Since meeting in uni, the pair have worked together and now produce award winning glass artwork bought by private owners and shown in a number of global galleries. Their style marries creativity and technique, celebrating their individual skills in each unique piece of art.
We headed for North Yorkshire, the sun beaming down and illuminating our way into this beautiful part of the country. We passed ploughed fields and glistening lakes on our way to meet Glass artists Stephen Gillies and Kate Jones. They create visually stunning handmade glass in the picturesque village of Rosedale Abbey, North Yorkshire.
The studio is a single story converted barn. There are a number of pieces displayed in the gallery space all with stunning colours and delicate designs. This unique art hits your eyes and the heat from the studio washes over you, radiating from the various kilns that stay fired for 11 months of the year. The space opens out to a large studio area where Stephen blows the glass. The warm room is very calming, everything has its own place, fitting the methodical processes of glass blowing.
Stephen and Kate have been producing glass blown pieces together in the a traditional way for over 20 years. They opened their studio May 1st 1995 after both attending Stourbridge College of Art. However they only met after they’d both finished their courses which were in different parts of the campus. Kate trained as a painter while Stephen studied glass blowing. In time Kate became fascinated by the world of glass and enrolled on a one year post grad course and learnt all the practical skills and how to make the marks on glass that she’d previously made on paper.
Stephen continued to study the intricate arts of glass blowing at various small studios around the world. He travelled to Denmark, Switzerland, the East Coast of the States as well as the Isle of White. Whenever Kate had the opportunity, she would fly out and assist Stephen and they soon realised they worked brilliantly together in work as well as life.
“I love the simplicity of what I do, heating the glass so it is malleable and then when it’s hot enough I have this small window of time before it cools again to get my shaping right. It’s really exciting.”
Their style of working together is something they call ‘creative bickering’. Stephen begins the process by blowing the glass and adding colour before Kate creates her own imaginative patterns. Watching Stephen work and effortlessly move from one station to another is like watching a dancer executing carefully rehearsed dance steps. The processes, skills and tools involved in glass blowing haven’t changed much since medieval times. He said “I love the simplicity of what I do, heating the glass so it is malleable and then when it’s hot enough I have this small window of time before it cools again to get my shaping right. It’s really exciting.”
Once shaped, the glass then goes to Kate’s space which is in another building adjacent to the barn. It seems busier than Stephen’s. She calls it her “Creative Choas”. Stephen can blow the glass a lot faster than Kate can finish the pieces so there are lots of them dotted around the room, some that are waiting to be worked on, some finished and some awaiting delivery. Kate smiles when she says “I love the space exactly like this, I know where everything is.” She works on the blown glass removing the top layer to create the patterns inspired by their rural location. “Living in this part of the world definitely influences my work, from the smallest flower to the rolling landscapes and the seasonal colours, I can’t help but take it all in.”
We were lucky enough to see the methodical glass blowing process for ourselves which is an art-form in itself and understand the thinking and techniques behind Kates surface design. The two processes combine to produce decorative glass work which has received global recognition and it is easy to see why…. the confident use of colour and the marriage of shape and surface design make each piece a unique work of art.