Sarah Greening – Glass artist

Can you tell us about yourself and your background as an artist/maker?

I started experimenting with glass fusing (in my husband's ceramic kiln) on a scientific basis but immediately fell in love with glass and its versatility. I was being made redundant from a 25 year career in the NHS and hoped that I could make my new creative hobby into a fruitful business too. Isn't that the dream? To earn a living from what you love doing!

Bubbles glass in many colours

Tell us a bit about your creative process.

Fused glass involves cutting pieces of coloured glass from large sheets, sometimes adding inclusions between the layers and firing the glass 'sandwiches' in a kiln which goes up to approximately 800C then gradually cools through an annealing phase. It takes a full 24 hours before I can open the kiln and see the results - that is the most frustrating part of the process, the waiting. Once the glass is cooled, washed, backs roughened, de-greased, the silver bails need gluing on with my special (expensive!) glass glue, left for another 24 hours to set before being finished pieces of jewellery.

More recently, I have been getting excited by enamelling - this involves sifting powdered glass onto copper shapes and firing in a very hot tiny kiln (at just below 800C) for just a couple of minutes before adding the next layer of powder. It is fascinating to see the very immediate effects and to be able to blend colours and produce more textural pieces of jewellery. There is quite a lot of preparation involved and once the pieces are out of the kiln for the last layer, there is some finishing to be done before they are presentable as jewellery pieces.

Where you do usually work from?

My studio is a glorified shed but insulated, painted nicely and with twinkly lights outside! We live tucked away at the end of a dead-end road in North Worcester and my studio is at the bottom of the garden opposite Chris's pottery workshop. It is lovely to be able to have our own work spaces but near enough to check who's turn it is to make the tea!

Have you developed any unique or unusual techniques in your work?

I tend to learn better by experimentation on my own than being taught techniques and I prefer to create my own design ideas than be swayed by someone else's. I have developed techniques through intensive experimentation and trying many different chemicals to get a consistent clean 'bubbles' effect - I haven't seen anyone else using bubbles in jewellery like mine. I have developed my own technique for forming the shimmering gold and silver mica powders into tendrils and textures that you see fused inside 2 layers of glass.

Tell us about a favourite piece of work and what it means to you.

The bubbles jewellery is what has enabled me to make glass fusing a 'business' - it is very popular with retailers and customers and so that has enabled me to get creative with new styles alongside. My 'favourite' pieces though are the new enamelled copper jewellery - each piece is completely unique and I just love the different textures that can be produced. Enamelling has helped me mentally to get through the lockdown period when I found the loss of purpose business-wise difficult to cope with.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Corny I know - apologies - my husband Chris! His work ethic is incredible and he always pushes himself to try new techniques - I wouldn't have the patience for ceramics! Chris has encouraged me from being a scientist with no creativity to believe in myself and I suddenly find myself with a completely new career and I love our joint ventures like craft fairs, combined pottery & glass classes, joint exhibitions etc.
I try to avoid looking at what other glass jewellers are doing as I don't want to be influenced but I am inspired by colour combinations and textures of artists eg: Cherrie Mansfield's luscious purples, magentas and limes or John Phillips's turquoise and deep oranges.

What advice would you have for artists who are just starting out?

Enjoy the experimentation!

If you sell your work, can you tell us more about how you do this?

I have my own online shop which has been a godsend during the lockdown period. In normal years I have a stall at a market or event most weekends as well as selling via galleries and gift shops. I had a stand at 2 trade fairs in 2019 which has gained me quite a few new stockists including Kew Gardens which was extremely exciting! I was due to have a stand at British Craft Trade Fair in April but that has been postponed to next year. Chris and I have had some joint exhibitions in galleries which is fun too. The better quality art & craft fairs are tricky to get a stall at - most of the bookings and applications are done very early in the year. For the monthly good quality craft markets you often need to book a few in the quieter months in order to be accepted on the Christmas markets. For jewellery, Christmas markets are my most productive ones and in 2019 I had an event on 18 of the 24 days before Christmas - working up until 3pm on Christmas Eve - hard work but I love engaging with customers!

Enamelled copper

How has lockdown changed your creative process?

Lockdown completely affected my creativity - I didn't go into my studio for the first 3 weeks! With no markets or classes on the horizon I had a loss of purpose and focus. However, I have found that I have expanded my enamelling much more during lockdown - these pieces are all one-offs, not being made for a gallery or shop, so I had more creative freedom to play. Like many others, I have enjoyed the slower pace of life and been very productive in my garden and allotment - it has never looked so tidy!

Tell us about any future projects you have planned.

Chris and I are aiming to hold a socially-distanced Open Studios weekend over the August bank holiday and are finalising details at the moment. Our classes resume for people from a single household on 4th July and our first outdoor craft markets start on 25th July.

See more of Sarah’s work on her Worcestershire Artists page.

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