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  • Julia Rushworth, Moana. Photo: Andrea Thronton

One to Watch: Julia Rushworth

We speak to Glassblower and Hothouse17 Maker Julia Rushworth

Julia is glass blower who graduated from the University of Sunderland/National Glass Centre in 2014, where she studied part time for 6 years. In 2016 she took the plunge and set up her own studio and began making full time after 28 years working for the NHS. Julia uses traditional Glass Blowing techniques to make items ranging from exhibition pieces inspired by disease and medical science, to pieces for the home with organic forms and textures.

Julia has been selected for Hothouse, the Crafts Council's Talent Development Programme for emerging makers. Find out more about Hothouse

What first got you interested in making?

I have always made things for pleasure, ever since I was little. I have sewn, worked with wool, made jewellery and so on.

Julia Rushworth, 4386734085. Photo: David Williams

What in particular drew you to glass and blowing in particular?

I took a night school locally and learnt the basics of leaded glass making, I was drawn to it as I have always loved the way a stained glass window can change the feel of a room. When my kids were little I used to go into the garage and make leaded glass while they had a short sleep in the day, It was my me time.I was actually looking to take this interest in leaded glass further and went to visit the National Glass Centre in Sunderland. I was so impressed with the facilities, and wow, I could have a go at blowing. I started in Sunderland in in 2008 only intending to do a couple of modules and got particularly hooked on glass blowing and stayed for 6 years and completed the degree. I love the incredible versatility of glass, it can be transparent or opaque, fragile or robust, precious or mundane and any colour you desire and I love glass blowing because I find the process so absorbing and challenging.

Where have you shown / sold your work so far?

Boston Spa Art and Craft Festival, Just Makers at Harlow Carr and Ripley Castle, Silson Contemporary Art in Harrogate and the British Glass Biennale 2015.

Which project are you most proud of so far and why?

My degree show pieces, a culmination of 6 years work. These were selected for the British Glass Biennale 2015

What do you hope to get from Hothouse?

Business skills, as a lifelong public sector employee this is all new to me. Help with creative development to make commercial and artistically satisfying pieces and confidence, networks and opportunities.

Julia Rushworth, Abalene Group Julia Rushworth. Photo: ANDREA THORNTON PHOTOGRAPHY

You worked in the NHS for 28 years, how much has your previous career influenced the work that you make and your practice?

My work in the NHS has had a huge influence on my practice; I have made a lot of pieces that explore the uneasy fascination we have with disease and medical science. Inspired by the strength and fragility I saw in my patients.

What made you take the plunge and make glassblowing your full time career?

Since leaving University in 2014 I had continued to make on a very small scale.  I had to rent studio time which was expensive and hard to find time, so there was no profit in it. At the end of 2015 had to stop my NHS work when I found myself as a single parent to 3 children and my own parents were very poorly and I needed to look after them, so there was no time for making in this time.I had a bit of an epiphany moment when my mum died and it really sunk in that she was only 24 years older than me, and if there were things I wanted to do I better get on with it so I went home and ordered a furnace. I decided not to go straight back to the NHS and instead to try and make a living from my Craft Business and to spend my time doing something I love.

Your work is very personal and you reference your father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in one of the pieces, does this make the work more challenging or emotionally difficult?

Yes a lot of my work has been inspired by personal situations, and yes the process has been difficult but also cathartic.

I have also made a number of pieces inspired by feminism these are very personal and I have used my naked body which is challenging , you will notice I have not included these on the Maker Directory. This is an area of my practice that has been important to me but is an area I have the least idea how to continue.

You can see more work from Julia and follow her at the Crafts Council Directory