GLASS LIVES INTERVIEW:
Scottish Glass Society

SGS in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips.

network organisation

1. Firstly can you introduce Scottish Glass Society (SGS)?

The Scottish Glass Society was formally constituted in 1980 after recognising the need for a support network for makers and artists working with glass across Scotland.  Over the last 40 years the Society has been run by its members, led by a volunteer board, who have delivered a variety of resources, events and support for members, and promoted Scottish glass. This has included exhibitions, bursaries, awards and events. Financial support for the Society’s work has come from membership fees and charitable donations. In addition, in-kind contributions from various parties have supported specific activities.

2. SGS was founded in 1979. How has the organisation and craft more widely changed over that period?

The society has grown and flourished over the past 40 years due to the continued passion and commitment of its volunteers. 

Today, we are presented with new challenges. The increasing pressures of the modern world have reduced member’s availability for volunteering, while delivering activities for the Society itself, has become more complex. We must consider and invest increasing amounts of time into factors such as our online communications, (web, social, newsletters), health and safety, charity governance, GDPR and more. The SGS will continue to flourish if we continue to adapt to and fill these needs.

Catherine Carr 'Pineapple One' - Image Credit: Sara Porter

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?

The crisis has led to the arts having to think differently in how they engage and the glass scene is no different. Digital innovation and engagement has boomed in the past 7 months, keeping events alive and allowing creatives to reach new, wider audiences. 

Whilst we have lost our physical spaces for now, this has broadened accessibility and inclusivity. When we can return to physical galleries and events in the future, we hope to see the continuation of the digital engagement running parallel to physical events.

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

Until COVID 19, there were many opportunities for glass artists to work, learn, collaborate  and live in Europe and vise versa. This has definitely expanded the opportunities for many artists directly and indirectly. Over the years, many of our members have returned revitalised, focussed and inspired from such opportunities.

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

“Made in Scotland” is a unique and special attribute which SGS promotes.  We  encourage glass artists to use SGS as a platform to promote their diverse artistic practices.

6. How has Covid-19 affected SGS members?

For some of our members, their practice has stalled or altered due to the effects of lockdown. With no access to their studio spaces, members are limited in terms of what they can reasonably undertake. Makers must consider new health and safety implications, the welfare of housemates or how to simply operate within a smaller space, if they can at all. During the initial lockdown months, some members could not work with glass at all, turning their attention to other practices to keep creatively busy.

Kirman, T, 40 Views, 2019, Tim Kirman Photography

Tim Kirman '40 views', 2019 - Photo Credit: Tim Kirman Photography

7. What’s been keeping SGS busy during lockdown?

Like some of our members, creatives across the globe and the creative sector here in Scotland, we stalled. This time has been followed by a period of R&D which will result in the publication and promotion of our newly created report ‘SGS:Mapping the Future’. This report outlines how we are responding and adapting to the current climate in our 5 year plan. Reflecting on our 40 year history, we look to the future and how we can best serve our members, partners in glass and the creative community.

8. 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?

One of the biggest ‘hits’ of course is simply less passing trade opportunities and fewer events. While the creative world fully adapts to and embraces digital alternatives, a dip in sales is inevitable. Glass is a luxury, not a necessity. As there are less exhibitions, only the experienced seek out exhibitions, have a “wow” moment, and make a purchase.

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

As part of our strategic 5 year plan, we intend to continue to build relationships with the wider creative industries and art sectors. We have also broadened the expertise on our Board, learning from the experience of other broader creative organisations.

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

This is difficult to sum up as a whole. Financially, we think it likely there will be a dip in sales in Q1 of 2021, perhaps affecting higher end pieces less. 

The resilience from individuals is at the core of the sector’s ability to change, adapt and survive. Our members and creatives across Scotland as a whole, have lost studio space, income and felt the fierce mental health impact. In some cases, and understandably, this has stalled or stopped creative output. It is when we see individuals adapting to and embracing the changes needed, that the resilience of the sector is at its most clear. We are committed to hearing directly from and supporting our members and creatives in Scotland, during this time.

Gregory Alliss 'Transparent Flow' - Image Credit: Gregory Alliss
On Exhibition at North Lands Creative during 'On The Edge' Exhibition, 2019.

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

New technologies are forever evolving and so is the world of craft. There is a push and pull between both. As technologies advance doors open to the ways that makers can push the boundaries of materials and processes. Although it is a difficult and somewhat restrictive time, it is also an exciting opportunity for makers to turn to technology, visualise projects digitally and explore ways to break down barriers between the tangible and intangible.

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

Overall, mixed. 

New and emerging artists have struggled to maintain their practice as they do not have access to facilities and equipment outside either their studio space or educational establishment where they are predominantly based. Whilst some have perhaps diversified into different media, they feel a sense of frustration as they are unable to undertake the activities that they are hoping to develop into their practice. 

Some artists continue as normal and their artistic practices have not been affected, particularly those who gain work through commissions. A number of galleries closed this year directly affecting those who rely on gallery sales, while many artists have centered their efforts on a digital presence for direct and indirect sales.

For us all, there is a sense of uncertainty as to what the future holds.

13. Where can people find out more information on SGS’s work and opportunities?

You can find out more about SGS at www.scottishglasssociety.com or follow the work of our artistic glass community on facebook @Scottish Glass Society and Twitter @ScotGlassSoc.

Jessamy Kelly 'Glacial Mind Landscape' - Image Credit: Marzena Ostromecka
On exhibition at North Lands Creative during 'On The Edge' Exhibition, 2019.

'On The Edge' Exhibition, 2019, North Lands Creative

'On The Edge' Exhibition, 2019, North Lands Creative

Lockdown 2020 - Alison Kinnaird - photo taken by Robin Morton

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