotlight’ on members and showcases their work, this was my starting point. A recently featured artist Karlin Rushbrooke and his work immediately intrigued and enthralled me.
Glass artwork has many schools and genres with products as diverse as they are subjective; the pretension of the artist is to embody an idea or narrative by manipulating molten glass into an object which is desirable and collectible, often pushing the boundaries of physics, crossing the Rubicon at every step, whilst coincidentally earning a living. This is art dancing with science.
I first came across the work of Karlin Rushbrooke in 2019 when his ‘Dragonfly’ sculpture was featured by Simon Bruntnell Photography but it was his current work of glass heads embarking in steel boats and featured on the GCS Spotlight page, that engaged and beguiled me. Karlin is a long-serving skilled artist who graduated from Stourbridge school of art and his work is held in many renowned collections.
Following several emailed conversations, I went to see Karlin in his studio in Hereford. I was warmly welcomed by him, his wife, Greta, and a very polite black Labrador; and offered coffee and home-made flapjacks before crossing to his studio. Karlin had built his own kiln in a large single storey garage conversion, a space that screamed creativity.
The piece that I loved titled ‘Hey look at that’ was too tall for the alcove where I was minded to display it, and not living in a stately home with many expectant inviting alcoves, I had discussed the possibility of modifying the piece without losing any of its integrity, and Karlin was happy to oblige. Originally mounted on a wooden base, he suggested lowering the overall height by mounting it on steel wheels similar to his piece titled ‘All hands on Deck’; however, the wheels would ‘ground’ the piece and I didn’t want to lose the narrative of feeling adrift. We compromised with a steel base plate, heavy enough to support the weight of the work but without the depth of the wooden base; perfect!
Other products of Karlin’s creative mind and hands were arranged in an small room adjacent to the studio, some of the pieces I recognized from images on his website; and whilst the camera doesn’t lie, it doesn’t tell the whole truth either. Karlin’s work ‘Steel Heads’ are remarkable sculptures of gas-welded steel and copper, with eyes made of glass to bring the heads to life, they are often sculptures inspired by real people. What gives them an unusual and compelling quality are the shadows that they cast, depending on the light and its source, they become a tableau-vivant.
The idea of the CGS series ‘Members Spotlight’ on social media fulfills its aims to promote contemporary glass among the art world and wider public. I am that wider public, but haven’t aspired to own a work of art, until now. I have bought a beautiful meaningful piece, with a narrative that reflects my circumstance and perspective. I LOVE it!! It sits beautifully in its modest alcove, every time I see it I feel good, and I may well need more.