There’s a quality to glass, pure and tantalisingly precious. Perhaps it’s the element of danger. If you’ve ever watched a glass artisan at the furnace, you’ll know it’s tense, blisteringly-hot work. One false move and the piece could be ruined, but succeed and you’ve created something both beautiful and fragile.
Crook O Lune
Perhaps it comes from our memories. I’m sure almost all of you will have come across a bureau or display case in the past, with glass and crystal treasures locked away for safekeeping. In my own family home there’s a cabinet in this very fashion filled with champagne flutes and whiskey tumblers, assorted trinkets and a collection of colourful glass paperweights. The value of these paperweights is largely sentimental. Some were collected by my mother during her travels to Scotland and Ireland; others were passed down to her through family. In particular I remember three sea-green orbs, oblong in shape and varying in size, with a simple floral design blooming on the inside. They were made by her great uncle Jack who was killed during the battle of the Somme. It’s remarkable how something so delicate can weigh so heavy in your hands.
In this same vain, artist and designer Gemma Leamy explores how we connect to place and memory through her recent Deconstruct series. Gemma grew up in Lancashire, north west England, just a stones throw from Cumbria and the Lake District. This part of the world is well known for its craggy fells and ribbons of rivers that wind into pools of tranquil lakes. Such beauty has captured the imaginations of artists and poets for generations and it’s clear to see that Gemma too holds a deep appreciation of the natural world.
“Growing up close to the Lake District it is impossible not to become immersed in the changing beauty of the land.”
Through Deconstruct Gemma has preserved personal memories of these places in her past by transforming their landscapes into sculptural glass forms and photographic prints.
For each individual piece a unique colour pallet was developed through the careful collection of drawings, photographs and film. These were then translated into hand blown shards of coloured glass. The delicate shards were meticulously layered together in Gemma’s vision and in doing so she has created unique portrayals of each landscape.
These sculptural forms capture scenes of Windermere, Ullswater and Crook O Lune, Hawkshead, Tarn Hows and Morecambe Bay to name but a few. Their radiant colours create depth and structure with each overlapping layer, and the translucent nature of the material gives her work an ethereal quality as if looking into a dream.
Gemma has then used photography to capture her vision, as you might take a snapshot of a special place or moment you want to remember on holiday, and in doing so has created a window in time.
Gemma’s work challenges her craft in that from the moment the glass is blown and manipulated into its desired form it is then irrevocably broken, deconstructed, and the remaining shards reassembled into her spectral sculptures.
She aims to evoke personal memories in the viewers of her work and allows them to interpret each piece in their own individual way. When I look at Gemma’s work I see the undulating landscape of the Peak District and remember with fond nostalgia the crashing of waves against coastal cliffs whilst on childhood holidays in Cornwall.
Gemma graduated in 2015 with a first class BA Honours in Glass from Edinburgh Collage of Art. Since then her work has been exhibited in London, Stockholm, Milan, and most recently at the 2016 Berlin DMY New Talents competition.
A number of Gemma’s pieces have been selected by the Edinburgh Collage of Art for a retrospective showcase from 16-18th September this year. The showcase will exhibit a collection of talent which has emerged over the years from ECA Glass programme. For more information on Gemma and the ECA showcase follow the links below.