There are instances during my time at The Glasshouse in Long Acre, etched as deeply into my memory as any I can recall; involving not only the characters that managed and worked at the studio, but the place itself. A generation has passed since I trampled Covent Garden streets as a wide-eyed young man, soaking up the vibrant bustle, typically taking away a gourmet lunch from Neal’s Yard to be wolfed at the Plaza before returning to the arena.
I believe I was the last of a handful of privileged individuals to spend a full term with Ronnie and witness what it is to have control over a difficult creative medium as an extension of one’s own will. Our relationship was rocky to start, while I searched desperately for the skills to allow for the rhythm he was so familiar with. There was an incident about six months in where I finally cracked under pressure. I can visualise Ronnie’s face, jaw dropped, as though he were sitting next to me now. That afternoon I received a peace offering in the form of a gift; we made an old Whitefriars design goblet that I still use and treasure.
Occasionally, after a challenging masterpiece had been successfully nailed, Ronnie would lean on his knees and say, “I’m not long for this world Robbie, I’ll soon be gathering from the furnaces down below”. At the time, it was usually an opportunity for a well-earned dig. But now I’d lay wager that when I’m visualising one of his moves while trying to advise a student, he’s looking down, shaking his head thinking, “I told him to get a proper job”.
By the time I was due to leave The Glasshouse I had developed a respect and fondness for Ronnie that lasts to this day and our parting moments, after an evening at his home and local, were humbling. I had little idea at the time of the legacy I was involved in and only some time afterwards, began to realise my fortune in being invited by Annette and Chris into the world they were working so hard to maintain.
Glassmaking has shaped the course of my life since and I am now in the process of establishing a glass academy. I can see already that some of my students will become fine makers and help continue the tradition and culture of glass blowing in the UK. If I can impart a fraction of the centuries old skills I was exposed to at The Glasshouse, the task ahead will be worthwhile.
1991–1992 Final year of degree graduating with BA (hons) and RSA Design Award.
1990–1991 I was invited by The Glasshouse, Covent Garden to take a year out of study to assist the resident master glassmaker Ronald Wilkinson.
1988–1990 Attended West Surrey College of Art and Design, Farnham, Surrey, studying 3D Design, specialising in glass.
UK James Hockey Gallery, Farnham, Surrey
Smiths Gallery, Covent Garden, London.
Barbican Arts Centre, London
Harvey’s of Bristol, Permanent Glass Collection,.
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery,
Hand Made Glass Gallery, Bristol
The Grace Barrand Design Centre, Nutfield, Surrey.
RSA, The Strand, London.
The Glasshouse, Orange Grove, Bath, Somerset.
The Glass Connection, Guildford, Surrey.
The New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, Surrey.
Candover Gallery, Alresford, Hampshire.
The Rope Store Gallery, Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Cecilia Colman Gallery, St John’s Wood, London
Pam Schomberg Gallery, Colchester, Essex.
Craft Shop, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
Helen Sheane Interiors, Co. Carlow, Ireland.
Dartington Cider Press Centre, Totnes, Devon.
Yorkshire Craft Centre, Bradford.
The Rye Gallery, Rye.
The Alexander Gallery, Brighton.
Harris interiors, Poole.
Eton Applied Arts, Berkshire.
Harington Glass, Bath.
The Roundhouse Gallery, Derbyshire.
The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh.
Connell and Hart Glass, Northumberland.
Germany Monica Borgward Gallery, Bremen
Kito Glass Gallery, Bremen
USA CG Gallery, New Jersey
Joan Cohen Interiors, New York
Philadelphia Design, Philadelphia
Zedd Fine Art, San Francisco
Comerford Hennessy, New York
Fresh, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Chasen Reed, Sarasota, Florida
Le Fleur, Memphis, Tennessee
Times Square, Dallas, Texas
American Studio Plus, Washington DC
Aventura, New York
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