elizAR MILEV in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips. Elizar shares his experience during his ISGNE AiR at NORTH LANDS CREATIVE


PARTNER - north lands creative

YEAR - 2019

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

The year leading up to the residency was difficult for me, but at the same time one of the most successful, included many opportunities. I started a new job at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia. Also I had an opportunity to join the 8th International festival of Glass in Asselborn, Luxembourg, where every two years meet so many and different artists from Europe from different generations. This exchange between aesthetic views is interesting when you combine them in a big garden exhibition. All three days we all join in demonstrations and everyone showing their own point of view and skills. 

In the personal part I had a big contrast of emotions, because I was forced when I lost one of the most important person in my life – my mum passed away. Few weeks later my daughter was born. This compilation of emotions changed me a lot. This was one another contrast for me like a changing of my character and the same like an artist. During my residency I made a few new glass works one of them was called – “Contagion” (In memory of my mum) and another was called ”The portal” – this was the way to escape from the depression – dedicated to Alice, my daughter. 

The time in NLC gives me time, concentration to work on my own art. The same time this gives me so much time to think about death and life, what is important for us/for me in our short time here.

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

I heard about North Lands Creative from my good friend Latchezar Dochev – fantastic person and an artist, according to me. He explained to me about this place when I was a student.  So I started to have a look at the North Lands Creative events and the news.

Then I met Michael Rogers who said that this is a magic place and I have to visit you. The other person (who told me about North Lands Creative) is my friend Alan Horsley who worked in Berengo studio for about half a year.


Elizar with his daughter Alice "The youngest ceramic artist"

Contagion 1, Elizar Milev, 2019, Cast Glass. Made on residency at North Lands Creative.

Contagion, Elizar Milev, 2019, Cast Glass. Made on residency at North Lands Creative.​

3. How was your journey from Bulgaria to Lybster? What was the first thing you noticed about the landscape or the people?

I won’t forget when I arrived in Lybster. I had a long terrible day and when I stepped into this village I saw three smiling and positive girls – Natsumi Jones, Sophie Longwill and Flora deBechi. It was like we knew each other for so many years even though we had just had a couple days together, soon we were talking like old friends.


I arrived very late in the night, but Laura, came to be sure that I arrived safe – super kind and nice. I feel like I was here already, a long time ago maybe, a very warm feeling. The next day was Saturday and we were not able to work. So I had enough time to walk around and to have a look at the area. Finally Monday arrived and I was very excited, I came to the studio very early!

4. Participating in a residency program abroad requires financial commitment when you have no access to funding. Were you financially supported to attend this program? Was it difficult to accommodate your other commitments?

As I said the year was very dynamic. When I applied for the residency I didn’t have an idea what would happen during this period. One of the problems was the financial part, because I had to apply for a unpaid holiday at our school, The National High School of Applied Arts, St. Lika, Sofia . I had a newborn baby and a new job at the At The National Academy of Arts in Sofia , where I  also wasn’t yet able apply for any holiday. So it was difficult to make a decision. After much consideration and taking time to think about it, I decided to go ahead take up the AiR opportunity. It was an good opportunity for me to work hard on my creative practice create new work which I showed in an exhibition in Bulgaria after the Residency. 

5. How were the working environment and the support from the staff at North Lands Creative?

As I said when I arrived in Lybster and in NLC from the beginning I felt like I am at home. The studios are absolutely profesional, everybody from the staff knew their position and mission from the studio and the office, super organised and adequate. So, I know that one day I will be back. This was one of the reasons to speak with you and came out with the ideas for the review and auction with some of my jewellery and the exchange program with our students.

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

The main challenge was myslef. I arrived in NLC with a few sketches, but I changed everything. I said that I am an artist and I have to use the spirit of the place to create some totally new works. Of course I bring some wax models from Bulgaria, but this was only because I didn’t want to lose any minute and chance to work in the studio

Elizar and Artist Sophie Longwill during their AiR in the North Lands Creative Mold Room.

Sophie Longwill (AiR), Elizar Milev (AiR) and Natsumi Jones (Intern) outside the iconic red doors of the NLC Alastair Pilkington Studio.

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?

Unfortunately I don’t have much experience with residencies, but the opportunity to work alongside, collaborate with and learn from other artists in the studio is very interesting to me, it is an experience I will treasure. Working with Sophie, Natsumi and Floral all of us are so different with our own unique experiences, aesthetics and knowledge.


I think the Dual ISGNE AiR is also a fantastic opportunity. Giving the chance for emerging artists to work and visit two greatly contrasting environments and experiance new cultures – whilst sharing the creative practice of working with glass, it’s absolutely fantastic!

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

Yes, I think this is a good opportunity for every young artist! And I will recommend every addict to work with an art glass professional.

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

“Artist in Residence” – An opportunity to leave your reality, to leave your problems and to have enough time, fresh mind and power to work only your ideas, your own art. Freedom for experiments.

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

Right now I am very busy and concentrating on several projects:

At the National School of Applied Arts “St. Luca ” – Sofia, where I working like a glass teacher.

November I will work with Croation students for stained glass projects, this will be a 2 weeks workshop with 8 students from Croatia and my own students. The first week of December I will have an open studio blowing glass demonstration. Then, I hope (depending on the COVID situation) we plan to organise an exhibition in our gallery space. Next May, myself and two of my two students have been selected for the International Engriving Symposium in Kamenetski Šenov in Czech Republic 2021.Unfortunately we had few more projects which were stopped.

At The National Academy of Arts in Sofia, where I work as a Professor assistant.

Two weeks ago we made a project with Takeshi Ito. He was our special guest at the academy, where he made a lecture about the history of the Japanese glass and a presentation of his own art. Then we worked together for a two days demonstration-experiment in our academy.  

Right now we are working hard for a big installation of contemporary lights in square in the city center in Sofia with the Academy of arts in Hangzhou, China. We collaborate with the Sofia Municipality, China embassy, National academy of Arts in Sofia and Hangzhou academy of art and the Ministry of the Culture in China.

We are working on a online workshop with the Romanian artist Ioana Stelea. She is going to work with some of my students. She will make online demonstrations, then the students will train in the studio.

I am planning a new studio and new cold working equipment with financial support from our Academy and a Donor – which will include two cutting machines and three flat lap machines.

We are also working with American Foundation with my students from the 3 classes about creating a trophy design for the “International Film Festival – Early birth” and the other project is a secret, because we are far away to realise, but I promise when our rector says that we can start to work, I can share with you!

Personal projects:

I hope to make a new exhibition. I have an idea to create a big installation, but still don’t know how to realize it, because we are not able to use the academy or the school equipment for our personal art, so I unfortunately do not have access to equipment with which to work with.

I would also like to explore opportunities for my jewelry collection. 

This is a photo of the professors team of the "Porcelain and glass" department in the National Academy of Arts, during my first graduated students there.

The graduation work of my student Evgenia Kuneva for a master degree.

8th International GLASS Festival Luxembourg

11. Can you tell us a little about your teaching position in Sofia and the students you work with?

I have been working for eight years like a teacher in National High School of Applied Arts Sofia, in the glass department.  At the start I was the only teacher, but right now we are a team of three.

I started to teach the first classes, because the specialty was new and there were not so many students there. Step by step the department grew, we created new studio spaces, we organised a cold shop, plaster studio, 3d printer and computer equipment. Now I am working only with the last year students, who have to create their diploma work (every student decides what they would love to observe like a problem and conception).


At the school I am the author of the full education program which is organised as follows:

First year the students study stained glass and the basic problems of composition, proportions, color knowledge, combining of reliefs and how we can organise a space with a moral piece of art. About the glass skills they studied how to cut glass with glass cutters, and to work Tiffany stained glass. This is very hard for 13-14 year old students, but they work 12 hours per week. In the second year they study fusing and slumping. The exercise is to create a design of a set of plates which are in stylistic unity. We train proportions of the forms and ergonomics. The third year we studied casting of glass and all ways for casting. The fourth year working on blowing glass, how they can create designs of glasses, contemporary lamps and so on.


At the academy, where I am in my second year teaching. I have 2 classes BA and I am working with all the Masters, because in Bulgaria the laws are changed for the education at all Universities – to teach in a Masters program you have to have a PhD, otherwise you can’t teach MA. So the first students learn basic knowledge about the glass. Then they work on research of Structures – they can use all techniques, depending on the idea.


The Masters Students concentrated on experiments and developing their ideas.

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

Unfortunately I was resident only in NLC, but yes, I believe that this helped me a lot!

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

It has been hard as it is difficult to sell work. In Bulgaria everything was closed. I work with a few Galleries in Europe and Australia, so they were close and nobody worked.

"Porcelain and glass" 17.02 - 05.03.2020, Gallery-bookstore "Sofia press" (part of the Union of Bulgarian artists)

"Porcelain and glass" 17.02 - 05.03.2020, Gallery-bookstore "Sofia press" (part of the Union of Bulgarian artists)

"Last chance" 2017, blown glass, 110/7/7 cm each, photo by Antonio Hadjihristov;

"Fire and Ice" 2017, blown glass, 35/20/12, photo by Antonio Hadjihristov;

elizar milev

Elizar Milev PhD is an Artist and Educator from Sofia, Bulgaria. His works are inspired by the combinatorics in forming shapes and the combination of colours and textures, tight in strict geometry, looking for a compositional relationship and ratio between the various and individual elements.

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