Stewart Hearn is the winner of the 2016 National Trust Open Call
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Stewart Hearn talks to us about getting into making, what inspires him and his favourite part of the making process
Who or what got you into making?
The easiest way to describe it, I was born a ‘pyromaniac’, as were most of the glassblowers I know! I had and still have a fascination of playing with fire. Now I can do that every day in my back garden. I have been really lucky in my career to have worked with some of the UK’s foremost glassmakers, who I still admire and still hold friendships with. I was taught how to work hard, to value my time, how to make work well in the hotshop, finish it in the coldshop & also importantly was how to engage with my clients. All incredibly valuable knowledge. I had a good design grounding in my degree, again by some dedicated professional tutors. Hopefully I’m also passing this knowledge to my assistants… who in time will write how good I was to work for …. Ha ha…
Tell us a bit about your work
My work falls into 2 categories. Personal unique work and my Contract business. I’ve been blowing professionally for over 25 years and have clients with whom I’ve worked for a great portion of that time – the longest is 18 years! I’m always striving to make this next piece better than the last – pushing myself to become more accurate, more specific & more uniform with tighter tolerances achieved each time. I tend to work with the glass and colour - not against it - allowing the medium to be expressed and express itself as I work. I tend to think there is a visual simplicity to much of my work, which actually hides how incredibly difficult it is for me to achieve it! Line and colour are precisely meant and honed in each piece I make - nothing is by accident. Having said that, I constantly assess and am aware of pieces I make – looking for inspiration for a new technique or line or colour I can exaggerate to create my next unique piece of work. The soft pots are an example in point: I’d made a lid that had ‘gone wrong’ – but as I looked at it realised that ‘the wrong’ could be the birthing of something new…. A while down the line I had created my first ‘Soft Pot’. From its side profile, the accent colour looks as though it’s tipping the piece over to one side but it’s still in perfect balance. It is a really subtle element of the piece but really important as to what the piece is about. Harmony between colour, weight and form but also it is a piece that is deliberately not straight - it is a rebellion from the precision of production ware. To me it’s beautiful, I even have one at home as it’s one of my favourite pieces.
What are your inspirations?
It very much depends what I’m doing at the time. Unless I’m doing a specific project where I might go out and study something, inspiration is an ongoing process of noticing and being aware of what’s around me. Being inspired by nature, landscapes, colour, wildlife, birds, water, rocks, grassland, skies, old architecture, restoration, historical or contemporary objects, and museums all contribute to subliminal stimuli.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
The blowing process ….. gathering shaping etc. Working with and at one with a magical material. It’s incredibly difficult to describe until you’ve done it … It can feel almost primal at times like playing with fire. Other times you feel like an alchemist …using fire to help change the raw ingredients into objects of beauty. Pieces where the flowing material has been modified and manipulated and encouraged to solidify at a precise point in time.
Don’t get me wrong, as well as exhilarating it can also be the most depressing, difficult and obstinate material too. But like all partnerships it needs to be worked through!
The hot flowing glass has to be worked with speed, understanding and great respect. Like other crafts, it has taken many years to accomplish this; lots of errors, blatant mistakes, pleasant surprises, stubborn determination, and lots of love of its properties creating a longstanding affair …
What are you working on right now?
Unique pieces which have no blown element. They are furnace worked solid glass with a trapped suspended coloured inclusion incorporating an integral pattern and gold leaf. The pieces are based on rock structures and what may be hidden within, and have a smooth textured outside with subtle carved portholes that allow the viewer to inspect the inside. The heavy glass sits gently on a piece of naturally coloured rainbow slate.
Stewart Hearn is the winner of the National Trust Open Call, supported by the Crafts Council and Heritage Craft Association. Shop Stewart Hearn's items from the Artisan and Craft National Trust Open Call