Sophie Longwill in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips. Sophie shares her experience during her dual ISGNE air AT berlin Glas e.v & North Lands Creative


PARTNER - North Lands Creative / berlin glas

YEAR - 2019

1. What were you doing in the year leading up to the ISGNE AiR opportunity?

In the year before the residency I started my own business, trying to figure out a way to make lots of lovely glass but still pay my bills, so I was spending a lot of time learning as much as possible about how to run a business as well as developing a range of products. It is very much still a work in progress but I love learning new things so I’m enjoying the process and really pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

2. Please tell us how you found the ISGNE AiR residency open call, and what motivated you to apply?

I think I first came across it when I was writing the newsletters for the Glass Society of Ireland – I had applied in 2018 too. I really didn’t think I stood a chance to get it because it sounded so amazing but I thought it was worth a try! I got through to the interviews the first year and then got awarded the second year. It gave me a massive confidence boost and totally shifted my mindset; I’m a real artist now!

Sophie Longwill at Berlin Glas, photo by Nadania Idriss

3. How was your journey from Ireland to Berlin? What was the first thing you noticed about the city or the people?

Berlin is so incredibly vibrant, I totally fell in love with it and I can’t wait to go back. The city has this feeling of great freedom, and it is practically bursting at the seams with creativity. It is full of colour, art, and is such a melting pot of people and cultures. I found it really inspiring.

4. And then the second part to the dual residency took you to North Lands Creative in the remote North East of Scotland, apart from the isolation were there other noticeable differences?

The skies; every sunrise and sunset was so incredibly dramatic and beautiful, I took so many pictures and started trying to capture a sense of them in glass, so it’s forming a new body of work. The landscape was just gorgeous and I loved being so near the sea. It was great to have that period of peace and reflection after all the hustle and bustle of Berlin.

5. Tell me about your first day at North Lands Creative. What was your first impression of the studio?

So. Many. Kilns. I felt like I died and went to heaven! The facilities are just fantastic. It is a beautiful old building and we had so much space and equipment to work with, it was an incredible opportunity.

6. Your work can be highly personal but it also comments on wider current social and political issues, can you describe your project during the residency and how this influenced your creative practice?

I have been working on a project called ‘Let’s Hook Up’ which I started in response to the Repeal movement in Ireland. It explores the taboo nature of the female body and sexuality through illustrations of discarded underwear in paper-thin glass. Over time the work has evolved both in sculptural form and theme- I have been creating and exhibiting pieces that relate to specific rape cases and my own experiences of sexual assault, and using the presentation of these artworks to create opportunities for open conversation and engagement, transforming subject matter that may cause feelings of discomfort or embarrassment into something beautiful and empowering.


I am interested in the narratives inherent in different materials and processes and how it can affect the work. With having access to a hotshop during the residency, I was keen to explore combinations of fused and hot glass. The access to facilities and equipment also gave me the chance to work on a larger scale and further explore folding the glass while it is hot. While researching in the KunstBibliothek in Berlin I came across a book that sparked my interest in lace as an historically contentious material so that is something I’m delving into further at the moment.

Sophie Longwill lace study, illustration

Sophie Longwill lace study in glass

7. Participating in a residency program abroad requires financial commitment when you have no access to funding. Were you financially supported to attend this program?

There was financial support granted through the ISGNE program which covered the costs of the residency such as flights, accommodation, and materials.

8. How were the working environment and the support from the staff at Berlin Glas and North Lands Creative?

The working environment in both was great, it was such a brilliant opportunity to have access to so much equipment, materials and space. Plus, just as importantly, the headspace to focus fully on my artistic practice without the interruptions of regular life. The staff in both centres were so lovely and supportive, they made it feel like a home from home and I will always feel a strong connection to both places now with the friendships I made there.

9. Were there any cultural/artistic/physical challenges during the residencies?

I think my main challenge was dealing with imposter syndrome, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all! It took me a while to settle in to both places but then I didn’t want to leave. I had so many ideas and things I want to try, I have food for thought that is still sustaining me almost a year later. It really made me rethink how I work and I have since joined an artist studio near my home as I realised how important it is for me to network with other artists and be in a vibrant space.

10. How do you think the ISGNE AiR program is different from other residencies?

This was my first experience of an artist residency and I think all others may pale in comparison! It is unusual to get such a great length of time so you can fully immerse in the studios and surrounding environments. It also has an ongoing network and sense of community which is fantastic.

Illustration by Sophie Longwill​

11. Would you recommend your peers to apply to this residency? If so, for what reason?

Definitely! The whole experience was just incredible, I got so much out of it and for me it served as a major catalyst for change in my life. These kinds of programs are are vital, especially for emerging artists, to get new experiences, create new professional networks and have the time and support to further our work.

12. What does artist-in-residency mean to your practice?

Residencies offer the chance to focus solely on one project or idea, without the intrusions of day to day life. The experiences of new environments and meeting new people sparks creativity and brings a fresh perspective to the work.

13. Please tell us about projects you are working on. Any upcoming exhibitions or residencies?

I have just taken a studio at the National Sculpture Factory here in Cork. I am continuing to work on the ‘Let’s Hook Up’ project, developing the pieces further with the aim of creating an immersive mise-en-scene installation. I am also researching and developing some of the ideas garnered over the course of the residency, such as the Nubivagant (cloud-wanderer) series inspired by the Northlands skies. Also, in the pipeline is a collaborative sculptural jewellery project and hopefully some exhibitions next year, depending on the covid situation.

14. After your mobility, currently working between two European glass studios do you feel this brings you closer to the “European family” of artists?

It does, getting to meet and work with so many other artists over the residency really gave me a feeling of connection to a wider community.

Sophie Longwill working at her studio in the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, photo by Alice Power.

Sophie Longwill working at her studio in the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, photo by Alice Power.

15. How have you been during the months of quarantine? How is the artist community in Ireland dealing with this unsettling situation?

Not going to lie, quarantine was tough. I had just ended my relationship and moved across the country to start a new job right before the lockdown so I was completely alone for months. But I had a lot of time to think and I gained a great sense of clarity and determination to really go after what I want in life, plus a new appreciation for the simple joys in life. I think artists are naturally resilient and adaptive. Creativity is so important now more than ever as we find new ways to make sense of the world. Ireland has an incredible artistic community which continues to find ways to connect with each other and the wider world. It is a challenging situation but I think so long as we continue to support each other we will make it through.

A look inside Sophie's studio space at the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, photo''s by Sophie Longwill.

Sophie Longwil (AiR 2019) Elizar Milev (AiR 2019) and Natsumi Jones (Intern 2019) outside North Lands Creative


Sophie Longwill is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses humour and craft to explore the everyday and make the ordinary more extraordinary. She recently completed a joint major BA (Hons) in Glass Design and History of Art and Design in the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. She served as a board member for the Glass Society of Ireland for 5 years and in 2019 she founded her company Longwill Studio.

Often working in pate de verre, her work explores themes surrounding embarrassment and vulnerability of underwear and female sexuality.

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