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Glass artist Helen Smith works with kiln formed glass in her Wirral studio.
Describing herself as an ‘accidental glass artist’, she studied for a degree in Design & Applied Arts at Glyndwr University, Wrexham where she expected to specialise in ceramics; but there was something about the material qualities of glass that captivated her and she continues to explore these qualities some 8 years later.
Helen draws her inspiration from walks along the local Wirral shoreline, noting the shifting light and weather patterns as well as the varying patterns and textures left by the retreating tide.
“I feel very lucky to live where I do, just a few minutes away from the shore. The instant I put my foot on the sand it is like stepping into a different world and I want my work to capture the feel of that peaceful other world down by the water’s edge.”
Helen’s work includes wall panels created by building up layers of coloured glass powders before firing them in the kiln, and decorative dishes formed by allowing the glass to flow and stretch in the kiln. In both of these techniques there is an element of unpredictability; for example, even the most brightly coloured glass appears grey in powdered form, so that achieving the colours she is aiming for in her panels is a mixture of instinct, experience and sometimes guesswork.
In keeping with her coastal theme the majority of Helen’s work is sandblasted to give it a surprisingly tactile surface, reminiscent of sea glass:
“I realise that stroking a piece of glass is not most people’s first reaction, but it is something I positively encourage!”
Together with a small dedicated team, Helen organises the popular Wirral Open Studio Tour which returns this September. As part of the tour she will be opening her glass studio to show her work and to give visitors an insight into the processes involved. Her work is also available via her website and she will be taking part in the Open Culture Summer Arts Fair at Liverpool Cathedral on 5th June.