I started making kiln-formed glass in 2015 at an evening class at the Glasgow School of Art. I had wanted to learn how to make art with glass for many years, so when my family generously gave me some money as a gift for graduating my degree, I decided to enrol onto a course to learn the basics of glass cutting, fusing and slumping (bending glass into shapes). I loved it immediately, despite all the cuts and my frustration at not being skilled enough yet to cut the glass into the curved shapes I wanted! I was daunted by the kiln, but was absolutely fascinated by the process of taking sheets, powders and chips of glass and making beautiful, unique art.
I returned to the Glasgow School of Art the following year to take up the evening class again and this time was much more successful at cutting the shapes I could only have dreamt of cutting the previous year. This time around I decided to buy my own raw materials so I could experiment with making bigger pieces of glass art and I began to dream of one day having my own home studio and turning my hobby into a business, and one day of teaching glass to others.
However, I thought it was a dream that wouldn't be possible to live for a few more decades, as my husband and I were saving to buy our first house and worked full time . The opportunity then arose for me to return to university to pursue a master's degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation which I decided to do and left my job as a civil servant to take the course full-time. I'd always loved learning about the natural world and my favourite subject at school was Biology, I wanted to learn more about the challenges facing the environment and how I could contribute to protecting and restoring nature in the country I was born in and love, Scotland. I knew the course would be intense, but wow! I was commuting three hours a day to attend classes and the rest of my time was spent studying, all in all I was spending around 70 hours a week studying and commuting. I had started in September 2018 and by December I was feeling the strain. My husband and I had managed to buy our first house in the July and were busy getting it fixed up, I'd left my stable job in the August and started the master's in the September. I knew that for me, it wasn't sustainable, and I desperately wanted to be able to give my best to my course, so I decided to change to taking it part-time after taking a break from it until the next year.
So, in January 2019 I began researching the possibility of converting our spare bedroom into a small home studio where I could make glass. I'm an obsessive researcher and when I realised I could potentially start within the next six months, what I had previously thought of as a dream that I wouldn't be able to pursue for several decades, I decided to take the plunge and do everything in my power to set up my own glass art business. I took courses in all aspects of business, from how to complete tax forms and apply for business funding, to how to build a website and 'do' social media. I applied for business funding and had my application approved just a couple of weeks before the coronavirus pandemic saw the country in lockdown. Like everyone, I faltered and I wondered if my business would fail before it had begun, but my husband kept encouraging me (sometimes not so much as encouraging but giving a metaphorical kick up the behind!) and I carried on planning and researching, prototyping glass product ideas and experimenting in my schmancy new kiln.
And that brings us to now- I'm launching my business and keeping everything crossed that some of you will also love the glass I've made, hopefully enough to even buy it! If you do decide to purchase a piece of glass or some jewellery, it doesn't just support me, it also helps fund wildlife conservation in Scotland. I'll be able to tell you more about that soon!