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Arts University Plymouth alumni showcased at British Glass Biennale 2022

Craft & Material Practices graduate Harry Chadwick announced as the winner the British Glass Biennale’s Glass Sellers Student Award 2022

BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices graduate Harry Chadwick has won the British Glass Biennale’s Glass Sellers Student Award 2022, with alumni Laura Quinn and Ben Bavin also selected to exhibit at the British Glass Biennale 2022, the UK’s leading exhibition of excellence in contemporary glass by British artists, designers and craftspeople.

The British Glass Biennale, which took place from August to October at the Glasshouse in Stourbridge, West Midlands, is the flagship show within the International Festival of Glass. 103 artists were selected out of 223 applicants to present the most interesting, diverse and outstanding glass art made in the UK in the last three years.

Harry Chadwick

Harry Chadwick with his award at the British Glass Biennale 2022

Plymouth-based Harry Chadwick, who graduated from BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts (now known as BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices) this year with First Class Honours, won the British Glass Biennale’s Glass Sellers Student Award with his piece ‘The Drowning of Handcraft’.

Harry is a sculptural artist working predominantly in metal and glass, welding, folding and forming metal work into sculptural pieces encapsulating glass be it sheet, blown or cast. ‘The Drowning of Handcraft’, the concept was to create a cast glass monument to the unsung workers who rebuilt Plymouth and the other cities damaged and destroyed during WW2. The work addresses the loss of handcraft skills in a rising tide of technological advances within the craft industry. While these are necessary and part of the evolution of craft, there is a need to understand the material you’re working with, before taking a power tool to it, to feel the vibrations through hand tools and to hear the sound the material makes as it is cut or worked.

Drowning of Handcraft2

'The Drowning of Handicraft' by Harry Chadwick

Harry said, “I decided to enter the British Glass Biennale as a result of a chat with Gayle Matthias, Course Leader of BA (Hons) Craft and Material Practices and Amy Whittingham, who both saw the potential in my work. I figured it was worth entering just to have my work considered by a judging panel even if you don’t get selected.”

This continues a successful year for the graduate who also won the Brownston Gallery Fresh Talent Award 2022. Harry exhibited his work in September at the gallery in Modbury, alongside abstract painter Jerry Browning.

Harry said, “These graduate awards have given my work so much visibility. The greatest reward is getting my work in the public realm. Greater visibility of my work is worth its weight in gold. While not bringing financial gain, the Fresh Talent Award put me on the radar of Make Southwest gallery, and the organisers encouraged me to apply for ‘Making it 2023’. I also applied for Delamore Arts 2023, both of which I have been accepted for.”

Blue Wave

'Blue Wave Saw' part of Harrys' Pop Futurism collection

“Over the last year my practice has become more focused on what I want to make for myself. I had a conversation with Craft and Material Practices Lecturer, Rachel Darbourne one afternoon when I was losing focus and she said, “make what you want to make, not what you think we want to see and forget about the marks for your degree”. That advice paid dividends. I took risks and committed to the ideas I wanted to explore, worked with the materials I wanted to work with, made some great contacts with local companies, produced award winning artwork and achieved a First in my degree.”

Originally from Ireland, Laura Quinn studied MA 3D Design Crafts (now called MA Craft & Material Practices) at Arts University Plymouth, receiving a Distinction for her work in 2019. She makes glass-blown sculptural forms, and often uses glass in combination with other materials.

In 2021, Laura contributed to Art University Plymouth’s Making Futures journal, writing about sustainability in glassmaking and how she combines digital technology with traditional glass making methods. In the same year, Laura won an Exhibition Support prize from Future Makers, an awards programme organised by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, to support her during her time at Collect 22, the Craft Council’s art fair held at Somerset House in London. Laura received €1,000 with judges commenting that “she is to be commended on her juried selection for the prestigious ‘Collect’ exhibition and submitted an exciting and ambitious proposal that will make the audience see glass in a new way. It is a wonderful opportunity to support that.”

Laura in Collect Space Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Laura Quinn in Collect Space. Photo by Sylvain Deleu.

Laura said, “I showed two pieces, ‘Tacit Breath 2’ and ‘Tacit Brain’, at the British Glass Biennale. These pieces were part of a series of work for Collect 22, ‘Tacit Bodies’. My work has the main structure of blown glass, with sections of lamp worked components in a flexible membrane, allowing smaller sections to be highly tactile and welcoming human touch. Inspired by Michael Polanyi’s term ‘tacit knowledge’, I want to push back against the idea that glass is too delicate to touch, giving people a chance to interact and engage with it. The material can be quite intimidating so it’s important to me that audience members can connect with the objects, allowing them to develop a relationship with it.”

“It was incredible to see my work in situ at the Biennale. To be selected was a huge confirmation that the work I’ve been putting in on establishing myself is starting to pay off. The British Glass Biennale opened during the International Festival of Glass, which was full of demonstrations, masterclasses and lectures. It was great to see contingents from Arts University Plymouth such as technical demonstrator Amy Whittingham and alumni Colin Wilkes, showcasing the new electric equipment being pioneered. Graduate Ben Bavin was also there, so it pulled together a lot of people who haven’t seen each other in years. The community is all about sharing knowledge and experience so lots of exciting discussions and conversations happened.”

Tacit Breath photo credit Sylvain Deleu

Tacit Breath by Laura Quinn. Photo by Sylvain Deleu.

“So much has happened off the back of Collect 22, it was such a huge launchpad. One of my pieces, ‘Tacit Breath’ was acquired for the National Museum public collection and shortly after that I was invited to speak at the V&A for London Craft Week, which was very surreal. In April, it was announced that I was one of the recipients of the Golden Fleece award, Ireland’s largest independent arts bursary of €10,000. I put together a proposal for essentially a five year plan to get my own studio space, with the funding going towards purchasing specialist glass equipment, to make me more independent as a maker.

Laura also won the Royal Dublin Society Irish Craft bursary, totalling another €10,000 of funding. Laura plans to use the financial backing to purchase professional photography equipment as well as take part in a masterclass course on glass based in Washington state.

Lighing the Torch Photo by Angus Mac Cabe

Laura Quinn in the studio. Photo by Angus Mac Cabe.

“The stipulation of the Irish Craft bursary is that your project proposal needs to take place within a year of receiving the funding, so it’s not a long term thing. I want to document my making in a professional way as well as create process videos. This adds to making myself more independent but also allows me to teach more people about glass, the process, the material. It’s all about educating people about the craft. The other part of the funding will be used to apply for a masterclass in glass in Pilchuck, Washington. It’s run by Boyd Sugiki and Lisa Zerkowiz, two esteemed glass artists and will be game changing for me. It’ll allow me to increase my skill level in glass blowing, the core of it bringing the knowledge back to England and Ireland.”

Laura added, “The year I’ve had has been such a high but as a glass artist, you just apply for everything. I feel like we have to keep shouting about it, encouraging people to consider glass. We have to keep it alive.”

Ben Bavin

Ben Bavin

Ben Bavin graduated from BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices at Arts University Plymouth in 2021. Their work ‘SIMULACRUM’ was also chosen for the British Glass Biennale which features mirrored and blown glass versions of the Venus De Milo made from a laser cut blow mould created from a low poly 3D printed version of the Venus De Milo statue. Ben is known for their experimental approach to glass combining CAD/CAM processes with traditional glass techniques. Their keen interest in digital technologies and blown glass enables a creative practice that is both concept and process-led which enables Ben to push the boundaries and limits of glass as a material.

SIMULACRUM blown

SIMULACRUM by Ben Bavin

Ben said, “Since graduating from Arts University Plymouth, I have had job opportunities offered to me in Norway, Murano in Italy and Birmingham. Despite taking a step back from glass, in order to get a better perspective and understanding of how to continue with my practice in the future, it seems that glass artists are still highly sought after! I would love to do any job that involves blowing glass, but my plan is to do a Masters in the near future to gain even deeper and further knowledge of glass and digital processes.”

Students frequently collaborate with other students from across the creative community at Arts University Plymouth. The arts university’s dynamic, cross-disciplinary community offers a rich environment of thinking and making in a range of disciplines, with plenty of opportunities to work alongside other students. To find out what it’s like to be involved in a creative community, visit www.aup.ac.uk or attend the next on campus Open Day on Saturday 26 November 2022.