We asked Jane Ellis, a professional fused glass artist based at the Red House Glass Cone, some questions about her experience of working in the glass industry, here’s what she said –
How long have you been a fused glass artist & what made you decide to use the medium you work with?
I have worked with glass for about 9 years now, and fused glass for about 8. I chose to work with glass simply because of how amazing it looks with light. I started with stained glass and was very interested in learning how to make a glass kaleidoscope as I think they look brilliant and it seemed like a challenge. It took a while to learn the skills to make a kaleidoscope, even then I only managed very ramshackle ones.
In the process of learning stained glass I also become frustrated with its limitations so proceeded to learn fused glass as it had many more opportunities. You can cut and layer the glass, slump it into moulds, drop the glass through rings, manipulate it in the kiln, add metals and powders, drill it, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
How did you learn to be a fused glass artist?
Did you take classes? Do an apprenticeship?
I am mostly self taught. I attended a weekend course at the Liquid Glass Centre in Bath. It was a great course in the middle of the Somerset countryside. I came back got a hobby kiln and glass pack and set to work. The first thing you learn with fusing is to temper your excitement until the kiln is open. It takes over 12 hours for glass to fuse and cool, so it’s a long wait to see if what you have made worked. In the beginning the success rate is quite low.
I have attended a few courses since at the International Glass Centre. I did a 3 year, hot glass (or glass blowing) night school class and gained a BTEC qualification. I also completed a year of lampwork glass (or bead making). These were just to increase my general knowledge of glass and to meet other glass artists as teaching yourself can be a bit lonely.
How did you come to work at the Red House Glass Cone?
How I came to work at the Red House Glass Cone is a nice story. I met my colleague Sarah Jones while at the international college of glass. At the time I was selling my work at craft fairs. Sarah happened to mention to me that she would love to do that so I invited her along. I told her that she could share my stalls in exchange for help and company. We did this for a few years having great fun, it was a good time, both of us learning what sold, what didn’t and earned enough money to fund the learning process.
Eventually while attending a craft fair at the Red House Glass Cone, I was asked to show my work in one of the exhibitions being held for the glass festival. I was really excited and asked Sarah to come up and see. While on the way there I had a message from Sarah saying too meet her in one of the studios as she was meeting the manager. Apparently she had had a vision while in the bath that we should have a studio there and so therefore this is what we did. We have been there ever since, thanks to my impulsive and slightly crazy friend.
What is your favourite part of the process?
My favourite part of the process, ummm, I think there has to be two parts I love. Firstly is the technical side. Glass can be a pain but don’t tell it I said that, you should always be nice to it because it has an evil side and can randomly mess up your project in many ways. I love working out how to make things work, the correct temperatures, what tools to use, what colours to mix. I like the challenge.
The second part I love is selling my work. To have someone pay good money for something you have made feels amazing! It is a huge compliment.
I think the industry today is fantastic. Working at the glass cone you get a lot of people commenting on how it used to be and what a shame it is that there is no glass industry in Stourbridge. This just isn’t true, there is a great and immensely creative glass industry in Stourbridge. A lot of fantastic and creative artists working hard. The Glass Biennale held in Stourbridge during the International Festival of Glass is a weekend when everyone should come and see what brilliant glass work is being made in Stourbridge and throughout the world!
Have you always aspired to be a fused glass artist
or did you ever dream of following a different path?
It took me a while to find my path into the glass industry. I studied social science at university, I am a qualified accounts administrator and I worked in the family printing business for a number of years. I hated working in an office behind a computer. It was a while before I realised my creative side, you are brought up thinking that you are either naturally good at art and crafts or not. I have since learnt that it is like anything else, you need to work hard and learn and loving what you do makes this a lot more fun!
Is there anyone who have you always dreamt of working with and why?
What is the greatest thing about working in the your industry?
The greatest part of working with glass is its diversity. You can do so much and the opportunities and products are growing all the time.
What would you change if you had the opportunity?
If I could change anything it would be that a place existed nearby
with all the equipment needed and available to use at anytime. Things can cost a lot when working in glass.
From your experience in the fused glass industry what advice could you offer people looking to get to where you are today?
Give it a go and talk to people in the industry. They aren’t scary and will help where they can.
What courses/classes would you recommend someone take if they want to be a professional fused glass artist?
There are a few courses you can take, not so many in fused glass though. I would suggest looking at going to Wolverhampton university. It has a brilliant glass department. If however, you want to start off fusing glass as a hobby, look for a short introductory course (I do some classes here), get the basic information, buy a kiln and get experimenting!
From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging? And how are you dealing with it?
The most challenging aspect is making my ideas fit with my budget. Working in glass isn’t cheap, I have many ideas but bringing them together and not spending a fortune so they can be sold at a reasonable price is hard. I often fill my virtual basket up with everything I want and then delete items to bring it down to an affordable amount. It’s hard, I want all the glass!!
Is there any work you are currently working on
that you would like to tell us about?
I have been working on a top secret project. And I’m not joking! It has been very challenging and exciting and I’m weeks away from getting it all finished but the client wants it kept on the down low. It has however involved me perfecting drilling holes in glass and this has opened up my imagination to lots of new ideas. I can’t wait to change a lot of my range this year. It’s going to be the year of circles!
Share with us your proudest moment in your career so far?
My proudest moment ……. I think that would be the first Christmas morning after I had spent all November and December selling my work at crafts fairs. I woke up and thought about all the people who would be given a gift of something I had made. It blew my mind and made me very happy, I hope they were too.
My favourite piece is a necklace I made for my mum. Technically it was challenging as I had to work out a way to get the holes correctly in the glass. Visually I love the colour of the glass and it sparkles beautifully. It looks wonderful on my mum and she is a fantastic mum who has helped me through out my career and I’m pleased to have made her something that she can proudly say her daughter made.