artist spotlight
Katie Spiers

share your creative practice:
in conversation with Katie Spiers

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

The glass community in Ireland is small and isolated to a large extent. I think its an excellent idea to have a community for glass and I am very proud and excited to be involved. My hope is that this community will put more emphasis on glass artistry and encourage more young people to get involved and become creators themselves.

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

I take my influence from nature. To me there is nothing so inspiring as the natural world and I delight in sharing my love of the plants and animals with which I share the earth and I hope to, in my own little way, influence people who see my work to do their bit in helping to preserve the delicate wildlife that exists all around us.

Has this changed the way you approach your work?

This has greatly changed the way I approach my work, as I feel invigorated now with a purpose and a cause that I did not have so much with my earlier work in the Lambert Puppet theatre for example. I always loved creating but it was not until I decided to focus on endangered Irish birds like the curlew and the corncrake that I felt I was answering my true calling. For me art and activism have met together in a seamless way here; as the birds are so beautiful to look at, it makes my job of creating beautiful sculptures that bit more simple. In practical terms as well I am a great advocate of recycling and as much as possible I strive to use recycled glass in all my pieces to help cut down on damage done to the planet.

What initially captured your imagination about glass?

Glass is at once transparent and a conduit of light and colour. It can be used to create shadows, and shadow puppetry is something that interested me greatly in my earlier years working in the Lambert Puppet theatre. The idea of making glass puppets that projected shadow and colour excited me greatly and so my entry into glass artistry from there was a natural progression. To me the medium is so perfect and flexible as the variety of light, shadow and colour can be used and contrasted to create such a large array of emotions as well as give off the impression of movement and of time progressing or even standing perfectly still, trapped forever in glass.

What’s the significance of the handmade to you?

To me the handmade object is a thing of great beauty and increasing scarcity in the modern world. As pleasing as it may be to the eye an object that is mass produced seems to lose a bit of its soul. On the other hand a handmade original piece contains the love and drive of the creator, a bit of their soul resides within and lives forever with the person who purchased it. 

What was your route to becoming an artist?

Art runs in my blood as my father was a painter, graphic designer and musician. He also dabbled heavily in glass painting and it was he who introduced me to it and more importantly always encouraged me to excel in the creative fields of art and music. Without the support of my family it is possible I never would have entered into the field and I am eternally grateful to them.

6- Dance of the Curlew, Katie spiers, 2019

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?

I do lampworking in borosilicate glass. The technique I employ involves working the glass out into spindly, skeletal forms that are haunting in their fragility and brittleness. Much like a spider’s web every individual strand is connected together to form the wider sculpture.

There is no feeling more satisfying than seeing the strands build slowly on top of each other until the form of a magnificent bird takes shape in all its delicate glory. 

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

I would describe my work as at once a desperate plea to do something before its too late and at the same time a triumphant call for all to come and marvel at the wonders that nature has provided for us. I can’t take much credit for what I do as I am only showing the beauty that is there to be seen already so long as it can be preserved. Where I fit within the sphere of contemporary glass is right where I am, side by side with Trondúr Patterson and all the others who with their art bring us all closer to the beauty of nature.

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

I like to work with good light and in a calm environment. It aids me greatly to have peace and serenity while I work and although family life can sometimes interrupt that I wouldn’t trade my beautiful lovely daughter for the world and I like to have her nearby at all times.
Although leaving the studio to feed her and look after her cuts into time spent working I feel she inspires me to work harder, and I love the idea that the pieces I make now and the birds that they represent could be things that she enjoys when she gets older.

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

There was a famous Irish stained glass artist by the name of Harry Clarke. HIs beautiful work is still to be seen in many churches and other buildings around my home town of Dublin and I have also acquired books dedicated to his works. He was renowned throughout the world for what he did and although I am not particularly religious myself I can see completely how his imposing and striking use of light and colour in Ireland’s Cathedrals and churches helped to inspire people to believe and stand in awe at the majesty of God. 

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

I admire Trondur Pattursons work, as I feel the work evokes a sense of freedom. Patturson is very expressive in his painting and approach to creating glass. I try to create elegant and organic forms. Trondúr Patterson is a man who I believe has done great work with his beautiful glass birds and expressive glass paintings that are so vibrant and alive with colour and light. Although in technique we differ quite a bit I strive to achieve a similar effect with the bright colours and use of shadow and light I employ in my work. 

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

The pandemic has prevented exhibitions and further training I had planned. It has allowed me time to develop my lampworking skills, create videos and collect audios for future installations. We have had extremely severe lockdowns in Ireland at one point being limited to not venturing more than 2 kilometres from our homes and all of these draconian restrictions have made me feel even more inspired and empowered by the beautiful freedom that is encapsulated by the bird in flight. I hope that measures can be taken that will stop the death that this virus has brought to the world and I would hope that restrictions like the 2km rule can be a thing of the past and that people who live in inner city Dublin for example are never again cut off from the beauty of nature.

Katie Spiers

Katie Spiers is an Irish/ Scottish glass artist brought up in Dublin. A glass graduate of the National College of Art and Design. She is specialised in painting on glass and lampworking. After studying under Simone Crestani and then Emilio Santini, Katie dedicated herself to lampworking borosilicate glass using the technique referred to as networking or knitting.