Onslow-based fused glass artist Louisa Sullivan creates beautiful designs
PUBLISHED: 15:18 12 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:18 12 February 2015
The Surrey countryside is one of the inspirations behind Louisa Sullivan’s beautiful fused glass designs. Janet Donin pays a visit to her studio in Onslow near Guildford to find out more
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2015
How did you first get into working with glass? I studied fine art in Wolverhampton, and then went on to work with kids, organising carnivals and art workshops for schools in Salford. My light bulb moment happened at a local craft fair where I saw examples of fused glass, which I found totally fascinating. So seven years ago, after I had my children, Max and Ruby, I went to St Martin’s to retrain in glass design. The experience was totally amazing.
So what is the fascination? Once I got over the initial fear of cutting the glass, I realised how much fun it could be, especially when I saw the kind of chemical reaction that takes place within the kiln as the glass fuses together. I’m experimenting all the time, playing around with different ideas and combination of materials.
Where do you find the inspiration for your work? Nature influences everything. I love the freedom of walking through fields of waving grass. And I’m really inspired by looking at nature in winter when there’s no colour and the garden is covered in frost, or collecting pebbles on the beach with my daughter.
Describe the style of your work to us in three words… Contemporary. Subtle. Simple.
Talk us through the process of creating your glass artworks... I design with fused glass, as opposed to blown glass, which means layering up glass to create colour and pattern. So it all starts with ideas in my sketch pad, which I then transfer on to coloured glass using a marker pen. I score around the outlines with a special cutter and tap out the shape. Simple shapes like the pebbles and honesty work well using this method, but for more complicated designs I’ll use a diamond wheel-cutter, which slices right through the glass. Finally, I layer up the cut pieces and sandwich between sheets of clear glass before firing in the kiln.
Which part is the most difficult?
Being patient, because the timing of the firing has to be precise and can’t be rushed. Glass will just crack if the process is too fast. In the early days, I was always excited to see how the glass was fusing, as it spreads slightly under heat, and I ruined many pieces. I also cut my fingers to ribbons! But now I’m not so clumsy and much more patient.
Do you have a favourite piece? My landscape pictures remind me of holidays in Ireland, which I loved. They depict meadow grass rippling in the wind with darker patches representing cut peat. I’ve also used copper pieces in these pictures, which causes the glass to change colour when it’s fused so the results are always surprising.
What are you working on now? I’m experimenting with printing on glass. I cut a design in relief on lino then roller with enamel paint to print on to clear glass. I’ve worked on cow parsley and allium designs, which are light and airy so look good on the glass. When the paint is dry, I layer up different coloured glass to create the background, before firing. I’ve mounted the pieces on blocks of ash so they can sit on a windowsill and let the light shine through to make the designs come alive.
How do you go about creating your beautiful bowls? I use the same layering process but incorporate broken bits of glass, called frit, to make interesting bubbles, and powdered glass to create a softer effect. Shaped glass, like bowls and dishes, needs a second firing so the fused glass is placed on top of a ceramic mould and when fired simply ‘slumps’ into the mould to create the shape.
Tell us about your other pieces... I’m constantly experimenting with different ideas. Last summer, I made glass bunting for my brother’s wedding, and I love my hanging hearts as well as different coasters and platters.
Describe your workspace to us… My studio is at the end of the garden and is very cosy, but I’ve really outgrown the space and plan to extend it next year. That’s if I can work around the kids’ climbing frame, football goal and the rabbits! The kiln is large so takes up most of the space, and I have lots of shelves for storing glass, copper and wood. But I really need a bigger work bench so I have to expand.
Finally, how do you like to relax? I love popping up to London to visit art galleries. I was very inspired when I discovered the work of Peter Lanyon who was an amazing abstract British landscape artist. But much of my inspiration comes from walking around the countryside with the family. We love the Alice Holt Nature Reserve, near Farnham, and getting lost in the beautiful forest. There’s always so much to see and do around here.
• Louisa Sullivan’s work can be viewed by appointment at her studio in Onslow near Guildford - call 07747 446008. For more on her work, visit facebook.com/louisa.sullivan.cg. You can also find her work online at http://prismartistsandmakers.wordpress.com