During this year’s London Design Festival, we are hosting an array of creative businesses and independents at The Makers’ Market, the first pop-up of its kind at The Royal Exchange, which will be hosted on our grand mezzanine area from Monday 20 – Friday 24 September. In a series of Q&As, we get to know the makers behind the brands.
Tell us about your brand – what do you make and how did you get started?
I started working with glass as a personal challenge. Fiery and literally too hot to handle, I was determined to be in the room at the end of the day when the queue of hopeful starters had dwindled from 20 to four. Over 20 years later and I’m still in love with the material and making handmade objects for the home.
How big is your team and where are you based?
I’m based in north London and my workshop has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the park. It’s very green and sometimes hard to believe the Tube station is only a five-minute walk away. I work on my own in the studio, so I really enjoy getting to meet people through lessons and shows.
Describe the style of your creations in three words:
Classic – my designs refer to cultural history.
Refined – I use traditional making skills to create quality pieces.
Polished – both literally and aesthetically! I spend a lot of time working on designs before they are ready for sale.
Can you explain a little bit about your craft and what makes it so special?
Glass is either to be seen or seen through. We love its transparency and the colours we find in it and through it. It captures light and blasts it back at us with more intensity. It makes our world shiny. Hot glass is mesmerizing. Gloopy and treacle-like, it can be pulled, joined together and blown, then frozen in the form you’ve created. When the alluring hot orange glow has subsided, its optical qualities are second to none. Even clear glass can bend the light to generate every colour in the rainbow.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations when creating?
I’m inspired by traditional glass-making techniques and shapes from modern culture. Fusing the two ideas creates quality pieces that reflect modern interiors.
What can visitors expect when they come to visit your stall at The Royal Exchange Makers’ Market?
I hope to share my love of the material and show a little of what can be done with it. There will be cut crystal vases, tumblers and lighting and I’ll be answering any questions about the introductory glass-making lessons.
What advice would you give someone looking to explore glass blowing further?
Explore. There are so many ways to work with glass – stained, fused, kiln-formed, blown, flameworked – try as many as you can to find which method you enjoy the most.
Why do you think it is so important to keep the art of glassmaking alive?
We are all unique, and sometimes we need something unique made for us which can only be created by hand. Flameworking is used to make specialised scientific equipment as well as art pieces. Without this craft continuing we would lose the art of glass and one-of-a-kind labware.
Do you have a favourite piece you have created?
It would be a huge blue jug with a blown-yellow handle which I made during my first trip to Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle. I was doing a class with Dante Marioni and Benjamin Moore. It was the first time I’d been to Pilchuck, a school focusing solely on glassmaking founded in 1971 by glass artist Dale Chihuly and patrons Anne Gould Hauberg and John H Hauberg. The experience was so invigorating; looking at the jug brings back the feeling of being immersed in such a creative environment – magical!
If you could learn any other craft, what would it be and why?
I am drawn to ceramics, the throwing process reminds me of blowing glass in many ways, and the glazes are glass of course so maybe that doesn’t count!
Samantha Sweet will be in residence at The Makers’ Market at The Royal Exchange, taking place on the mezzanine level from Monday 20 – Friday 24 September 2021, 10.30am – 6pm
Read more about The Makers’ Market and the exhibitors taking part here