We asked Caroline Scully, a professional glass blower 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 glass blower & what made you decide to use the medium you work with?
I have been glass blowing for 12 years now. I have always been very creative and enjoyed drawing and painting as a child.
I did a GNVQ in Art and Design at college where I was introduced to textiles, photography, 3D-Design and graphics. I especially enjoyed 3D-Design, so from there I went on to do a degree in 3D-Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. This involved working with wood, metal, glass and ceramics. I was undecided about what medium I wanted to work in, so I didn’t limit myself to just one. From here I discovered kiln formed and blown glass, I loved the anticipation involved in seeing the results the next day from the kiln formed glass and the immediacy of being able to create an object working with molten glass.
How did you learn to be a glass blower?
Did you take classes? Do an apprenticeship?
My degree course was just the tip of the iceberg of the capabilities of glass, I went on to further my skills at The International Glass Centre in Brierley Hill. I did two years post graduate study; this involved a more diverse range of glass disciplines. Covering the technology of glass, stained glass, kiln formed glass, bead making, cold working and glass blowing. It allowed for more focus and development of skills in these subjects areas.
How did you come to work at the Red House Glass Cone?
After my time studying at the International Glass Centre I went on to work weekends at Broadfield House Glass Museum, in Kingswinford, for two years to help build my skills.
Following this I applied for a Scholarship at The Red House Glass Cone which was a residency offered to students from The International Glass Centre. This was to help enable them to have a start at running their own business at an affordable rate. Here I worked with a couple of other glass makers sharing the time and space three days a week for two years, where I produced my own pieces. When our contracts ended the scholarship also finished but I am still based at the Red House Cone demonstrating various weekends and hiring as and when necessary.
What is your favourite part of the process?
I like being able to manipulate the glass to form a completely new shape. From the simplicity of a blob of molten glass to see the shape appearing as the desired form gives me a great sense of satisfaction and achievement. As animals are at the forefront of my designs at the moment it is often the very last moment where the additional blobs of glass are applied that bring the piece to life and give it the character of the animal itself.
It was once a thriving industry and now there are only a few factory’s remaining; it is more a studio craft nowadays. This is due to the glass being made abroad at cheaper rates making it very difficult to compete with. It is a sad situation making it a very difficult medium to succeed in and often I find people who visit the Red House Glass Cone and watch the demonstrations don’t realise what’s involved in making a piece of glass and when they do, they appreciate it a whole lot more and are more susceptible to buy handmade glass from the UK.
Have you always aspired to be a glass blower
or did you ever dream of following a different path?
I haven’t always aspired to be a glass blower but knew I wanted to work in the art industry in some way or other, as a child I always said I wanted to be an artist. So in some respect you could say I have achieved what I set out to do because I am a glass artist.
What is the greatest thing about working in the your industry?
The greatest thing about working in my industry is that I am able to design and create something that other people may desire and own, that’s a nice feeling. Also being able to create a unique gift for people at Christmas or birthday is an added bonus because not many people can do that in their industry.
What would you change if you had the opportunity?
The thing I would change if I had the opportunity is the costs involved with glass blowing. Everything is so expensive from the tools to the hire of the studio, this makes it very difficult to develop new ideas because of the costs holding you back. You need to have the money behind you to have the time to develop new pieces, because while you are experimenting with new designs you are not being productive in making pieces that will sell.
From your experience in the glass blowing industry what advice could you offer people looking to get to where you are today?
From my education and experience in the industry I would say as well as being a competent maker you need to have the business skills and passion for the medium to succeed. Do the courses needed to gain the skills of the trade and then keep practicing and building upon those skills.
What courses/classes would you recommend someone take if they want to be a professional glass blower?
I recommend any degree course which involves glass manufacture and any further education courses or night classes that help you develop and build your skills also working with other glass makers will help you learn new techniques. It’s simply practice, practice, the more you practice the better you will become.
From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging? And how are you dealing with it?
Making a living at it has been the most challenging. The business side was lacking from my educational courses and therefore you end up learning from your experiences.
Is there any work you are currently working on
that you would like to tell us about?
I have just started developing a new range of owls; they are only in the early stages so need more development, but I am excited to be doing something new.
Visit Caroline’s shop here
Get in-touch if you would like to commission a piece of glass here