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When Jane Charles discovered glass back in 1980 her ultimate goal was to eventually run her own studio . The trouble with this kind of glassmaking was that it was both expensive to buy the necessary equipment and to run it and it also takes many years to acquire the level of skills needed to realistically produce work and run a glass studio. She knew after college that she needed to work for other small glass studios in order to start gaining the experience and also to build up a picture of what she wanted from her own business/ studio. Jane was very fortunate to work for some of the top makers in the country and she looks back on those years with a great fondness It gave her the confidence and knowledge she needed to eventually in December 1987 set up her own glass studio.
Jane had been working in London and came back up to Edinburgh and set about setting her studio up. The main stumbling block was money and she knew she couldn’t afford the main piece of machinery – the glass furnace . However, her timing was just right – Newcastle city council were setting up a very exciting facility in its west end initially designed to help the ever increasing numbers of redundant glass factory workers. It was a hot glass workshop which was available to hire on a daily basis at a reasonable rate. It was way ahead of its time and suddenly for the first time gave redundant glassmakers and newly graduated Artists the chance to set up their business and start getting established without the huge costs of buying a glass furnace. It was perfect! Jane raised enough money to buy the finishing equipment that she needed and used to come down to hire the workshop in Newcastle for one week a month. Shecould make all the blanks and then take them back to Edinburgh and finish them at her leisure.
This worked extremely well but by 1991 it was clear that it made sense for her to move lock stock and barrel to Newcastle and have her cold studio next to the councils hot glass studio. She continued to use the facility on a regular basis until finally taking the plunge and buying her own glass furnace in 1996.
Jane Charles Studio Glass produces a wide range of free blown decorative glassware using the traditional method of hot glass making to include paperweights perfume bottles vases bowls and sculptural forms. Jane’s trade mark is that once the pieces have been physically formed they are then cold worked by way of cutting grinding sandblasting and polishing. These processes allow another dimension to be added to the work. Each piece is totally unique.
Jane’s inspiration comes from the colours shapes and moods of the natural world. She is a Piscean so naturally gravitates towards water and finds all sorts of material below the surface of the sea. The richness and colour mixes of the fish and coral are a constant fascination to her. She also finds inspiration in the molten glass and has changed the way she works over the years. Jane was initially trained as a designer rather than a maker but had problems with this – she discovered very early on that she could not design a piece of glass if she didn’t know what the material could do, so she had to get a more hands on approach in order to understand the medium – she also discovered that working from a drawing was too restrictive for her. The drawing would not allow her to see all the other possibilies that the molten glass offered which sometimes would prove more interesting than the original concept so instead of drawing what she wanted to make she write sand put into words her ideas thus allowing herself to draw from the glass and not trying to stick to a line drawing
How important are handmade objects in a world of mass production? The very nature of studio glass suggests a dislike of mass production . It’s birth in the late 70s was a move away from the factory environment. In the old days it was a hierarchy of the designer the maker the finisher and so on. Studio glass was about bringing all those skills together to allow one person to create a piece of art . The movement had made it’s way across the atlantic from the states and in the early days the British public didn’t really know what to make of it…were these studios aspiring to be factory’s ??? It was at this time that the bulk of Jane’s work went to the United States as it was quite hard to sell in this country as people felt it to be an inferior product to say …cut crystal but over the years it has slowly become accepted and with the arrival on mass of interior design magazines and programmes people are being more adventurous with colours and shapes . At the moment there is also a real shift in the market towards a product that has been made in this country and is bespoke. If people want to just buy a vase or a bowl they can go to any number of outlets where one can be purchased that is normally imported very cheaply, however, if you want to buy a Jane Charles bowl or a vase then you go to a gallery and yes you pay more but you are in essence buying a modern day antique.
Jane can’t sign off without saying a bit about the demise of the glass industry in this country. She feels she was very fortunate to see and indeed work in the industry for a short time. She worked for Stuart Crystal in Stourbridge where she was employed to develop a glass range mimicking that of the studio movement …the industry in general had lost its way and they were desperately looking for ways forward. What she witnessed was heart breaking – generations of families had worked in the factories, it was an honourable trade and something one could be proud of a job for life, Then, all of a sudden in the changing world of the 80s, man power was becoming too expensive and technology was moving so fast that machines were being developed to do the jobs of man quicker and more cheaply….there was an awful feeling of worthlessness amongst the men, and it was made worse by Jane’s arrival, as they saw her as a threat, doing them out of a job . Really what ruined the glass industry and nearly finished off the small studios in this country were the cheap imports coming in from other countries where they don’t have the laws and legislation and running costs that we have in the UK . It enables them to undercut massively sending out the wrong message to the general buying public. Jane feels, however, that people are starting to realise the importance of supporting small, local businesses operating and especially manufacturing in this country and more and more people are coming galleries looking for this type of bespoke work.
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