artist spotlight
Lisa Pettibone

share your creative practice:
in conversation with Lisa Pettibone

What does it mean to you to join the North Lands Creative network and be part of building a community for glass?


Northlands has a fantastic reputation for attracting high quality glassmakers, students and teachers, and it’s important to support their work in building this excellent resource.


Tell us about your work. What influences translate into your art practice?


I’m interested in natural forces such as gravity, tension and energy flow – it’s the transition in form that captures my attention. Over the last several years my practice has become aligned with science, namely astronomy and physics where fundamental forces are studied.


Has this changed the way you approach your work?


The focus on scientific concepts has deepened my practice and connects the work with another view of the world that I find very stimulating. Responding to concepts around the nature of gravity has given me a fuller understanding of why I’m attracted to glass as a material.


What initially captured your imagination about glass?


The radical transformation from stretchy and flowing to hard and rigid – it manages to hold the dynamic of those states even when cooled. Initially it was transparency and optical qualities that attracted me but its potential for movement that has held my attention.


What’s the significance of the handmade to you?


Making things with my hands is part of my identity. Through the making process, I feel better connected to the world – there is something inherently satisfying in realising a material object that once only existed in my mind.


What was your route to becoming an artist?


I worked for many years as a graphic designer and took glassmaking courses as I built a career and along the way I added knowledge and skills through many courses.  Initially I took a summer glassmaking course at California College of the Arts, after I graduating with a BA in Design, which got me hooked on glass. The impulse of my artistic side grew stronger and stronger until I finally gave in to it completely and eventually went UCA Farnham (UK) to do a glass degree and later Central Saint Martins for an MA – I now work as a fulltime artist. I’ve cultivated a passion for art through many exhibitions, books and events over the years.

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?


After experimenting with many processes (casting, blowing, fusing), it was slumping that really captured my imagination. I developed techniques using a variety of handmade props to guide the fall of glass (mainly fused) at specific temperatures to create freeform shapes capturing the dynamism of its transitional states. These props can be ceramic, metal, hardened fibre or kiln furniture or refractory mould props. My specialism is slumping multiple times to achieve complex forms with lots of movement – I aim to push the material to extremes at times.


How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary glass?


I’d describe my work as having distinct form and line, minimal in shape and colour but strong in movement and tension. Combining glass with other materials such as metal, fabric or thread widens the expressive scope of the overall work. Recently I’ve included imagery on the glass through screen printing, adding another layer to ideas that developed through photography and printmaking. I love the transition from 2D to 3D and work with fusing and bending. The contemporary glass world doesn’t seem to value slumping as much as other techniques so I’m not sure where my place is there – I look to the art world in general for inspiration, feedback and recognition.


Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?


While ideas are brewing in my mind, I do small sketches, then I make many glass tests and experiments before committing to a final piece. Objects often linger in the studio for months before I feel ready to go to the next step. There are plenty of failures where I learn, reflect and listen to what the material is telling me. Alongside this, I research areas of science that guide my creative thoughts. For instance I’m currently I’m studying the evolution of galaxy formation through reading and speaking to scientists. I’ve got a wonderful studio in my garden surrounded by trees, with two kilns, a linisher and other small equipment. In between glass projects I work with paper sculpture and print, which satisfies my need to have direct contact with material during the formation process and work with imagery.


Who do you look up to when it comes to aesthetics?


Interestingly, it’s non-glass artists that I follow most. The modernist sculptors such as Gabo, Calder and Hepworth have been important and equally the Surrealists for their sense of illusion and perception. It’s important to enrich my thoughts with philosophy – I’ve read Merleau-Ponty and Kant’s ideas about aesthetics and John Dewey’s writing on art as experience.


What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?


In late 2019 I finished a year-long artist residency at MSSL Space Lab in Surrey where I followed the Euclid Mission and I’m still affected by the things I learned there. Recently I’ve been following Conrad Shawcross who is influenced by science and geometry in his metal sculptures but Louise Bourgeios has always been an inspiration as a women artist and her exciting use of materials. I’m currently making a series of glass and metal mobiles so I’m returning to Alexander Calder’s constructions and Olafur Eliasson’s sculptural use of light.


How are you experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic in your country? To what extent has your everyday life as an artist changed in lockdown?


In the UK, the series of lockdowns has taught me to temper my expectations. The delay or cancellation of exhibitions has stalled income but left more time to develop work and connect with people in a different way. I’m interested in curation, so I put together an online virtual exhibition for a Lockdown Residency art group – we shared our creative experiences from the first lockdown and produced incredible work. In December 2020, I took part in another virtual artist residency with a focus on astronomy and the Sun where I produced a series of cyanotype paper sculptures. Although I couldn’t teach from my studio, I gave an online lecture about my unique slumping methods that was really enjoyable and successful. All these things brought unexpected skills and inspiration to my work going forward – artists can’t afford to stand still while dark clouds are passing, we must keep moving and growing.

Lisa Pettibone

Lisa Pettibone is a UK based visual artist creating sculpture, installation and print. She has a BA in Glass from UCA Farnham, 2005 and a MA Art and Science from Central Saint Martins London, 2018.