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Be a glass artist for the day

Steve Robinson is an award winning fused glass artist based in St Davids, Pembrokeshire. I’ve admired his work for years and always fancied having a go myself.   He designs and produces various pieces, from decorative tea light panels, bowls and platters, kitchen splashbacks and bespoke art panels, to large scale architectural installations.

Of course, how much you like a piece of art is down to personal taste, Steve’s style is quite simply, right up my street. I love his bold designs, the hand drawn shapes and lines that flow and intertwine, filled with the most vibrant, contemporary colours.

Having only ever seen the final piece, I’d often wondered exactly what goes into the process of fused glass art. So when the chance to experience a glass workshop for myself popped up (to make a glass tea light panel), I jumped at it,

“Fancy coming to a fused glass workshop Dave?” was my text of the day, which Dave will have received at work, probably mid roof climb(!).  “Sounds cool” he pinged back, un-phased by the random question, as like me, he’s up for trying anything new. A short phone call to Hannah in the studio and we were soon-to-be glass students for the evening for a very modest fee, hoorah!

The day arrived and with pinny and protective gloves at the ready, we gathered in the Steve Robinson workshop admiring a glorious view over the grounds of St Davids cathedral. We watched Steve demo the basics of applying powdered enamels to the glass. It was more complex than I realised and definitely called for a steady hand.  We learned the difference between opaque and transparent enamels (opaque retains a more solid shape after firing as opposed to the latter which disperses in the kiln to create an interesting, quite randomly textured finish). We produced bespoke cardboard stencils to create various shapes and learned how to layer the design to give it more depth.

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What a fabulous time we had, comparing design tips and admiring other student’s work as they were progressing (and at times scowling when someone knocked the table by mistake and the powders shifted place!). All ages, walks of life and levels of talent had joined this class.  It’s a great way to socialise and network, I have met some of the most interesting people at workshops like this.

With Steve in high demand, mingling with the group and dropping in lots of tips n tricks as our works of art developed, we spent the last half hour a little quieter than before as we focused on the final touches.  One by one, the glass panels in their flat form, were entered onto the kiln bed and balanced on formers, which would create the curved shape of the final panel.We oohed and aahed at what we had collectively produced and wished we could stay around to see them morph into decorative curved panels. Not a bad result for a couple of hours work.

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The feel good factor

So what would we have done if we weren’t at a creative workshop that evening?  Doing something else creative or perhaps slumped on the sofa? When I asked others what they felt they achieved during the evening, it was nice to hear most people say they were; in their element, initially nervous but grew in confidence and able to day dream and get in the zone to switch off from the hustle of daily life.

Surely this is what loving life is all about…choosing to do something that makes you smile. Some may work with glass again, others may be happy with the taster.  Either way, the take out was positive.

So how did they turn out?

Dave's glass tealight panel The good news is that Dave has found his inner glass artist and produced this fabulous ‘spacescape’.  It sits proudly at home and looks fab when it’s lit from behind.

The not so good news is that I was a poor student.  I used the transparent powder where I thought I’d used opaque and I didn’t apply the enamel thickly enough to create a strong background colour.  The result was an almost clear panel, with oddly shaped poppy heads and legs amongst some beautifully drawn blades of grass (!) Regardless of the outcome I loved every minute of trying to be a glass designer lol.

Will try harder next time Steve and cheers for the experience.

Here’s a snap of Steve’s tea light designs to show you how it’s really done. If you like the look of what we managed to create as amateurs, take a look at the Steve Robinson Glass website if you haven’t already.

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