We asked Charlotte-Hughes Martin, 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’ve been a glass blower for 18 years. I decided to work with glass after I visited Coventry Cathedral as a confused Art student and got all inspired!
How did you learn to be a glass blower?
Did you take classes? Do an apprenticeship?
I did both. I studied for my degree at Sunderland University and after graduating I worked at the National Glass Centre which was my apprenticeship.
How did you come to work at the Red House Glass Cone?
I had come back from studying abroad for my masters and wanted to move my glass working out of the spare room. I looked on the council website for something else and noticed a button at the side saying Studios to Rent. That was in 2007 and I’m still here!
What is your favourite part of the process?
I love working out how to make things. I was one of the ‘taking apart the toaster to see how it worked’ kids and I still love thinking of the final product and reverse engineering to get to the start.
I have a chip on my shoulder about it to be honest. I get a lot of people in the cone watching me make glass and then saying ‘it’s a shame that the industry died.’ I want to yell ‘I’m still here! You just watched me make a piece!’ I explain that we still do make glass here in the Glass Quarter and if they want to keep the industry here then they should buy something…now!
Have you always aspired to be a glass blower
or did you ever dream of following a different path?
I nearly went into photography, which I still love. My school aptitude test said I should be a midwife though…eugh!
What is the greatest thing about working in the your industry?
I lack patience and I am also very stubborn and I need excitment. Glass blowing is quick, difficult and has the air of danger, which is a perfect fit for me!
What would you change if you had the opportunity?
If you saw a painting in a gallery for £600 no one would blink an eye. A glass piece that has taken 3 times as long and has cost double in materials sadly, seems very expensive to people.
From your experience in the glass blowing industry what advice could you offer people looking to get to where you are today?
Apply for everything! Even if you get 19 rejections, you’ll get one acceptance…which is way more than you would have had (I used to light the glory hole with my rejection letters!).
What courses/classes would you recommend someone take if they want to be a professional glass blower?
Locally Wolverhampton and Dudley have good courses. Sunderland and Farnham too.
From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging? And how are you dealing with it?
Sadly I’ve found cash flow is the most challenging thing a glass artist has to deal with. Galleries and companies holding on to your money and/or work is pretty brutal. I’m dealing with it by only dealing with certain people and businesses. Also payment upfront is really helpful!
Is there any work you are currently working on
that you would like to tell us about?
Check out the glass on http://dnamemorialuk.com/dna-memorial/ It’s got a few of us cone people on there!
Do you have a favourite piece & can we see it please?
My favorite piece is usually the one I finished last. I’ve just finished this window for Pedmore Primary School that I’m pretty chuffed with…
Charlotte blowing glass with the help of Caroline Scully