Back in the days of high school, one of my favourite lessons was art and design. Being given a brief or free reign to draw, paint or make something from scratch allowed our young minds to express ourselves and show our personalities. Oh and an excuse to get dirty! Sadly, as we get older, many of us lose touch with this freedom, myself included but our recent weekend course with Keny Drew at East Neuk Glass was a perfect way to rediscover it.
Upon our arrival at the studio we were given a nice warm welcome – a log burner roaring away and a cuppa. Time for quick informal introductions between our fellow students and then straight down to business.
As complete novices, Keny showed us the tools of the trade before letting us loose on cutting our first piece of glass. The idea being we get used to working with the tools and mastering some simple techniques – cutting straight lines! Scoring the glass and then tapping from underneath to open up the crack . Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t! Then we progressed onto wavey lines. I think the trick here is to be more fluid in your movement whilst still applying pressure (but easier said than done).
Before we knew it we were designing glass coasters, using the skills we had learnt in the passed 30 minutes. Using a host of coloured glass and small beads it was a bit like being in a sweet shop, all the jars laid out in front of you and trying to decide what you want.
With colour schemes and patterns worked out we set about cutting our simple designs. I was brave enough to try and use curves in mine too.
Once finished we each laid our glass creations gently in the kiln and would have to wait until the following day to find out how they would turn out.
It seemed like no time at all and already we were moving on to our second piece of work. Feeling slightly more confident about cutting shapes and then Keny presents us all with a template for our next project. A glass window using different shaped pieces of glass – including a circle!
After carefully rooting around in the boxes for inspiration, I decided rather than use lots of colour in my window I would use textures and subtle patterns (unusual for me as I love a splash of colour). There were pieces of glass in the boxes that had had previous life – doors from pubs, windows from old buildings and even off cuts of some Keny’s own work with photographs on glass. All with some kind of local history/story attached. I love this.
Armed with our chosen pieces of glass jewels we each set about cutting. You could hear a pin drop with the concentration at each work station and then the occasional mutterings of someone who had (or thought they had) made a cock up! Most of the time Keny was able to reassure us that actually it would be okay. Unless of course our pieces of glass were broken – oops!
Lunchtime came at just the right time.
A small feast of local produce, presented to us in glass bowls (obviously) and we ate and drank from local pottery – a REALLY nice touch and a great way to showcase what else East Neuk and Fife as a whole has to offer.
Back to it after eating and chewing the cud and the silence of concentration consumed us once more. It’s not that we were at all anti-social but still new to the trade we wanted to make something that we could show off and admire at home. And also improve, I guess.
Then the bit we had all been dreading – the circle. Keny made it look so simple as he demonstrated a couple of ways to do it freehand and off we went to give it a go. Lets just say, my attempt isn’t quite a circle but it’s not an oval, diamond or square either! Reassured that once in place it would be fine that was good enough for me.
With the introduction of a whole host of new tools and ways to shape the glass the afternoon flew by and it was time to go home.
The same warm greeting on day two and with the added excitement of seeing our fused glass coasters. They all turned out well and from the twenty that had been made between us only one had developed a large bubble and wouldn’t be making the cut.
So, back to business and the introduction of lead strips into the process. Measuring and cutting the lead. Pinning in the pieces of glass against the frame and making it all fit properly, with audible sighs of relief as things went as you wanted them to. We had also been shown how to use the small grinding machine should it become necessary for “helping” the glass fit. Working our way methodically through each piece.
Without even realising how quickly time was flying it was lunchtime already! Not wanting to miss out on some beautiful Scottish sunshine the table and chairs had been set up out in the courtyard and we ate outdoors.
Once back to it we could get down to securing it all together. With all of our lead and glass held together by a wooden frame we could now start soldering. It appeared that I was rather heavy handed with the solder but at least I know it won’t be falling apart. The down side to this is that mine maybe looks a little more rustic! After all the joints were soldered on both sides, we gave the lead frame one of many brushes. The brushing helps darken the solder points and lead.
Then came the linseed putty. I remember this stuff from when I used to be in the shed with my grandad making (a mess) things with him. Ensuring all the gaps between the glass and the lead were filled with putty (on both sides), we proceeded to take off the remainder and then another brush. Oh and then another brush with a softer brush.
Both the Dude and I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend course. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I am a creative type and these days that is seen through my photography but it was brilliant to get my hands dirty and remember days of being up to no good with my grandad in his shed. As for the Dude, he is very practical and years of being in the Scouts have taught him many skills. He will admit he isn’t the most artistic of people but he enjoyed the weekend more than he thought he would. Although this was a mostly female course it is definitely something men can get involved with too. I think the fact that you come away with two different products that you have designed and made from scratch is a big bonus.
The East Neuk Glass studio is the perfect place for small groups of people to come together and learn. Because the numbers are kept low it enables Keny to supervise, guide and demonstrate to individuals and the whole group when necessary. Keny’s passion for the art, area and teaching is incredible and although we met for the first time on Saturday morning by the time we left on Sunday I felt like we had known each other much longer.
So, what I’m saying is whether you are local, live elsewhere in Scotland or are on holiday (maybe a golf widow?) this is a perfect place to come and have a go, learn something new and meet new people too. There are weekend and night courses available. You will love it.
**For those of you new to my blog – the Dude is my better half and partner in adventures.