With a sharp eye for design and immense technical skill, Siobhan Healy has made a name for herself and her studio, Natty Glass, in contemporary glass sculpture. Now she’s about to exhibit her work at Glasgow’s famous House for an Art Lover, designed by the great Scottish architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Indeed, the exhibition is part of the Mackintosh Festival, and is cleverly entitled GLAS(S)GOW STYLE—wordplay on the original “Glasgow style” of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The intricate linear patterns and flowing curves of the period contributed significantly to the international Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. For her show, Siobhan has partnered with Swarovski to create beautiful interpretations of the Glasgow style inspired by nature and executed in glass and crystal.
We understand that you came to blown glass from working with stained glass, and you came to that from working with wood! What sparked your interest in glass to begin with?
When I was seventeen I did a course entitled “Furniture-making in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh”. They introduced stained glass as part of the course and I really enjoyed the process of making it. It’s interesting that I’m now exhibiting in one of the buildings that he actually designed, so it feels right.
Did anyone in your family ever work with glass before you?
Actually, my mother made a stained glass panel at Glasgow School of Art that hung in our living room for many years, so she probably influenced me!
Can you describe the technical difficulties of working with molten glass?
The difficulty with molten glass is that it’s affected by gravity, and you have to keep turning it to stop it falling to the ground!
How did you first get noticed?
I suppose my first real recognition was a Certificate of Excellence and a prize from the Trades House of Glasgow in 2006. My most prestigious award was winning the Public Prize at the triennial International Glass Prize 2012.
Did you have a mentor who encouraged you and critiqued your work?
I would say my tutors at art school when I was doing my BA (Hons) were the most helpful in terms of helping me to prepare for life as a professional artist and designer.
When you create something to please yourself, rather than a commission for someone, where do you start?
I tend to be influenced by the natural world—it’s a constant inspiration to me. I’m particularly interested in rare flowers and butterflies, and creating a platform for discussion around conservation issues.
Do you daydream?
Yes, I daydream a lot. It’s a relaxed way of thinking things through and organizing your thoughts—even if they are strange thoughts!
What’s the most unusual commission that you’ve ever been asked to create?
I suppose the most unusual commission was contributing to a TV program for the BBC in which I was asked to recreate a geology experiment that illustrated the devitrification of crystals in glass. It demonstrated how glass that cools quickly stays clear and shiny, while glass that cools slowly has tiny crystals that build up inside it.
Your CV reveals that for your degree at Edinburgh University you studied glass, with jewelry as your second subject. Do you design jewelry nowadays?
Yes, I design and hand-make jewelry—usually from silver, glass and crystal.
What was the last piece you designed, and when?
I’m currently working on designs for Swarovski, and will be developing them throughout my residency at the House for an Art Lover in Glasgow.
When did you discover Swarovski crystals? What qualities do crystals add to your work?
Crystals add an extra layer of color and sparkle due to their refractive qualities.
Do you travel a lot?
Yes, I really enjoy learning about other cultures and seeing different art and architecture.
Are you creative in any other areas other than glass? Do you paint or sew, for instance? Or are you totally focused on your art?
I paint, I enjoy watercolor painting and oil painting…but I always seem to be drawn back to glass.
What are you working on now? Any big plans on the horizon?
I’ve just finished a commission for Maryhill Health Centre in Glasgow, and I’m really interested in the idea of creating healing spaces that make people feel good.
If you’re in Scotland, don’t miss Siobhan Healy’s GLAS(S)GOW STYLE exhibition at House for an Art Lover, Glasgow. Open from October 3–30, 2016.