A Flame With Desire The Glass-work of Emma Mackintosh

Words by Gordon Baddeley - Images by Dayve Ward

Glass by Emma Mackintosh

'Glass is more gentle, graceful and noble than any metal and its use is more delightful, polite and sightly than any other material known to the world' - Emma Mackintosh

I make wine glasses. All kinds of wine glasses. I make them with my hands and a single jet of white and orange heat.

Not being perfect is what makes my work special.

My work is a reflection of me, my hands, and the serendipity of the flow of glass under heat. It may be presumptuous to say that each piece of my work has a soul, but there is certainly a character, a unique quality which distinguishes each one from what has been done before and what will come after.

Beauty is not a matter of perfection. It is the use of the organic that is important; the connection that occurs between the artist and the made object.

I have evolved from a Metallurgy graduate into a flame-worker. I use tubes of glass, with rods of clear and coloured glass, and work them under flame to create something which is both a functional wine-glass and also a statement of me and of the place in which I live and work. I take the colours and shapes of the Hawkshead landscape, the textures of its forests, its mosses, heathers, ferns, and use glass, thought and interpretation to create something resonant of all these things. Under heat and reflected light the colour will shift, just like the light on the landscape and the water.

I am not good at the non-functional. Things have a real purpose and a set of contexts. So a glass means wine, and togetherness, and conviviality, and happy times.

Change is the essence of the process. The minute I put the glass into the flame it begins to change. It metamorphoses, responding to the movement of my hands, often in ways my hands had not anticipated, but to which they can adjust in a spontaneously collaborative way. I am not above talking to my glass as I make it, because here is a living thing, moving and in a state that is neither liquid nor solid. I am not just making a glass – I am making ‘That’ glass, and no other, connected with me and with the earth from which we both arise.

I make in three parts – the cup, the base and the stem. I take a long, long tube, pulled and narrowed with a swollen section in the middle. I soften the middle section, shape it, then separate it and blow into either a free design or a pre-made mould. The moulds are interesting. I line the mould with moss, or heather, or fern and, as I breath into the glass, it pushes into the mould and takes on the patina of the plant.

Sometimes, instead of a mould, I will turn the cup under heat of 1250 degrees, and draw onto its external surface with fine tubes of (usually coloured) glass, to indicate hills and water, or what is in my mind at the time. They are simple line drawings, but seem, on completion, to be drawn in the light itself.

I bring my past to my present. The science of metallurgy, then my interest in textiles, my later experimentations with silverware and bead making. There is a technical background to everything. Working with glass enabled, for me, a combination of the technical with the fluid, the fixed purpose – an efficient wine glass- with the chance and unpredictability of the process itself. There has always been in me an instinct to be a maker of things.

I begin with an idea, but things happen. It is as if there is a dialogue. I think I’ll do this. No, we are not quite doing that. Under the heat, held and turned in my two hands, it will move and swell, be a bit different; and again different; all within the discipline of efficiency of function. A curvy lip could be a fault in another context. In my work it is part of the individuality of the piece. Given the way I do things, circles will not be perfect circles. I separate the glass under the flame so that it tears rather than cuts, and there will be blips and undulations. That’s how it is intended.

The stem is often where I use colour, because it adds a distinctive evanescence reflected both above and below.

The process is done quickly, a combination of previous thought with present instinct, responsiveness and skill. The glass is under stress, and is moving and softening under the flame. My hands move with it, nudging it, guiding it, pulling it, making decisions instantly. Such a process creates stresses in the glass, and it needs to settle and stabilise in a kiln at a constant temperature over three hours or so.

The glass becomes a thing of elegance. It has structural strength, and yet a delicacy of colour and shape. If you have one of my glasses, you have something unique. You have a little bit of me, a little bit of Lakeland, and a glass with its own attitude and life.


Created By
Dayve Ward


Dayve Ward Gordon Baddeley Emma Mackintosh

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