3:02 AM 28th September 2020
A Portrait Of Place – A Study In Glass By Gillies Jones
Gillies in his studio. All photo pictures © Tony Bartholomew
Next month the Moors National Park Centre, based in Danby, mounts an exhibition by the internationally renowned artists in glass, collectively known as Gillies Jones. The Inspired By Gallery plays host to more than twenty fine pieces blown by Stephen Gillies and decorated by his partner, Kate Jones.
They met as students at Stourbridge College of Art and this year celebrate 25 years of living and working in the National Park. At their premises at Rosedale Abbey, Kate has her private studio where she hand engraves the bowls and plates that Stephen produces in his furnace in the Hot Shop, which is open to the public.
I find her working painstakingly on a large spun plate, technically a rondel, which has been overlain with blue on its front and green on the reverse. The traditional hand-crafted methods they use are practised by only a few glassmakers across the world and involve a process of folding different coloured glass bubbles over each other to produce complex multi-layered and coloured pieces. As an artist whose canvas is the surface of the glass, Kate is acutely conscious of the effects of light which can be achieved by removing and engraving the layers of colour that have been added: ‘Just as changing light illuminates the landscape, light is integral to our work, animating our glass, revealing layers of colours and engraving.’
Together, they have developed a unique aesthetic, drawing inspiration from the elemental beauty of their moorland surroundings which have inspired the current exhibition. ‘Our exploration and “portrait” of this landscape observes the geology, river systems and current land management practices which leave specific marks,’ Kate says. ‘We map and observe the layers of human endeavour, both pre- and post-industrial, the marks etched into the land, overlaid and now being reclaimed by nature.’ Some of Kate’s preliminary photos and drawings made on walks around the area will also be on display.
Their work, lovingly hand-crafted, has received worldwide recognition and is not to be confused with the kind of large-scale production achieved by blown glass manufacturers. One of the very few actual glass blowers in the country, Stephen might on a good day produce ten small pieces or one large piece for Kate to artistically work on, using sandblasting, wheel-engraving and other techniques. ‘We make 10 pieces a day, the manufacturers of large-scale production pieces will make 10 pieces an hour or 10 a minute in some cases,’ Kate adds.
In a sense, this abrading of the glass’s surface mirrors the natural shaping and moulding of the moors over time. ‘This landscape has evolved, has been sculpted and pressed into service and this is our snapshot in time, a celebration of the now.’ Kate is acutely aware that they are capturing only a moment: ‘One certainty is that this landscape will change again as custodians of the land change along with the ideas that inform the management of the world we all share.’
Gillies Jones' exquisite work is available to buy in their shop and exported widely. It can, indeed, be found in public and private collections nationally and internationally particularly in America and New Zealand. Alongside their craft practice, they also undertake prestigious commissions and regularly lecture in the UK and overseas.
A Portrait of Place
is at The Moors National Park Centre, Danby, from 10th October to 9th November. The gallery is open from 10am to 5pm daily in October, and from 10.30am to 4pm daily in November. There will be a number of events associated with the exhibition, including gallery tours (limited to 10 people) led by Kate Jones on Saturday 24 October at 11am, 11.45am, 1.30pm and 2.15pm. Tickets, £5, are available at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/exhibition-tour-with-kate-jones-tickets-118514856125