Since the early 1980s the Ulster Museum has collected work by the most amazing glass artists from around the world. Here are just some of the incredible artists’ artworks in the collection to let you see the extraordinary beauty and skill employed by the glassmakers.
This artwork was the first contemporary glass sculpture to enter the Ulster Museum collection. It was presented to the museum by the artist Sam Herman who exhibited in the first Studio Glass exhibition held at the Ulster Museum in 1972. Herman, having lived and studied in America, is recognised as the artist who brought and developed Studio Glass in the UK.
Ann Wolff is considered one of the founders of the international Studio Glass movement. The subject of Wolff's blown and engraved bowls is the life of women, and her work rarely strays from that exploration. The relationships between women as friends, and as mothers and daughters, and the role of women in society deeply concern her. This amazing bowl by the Swedish glass artist Ann Wolff employs a large number of glass making technique. Apart from the blown glass to form the bowl shape, layers of glass are fused to the surface, while added detail is achieved through engraving.
Peter Dreiser, born in Cologne, became possibly Britain’s greatest 20th century copper wheel engraver on glass. After studying at the glass school at Rheinbach, with the cream of the Czech Bohemian engravers, he came to Britain to find work. He taught glass engraving at Morley College, Lambeth for over 25 years. This magnificent bowl really shows off his cutting skills. A clear glass blown glass bubble is dipped in blue glass, then the outer layer is colour is wheel-cut through to achieve the decoration. The title plays on the proverb ‘The Big Fish Eat Little Fish’ or in other words, ‘The Way of the World’.
Colin Reid has achieved worldwide acclaim for his mastery of the techniques of kilncasting and polishing glass. Having graduated from the Stourbridge School of Art, England in 1981, his work has been exhibited widely and collected by museums across the world. This glass does not, at first glance, look like a perfume bottle but there is a divide in the vessel just above the dark glass layer. The top part lifts off as the perfume bottle’s lid and reveals a glass stopper.
Originally from Tokyo, Keiko Mukaide studied ceramic and glass at the Royal College of Art in London and has been a research fellow at the Edinburgh College of Art. She lives and works in Edinburgh and her practice uses a range of glass making techniques. This Green Wavy Bowl was the first time she explored using colour in her artworks. Glass strands are drawn out from the furnace and layered on plaster moulds. The strands of glass then fuse together to form her vessel shapes.
Rachel Woodman initially trained at North Staffordshire Polytechnic before spending a year at the Orrefors Glass School in Sweden and then furthering her experience in glass making at the Kosta Boda glasshouse. She developed her forte for colour overlay techniques during this period in Sweden. After an additional two years working in Bornholm, Denmark, Woodman returned to England in 1982. She spent two years at the Royal College of Art experimenting using thick colour overlays to form shallow bowls. Woodman’s subtle use of opaque coloured layers between clear glass, along with her precise cutting and bevelling of their edges made the bowls unique.
Safe Within II is a new direction in her work. The strength of the piece is similar to her earlier work in its extreme subtlety and in the way Woodman still continues to layer transparent and opaque glass but now allowing the layers of glass to separate. We can see here that the opaque glass layer is now white and the transparent outer sheath has been given subtle graduated colour from burnt orange to olive green. This coloured layer also visually protects the delicate abstract etching she has worked on the surface of the inner vessel.
Louise Rice is originally from Northern Ireland. She studied glass at the Edinburgh College of Art before completing her education at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. She has worked as an artist in Holland but has recently returned to Ireland.
Safe as Houses was one of the most exciting works by an Irish contemporary glassmaker on show in the Inspirational Awakening exhibition. Safe as Houses is a wonderful piece of sculpture which uses glass and other media to express the artist’s feelings of memory, loss and how we perceive our past. The sculpture also demonstrates her accomplished skill of glass blowing in which she specialises. Louise Rice’s work is better known in Europe than it is in Ireland. Safe as Houses is without doubt the most important piece she has ever made and fully deserves its place in a National Museum collection
The Ulster Museum’s contemporary glass collection has for a number of years needed to record the importance and influence Australian glassmakers have had on international glass. David Hay, who works in Perth, was the maker the Museum selected from which it wanted to acquire its first piece of Australian glass. After completely his glass diploma in Dudley, Hay returned to Australia to set up a collaborative glass studio. He has since exhibited regularly throughout Australia and internationally.
Ribbon of Life is a wonderful piece that is a visual statement of colour, vitality and skill that certainly reflects the Australian glass scene. As a blown glass vessel it’s decoration of sandblasting and cutting make it an accomplished piece of craftsmanship. Hay‘s design for the form and decoration of Ribbon of Life have been totally influenced by the Australian landscape. Australia’s coast and surrounding sea are evident in the beautiful overlaying of colours and sandblasted back lines Hay has chosen to use.
Katherine Coleman is one of the most important glass engravers working in England. Coleman studied under the great Peter Dreiser, who we also have in the collection. The vase is based on Japanese green tea which made from a white flowering camellia bush, which looks beautiful in flower. The actual tea itself when ready to drink is also bright emerald green.
Dale Chihuly, who is based in Seattle, is the most famous glassmaker in the world. His large scale installations of glass sculptures are incredible. This magnificent wall installation has a direct connections with Ireland, as it features elements of blown glass, which were cut with traditional Irish patterns by the master glassmakers from the Waterford Glass Factory before it closed in 2005.
Steffen Dam is a highly skilled and inspirational glass artist. Born and trained in Denmark, he has exhibited work all over the world and is held in the most important glass collections.
His inspiration comes for the natural world, in particular marine and plant life. Marine Group echoes the specimen jars held in Ulster Museum natural science wet collections.
Joon-Yong Kim is a highly skilled and inspirational glass artist. Born in 1972 and trained originally in Korea and later in the US, he has exhibited work all over the world and is held in important private and public glass collections. This recent acquisition is the first piece of Korean glass in the Ulster Museum collection.