GLASS LIVES INTERVIEW:
Contemporary Glass Society

CGS in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips.

network organisation 

 

1. Firstly can you introduce The Contemporary Glass Society (CGS)?

CGS is a thriving, forward looking and self financing organisation with charitable status, dedicated to the promotion of contemporary glass in the United Kingdom. Its ambition is to support its members, raise awareness of the importance of glass with its tradition and heritage in the country and its value to today’s creative industries.

2. CGS was founded in 1997. How has the organisation and craft more widely changed over that period?

CGS was founded in 1997 following the demise of British Artists in Glass (BAG) an organisation for professional artists. From its conception CGS was a more open society, inviting anyone interested in contemporary glass from professionals to hobbyists. In 2002 we had just over 150 members, today we are heading for 1,000. Access to glass making has grown enormously through short courses, but at the same time higher education opportunities have almost disappeared.

Alison Kinnaird; photo-Anna Colliton

3. The contemporary glass world is built on mobility: artists and their projects are not subjected to national borders, they travel and work in different countries, and their works are exhibited globally. How do you think the international glass scene will change after this crisis?

One of the joys of being part of the glass world is the innate friendliness and support amongst contemporaries. The extraordinary blossoming of online platforms such as Zoom as a result of the pandemic has enabled close contact across the world from artists talking about their work to running online workshops. Many artists have also been encouraged to sell online. These links, forged in adversity, will mature and continue to develop virtually after this crisis eventually ended. 

What is being lost is the opportunity for artists to get together at overseas Private Views and meet old friends.

4. Do you think projects such as ISGNE make a difference to UK and European glass? And if so, why?

The efforts of projects such as Imagining Sustainable Glass Network Europe make a vital contribution in the promotion of glass and the raising of its profile. The more people are aware and are able to appreciate contemporary glass the more its future will be secured.

5. Has the relationship with European glass makers changed over recent years?

CGS had more contact with professional European glass artists in past years. Although we try to keep in contact with artists throughout Europe, it has been difficult to understand and build communications.

6. In your opinion, what are the positive differences of the glass sector in the UK from the rest of Europe? Can we use this to an advantage to foster growth for the UK glass community?

The UK has a strong semi professional group of makers, alongside professionals, which has been greatly helped by CGS. There are very few opportunities for professional makers to sell work in the UK. There are many more galleries in Europe, although even these are struggling in recent years. Mixed nationality exhibitions organised in Europe would help.

Helga Watkins Baker the Hub

7. Tell us something we definitely won’t know about CGS.

CGS is run on a shoestring, with part-time freelance workers and volunteers. Its support for members and the glass world in general far exceed the manpower behind it. It is a supper efficient organisation and is constantly thanked by its members.

8. How has Covid-19 affected CGS members?

The pandemic has left many glass artists fearful about their futures. The closure of galleries and exhibitions, the inability to get to their studios, isolated from friends, family and the artistic community and with no income coming in, has put a massive strain on their mental wellbeing.

However, it has been an opportunity to reflect on their practice, to experiment and develop new work.

9. What’s been keeping CGS busy during lockdown?

Lockdown has given us a wonderful opportunity to launch our new highly interactive website which enables us to offer our members so much more.

“Together on Wednesdays” is a weekly Zoom session where members meet and then listen and question a range of glass artists, gallery owners and collectors. International glass days spanning the time zones bring international artists into our homes.

Our twice weekly online newsletters are packed with what members are doing during lockdown, opportunities, news and entertainment.

Continuous and changing online exhibitions enable members to promote their work to a world audience with “A for Affordable” being our first selling show.

We are now planning to continue these activities and much more during 2021.

10. Have you noticed a change in what customers and collectors are interested in buying? Do you think this pandemic will change how and what we buy?

Customers and collectors are becoming more conscious of contemporary glass as the market expands and more galleries show glass. However, glass is still a comparatively niche sector of the market but increased online availability will continue to raise awareness of it and may change what people purchase because of delivery concerns.

Lisa Pettibone

11. What is CGS doing to support other ways to engage the broader creative industries and art sector?

Our lack of administrative man hours has meant we concentrate on helping members and have little time to engage with outside organisations. However we do try and find partners to work with such as The National Glass Centre, Swansea College of Art, Maidstone Museum etc. We constantly look for opportunities that we can take part in with minimal amounts of administration. We send information and our Magazine to all like minded organisations, such as the Craft Council, ACE, Higher Education Colleges with Glass Courses and International Glass organisations.

12. How resilient is the glass sector at this time?

There is a growing shadow over the future of the glass sector. There is a reduction in the availability of higher education glass courses so that fewer young artists are joining an aging sector.

For professional makers, the pandemic has only added pressure to try and earn an income from their craft. Consequently, CGS’s role is to maintain links with higher education establishments and nurture new glass artists through their annual Graduate Review whilst supporting and promoting members in as many ways as possible.

13. In what ways do you think technology and the digital pivot will continue to push craft, and vice versa?

Lockdown has transformed access and the use of the internet to contact and communicate with others from meetings of artist to running online master classes to online selling exhibitions. There are more opportunities to sell work online with access to the world available to all – as long as your voice can be heard in the hubbub!

Technology such as water jet cutting and 3 dimensional printing are technological opportunities to take a traditional art form such as glass into the future.

14. You communicate with artists, studios and educators across the UK. What is the prevailing mood currently?

Weariness and a desire for communication! Many artists have seen their paths to market closed down and, with the second lockdown, unlikely to open again for some time. At the same time, educators are trying to juggle Covid restrictions with a very hands–on-experience of working with glass. CGS’s role is to support artists and explore ways to enable them to survive.

15. Where can people find out more information on CGS’s work and opportunities?

Please visit our wonderful new website on www.cgs.org.uk which is packed with inspiring work,

fascinating news and opportunities or contact our Administrator – Pam Reekie – at admin@cgs.org.uk

Sarah Brown Studio

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