Evolution lies at the heart of Bob Crooks’ approach to glass. The more confident he has become at manipulating hot glass, the more relaxed he has grown in experimenting with colour, pattern and scale. ‘Playtime’ is how he refers to his stints in the hot shop, testing out unusual combinations of colours and twisting patterns around on their axis until they sit happily together. The results are both vigorous and delicate. What particularly concerns him is the relationship between dramatic large-scale effects – expressed through bold organic forms and vivid colours – and the fine detail of concentric rings and criss-crossing threads.
Bob Crooks’ distinctive ‘pick and mix’ approach to design reflects the open-minded way he originally went about acquiring his glassmaking skills. A year spent working as an assistant to Ronnie Wilkinson (the legendary ex-Whitefriars glassmaker) at the Glasshouse in Covent Garden during the 1980s, taught him how to handle large gathers of molten glass in a robust and forceful manner. A student visit to the Venini factory introduced him to the incalmo technique – the process of joining two separately blown vessels, rim to rim – now an integral feature of his repertoire. Other delicate techniques, such as threading, he picked up from Italian-inspired studio glassmakers, particularly in the United States.
Back in the 1980s when Crooks was at college, Memphis (the Italian Post-Modern design movement) was all the rage. Crooks was inspired by their iconoclastic, liberating approach to colour and form has been much more instinctive and physical. Crooks responds directly to the plasticity of glass and explores its unique sculptural and optical qualities. ‘I’m trying to push what I do to the limit,’ he says, but because of his heightened sensitivity to the medium, he can harness its potential in an unforced and spontaneous way.
Lesley Jackson, 2003
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