GLASS LIVES INTERVIEW:
Emma Baker

Emma Baker in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips.

PROJECT ACTIVITY - Dual Air 

PARTNER - North Lands Creative / Berlin Glas

YEAR - 2021

1. When did you first start working with glass, and how has your making process and work evolved over time? Do you make with a particular audience in mind?

I started working with glass at Bournemouth University in 2011, my first introduction was sandcasting glass and then we moved on to blown glass. My making process has definitely evolved over time, it has been influenced by the makers I have worked with and learned from. My approach to my work has altered since I started, originally I focused heavily on the visual aesthetic but now the strength of the narrative behind the work has become increasing important to me.

2. Which other artists, past and present, have influenced you?

I admire and find inspiration in other artists work especially works in materials outside of glass. The makers I have worked the closest with have influenced my practice definitely, from the level of quality and execution of the material to how I process concepts and convey them.

Blowing glass bubbles, these are produced in varying colours, sizes and thicknesses. Once annealed they are broken down into different sized curved shards. Filmed in the studio at S12 Bergen, April 2020.

3. What were you doing in the year leading up to the NLC Associate Artist Programme?

I began the NLC Associate Artist Programme in January 2019 and for about three years prior to that I had been working as the Studio Assistant at Devereux & Huskie Glassworks in Wiltshire. As a part of my role there I worked with some incredible artists and learnt so much about the processes and possibilities of glass as a material. I was also given time to explore and develop my own practice which was invaluable.

4. What does North Lands Creative Associate Artist Programme mean to you? How have you found your time so far?

Through this programme I have achieved things I wouldn’t have pushed myself to do otherwise, I’ve been given opportunities that I don’t think I would have had a chance to undertake so early in my career. From the experiences I’ve had during the programme, it has positively altered my perspective on how I approach the material, my personal capabilities and what I aim to achieve when it comes to glass.

5.  You’ve had a surprisingly busy start to the year.  What have been the highlights for you?  Have you met your goals or even exceeded your expectations?

It seems a long time ago now but showing at Collect in February with North Lands was a real highlight for me, being in the company of brilliant artists and having the response to my work that I did was incredible. 2020 has been an unforgettable year for so many reasons including the obvious one, my goals have definitely changed since the start of the year but the new challenges and experiences I’ve faced have far exceeded any hopes or expectations I could have had, I feel very fortunate in that respect.

6. After your mobility, currently working at S12 and your time at North Lands Creative, do you feel this brings you closer to the “European family” of artists?

Yes 100%. I think the work I have been involved with through both North Lands Creative and S12 has not only strengthened my connections and awareness of European artists but also artists working worldwide.

Curved shards that will be assembled and fired. Grouped by colour and incremental size makes life easier when it comes to searching for the right shard when building the stacks.

These stacks are ready and waiting for firing. The shards are balanced and sit into one another fairly securely because of their curvatures.

7. What is your thought on sustainability of European glass?

I think it is important that we don’t lose the skills, knowledge and traditions that have been associated and apparent in European glass for so long. I feel it’s important to embrace change and progress but to maintain the inclusion and understanding of the history of the material. I think the initiative that North Lands has of ‘building a stronger glass community’ is a great step in strengthening and deepening the connections between groups and individuals in European glass and the industry as a whole.

8. With the growth of the digital during Covid-19, there are new opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their work themselves. Do you think we are seeing positive changes in the perception and dissemination of glass making?

The sharing of skills, techniques and knowledge is a huge part of why I love working with glass, the digital world opens up the possibility of sharing and staying creative, I think this becomes invaluable during a situation like Covid-19. I also feel that working with glass, in whatever capacity, should be accessible and practiced by anyone who would like to do so and the fact that opportunities and exposure can be increased by digital means is a positive thing.

9. It's great to see UK glass artists' work being exhibited abroad; can you tell us about your recent/upcoming exhibitions?

Of course! I spoke earlier about showing at Collect at the beginning of the year which was amazing and I am really delighted to currently be showing work in Biot, France as part of their Glass is Biotifull II exhibition. I was hoping to visit for the Biot International Glass Festival but like so many things this year the plan has changed but hopefully next year! If everything stays on track I will have some new work showing at the end of October in London with Cluster Crafts for London Craft Week, which is very exciting for me. There are a few other things in the pipeline so hopefully they will work out but it’s a little too early to spill the beans on them yet!

10.  How important is the ISGNE AiR opportunity in developing your practice? And would you recommend ISGNE residencies to emerging European artists?

Residencies play a crucial part in how I can push my creative process. I don’t have my own studio so having the time to reflect, analyse and expand my practice through residency opportunities is vital for me. The ISGNE residency is brilliant because it provides a split opportunity in two differing locations, providing more possibilities and a greater amount of time, I’m really looking forward to undertaking it in 2021.

Once the stacks have been fired two sections are cut out of the middle to get two slices, the diamond saw is used to do this.

11.  How would you define contemporary glass in the UK?

I’m not sure I can really give an answer to this! It’s just inspiring to see artists working in glass however they choose too, whether they’re emerging or established.

12.  What are your favourite European artists, studios and/ or places?

I have had a lot of wonderful experiences and memories so I feel extremely fortunate to have worked at incredible studios and with incredible artists in the relatively short time I’ve been working with glass. Some places are a little more special than others, I first visited North Lands Creative in 2013 on a skills class with James Maskrey and since then been involved in different capacities, I think it’ll always be one of my favourite places. It’s about having a connection or experience with the place and or people, that’s what is important to me.

13.  How important is it to you to be making work internationally and with other European organisations and artists?

There’s so much out there to learn and experience so it is something I continually aim to do. Since studying and starting out with glass I knew I wanted to travel, visit and work in new places and with new people. Working internationally totally fuels my love of seeing new approaches to glass and absorbing new knowledge, it also enables me to build new connections and undertake different opportunities; it drives my work with new narratives and associations. It’s an integral part of my practice and how I like to work with glass and I really hope to be able to continue working this way for a long time yet.

14.  You communicate with artists and studios in other European countries. What is the prevailing mood currently?

The hardest thing is the instability of making plans; I think everyone in most European countries must be feeling something similar and its unavoidable. It’s incredibly difficult to make commitments at the moment, you make a plan and have to have a plan B, C & D and hopefully something will come together! But we’re all in the same boat so the understanding is there. One advantage of social media and digital platforms is that it is easy to keep up to date with people, events and any changes.

15.  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?

It will inevitably change, like so many things have had to as a result of the situation. I’m hoping that what has had to be postponed will eventually happen and artists will continue to be able to exhibit & travel internationally. Maybe there will be more restrictions and regulations but by supporting & being understanding of each other, both individuals & institutions, hopefully there will still be mobility and possibility within the glass scene. I think everyone wants it to work and continue to be a positive environment so it’s about continuing to work together.

Carragh V, 2020

Carragh VI, 2020

ARTIST BIO
Emma Baker

Emma Baker is a glass artist living and working in the UK. In 2019 she became one of two Associate Artists at North Lands Creative, a two-year programme supporting & developing the practice of glass artists. Her work is held in public & private collections and has been shown across the UK & Ireland. Most recently, she has received scholarship funding to the USA and worked on international projects supported by British Council Scotland and Creative Europe. Specialising as a glassmaker, her love of the material and its processes combined with narrative and sentiment embodies her artistic practice.

more interviews...