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Shelley James

Shelley James

A childhood spent travelling through Africa, America and Europe gave me a fascination with different forms of craft and, aged 18, I moved to Paris to study textiles. Recruited as a graduate trainee to a jacquard factory in Lille, my interest in graphics and texture led to a career in corporate design, working for clients all over the world.  A head injury forced me to shift my focus, to retrain my brain to filter and organise the flickering flow of signals from my eyes, quite literally, to see the world from a different perspective.  An MA in printmaking in Bristol, led to discovery of the wonders of glass, combining its optical and material qualities with the precision and graphic impact of print making. Transparent and permeable yet solid and reflective, precious yet ubiquitous and constantly generating fresh and surprising connections between object, viewer and context, it offers a perfect framework for an exploration of space, literal and metaphorical. 

My search for the techniques that will allow me to express these underlying themes has led to Residencies and Masterclasses at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, Northlands Glass Centre in Scotland and the Corning Studio in New York and an AHRC-funded PhD at the Royal college of Art. Collaborators include philosophers and psychologists, mathematicians and musicians, curators, clinicians and crystallographer. 

The research has been influenced by 20th century artists and thinkers such as Wilding, Moholy-Nagy and Duchamp who were seeking a new aesthetic in response to Einstein’s discovery of relativity: a paradigm shift in understanding of the nature of space and time. 

A constant source of inspiration also lies in conversations with scientists and artists, patients and members of the public that I meet in a wide variety of contexts, from the European Conference on Visual Perception, the Royal Society and the Society for Scientific Glass Technology, gallery talks, teaching and public engagement events.

Find Shelley on the Crafts Council Directory

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