Interview with Glass Artist, Jenny Ayrton.

Devon based glass artist, Jenny Ayrton, creates miniature wonderlands with wire encased in glass using a sand-casting technique.

Her inspiration comes from the beauty she see's in everyday scenarios; washing on a line blowing in the breeze or a bench in the shade.

Jenny spoke to us about her unique work and techniques. Read on to find out more...

1. When did you first start working with glass and who or what inspired you?

When I was about twelve my uncle arranged for me to spend a day in his friends stained-glass studio. I loved it!

A decade later I had the opportunity to go to art college and I knew exactly which material I wanted to learn about, though it took me a little while to settle on cast-glass.

My glass inspirations are wide spread: studio glass artists, functional domestic-ware, architectural... I just love glass!

2. Do you have a studio space you work from? Tell us about it.

I have my garden studio, which sounds grand until you realise that it’s little more than a very cluttered shed, but it’s full of things which occasionally come in handy!

I create my tiny wire sculptures in the comfort of my sitting room, then take them to Teign Valley Glass which is a commercial glass-blowing studio where I hire space about once a month.

I return to Teign Valley Glass to use their flatbed grinder, finisher and polishing wheel. I then put the finishing touches to each piece using a Dremel pendant motor in my ‘studio’.

Jenny Ayrton glass artist at work. Eternal Tools interview

3. Are there any new mediums or techniques that interest you?

I’m fascinated by 3D printing, though I’m yet to use it in my work.

A few years ago I used rapid-mask to sandblast delicate text onto some awards, I’ve just had some much sketchier graphics exposed which I plan to use as a resist on some new pieces... I’ve not seen it used for the sort of aesthetic I’m aiming for. I’m looking forward to seeing how this comes out!

4. What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?

It’s very difficult to choose a particular aspect... sand casting with molten glass (up at 1100c) is a real adrenaline rush, but I also enjoy making the initial models, and seeing the pieces when they come out of the kiln is like Christmas day as there are always surprises!

5. What is the main inspiration for your designs?

My scenes are directly influenced by my life as a Devon-based mum; following visits to the towns, beach and moor I create tiny wire sketches based on the day’s observations.

Inspiration comes from everyday scenes; a washing line blowing wildly on the first day of spring, an unknown couple on a park bench, a door ajar giving just a glimpse of what lies within...

6. Do you a have a favourite piece of work?

My favourite pieces are usually the ones that I see the public really connecting with at shows; for example the park scenes are always popular with younger visitors who are bored with being dragged around by their parents, then see something that they can connect to.

My favourite piece at the Contemporary Craft Festival was a very sparse scene with a bench and a tree, so many people recognised their own special place in that simple scene, from countryside, to coastal, to garden settings, fab!

Jenny Ayrton. Gardening Bookends and Cathedral view

8. What drives you on whilst you work?

Food is my drug of choice, chocolate biscuits are a vital item on my kit list when I visit the hot glass studio!

Deadlines also help. Since I became a mum, time is always at a premium, I find that I have to be much more organised, I can now get so much done given a couple of hours peace!

9. Tell us about where you sell your work and any upcoming exhibitions.

I’ve only been proactive in getting my work out and about this last year.

So far I have my work in galleries stretching from St Ives in Cornwall to Ambleside in Cumbria.

I also plan to do a couple of shows each year as I find them really valuable to get feedback from a wide range of people.

I’m thrilled to have been selected for Get Fresh at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen this January... keep an eye on my website for more announcements of exhibitions coming soon!

10. What tools could you not live without?

I have a collection of really random low-tech tools for making the initial impression in the sand. As I’ve made and found most of these they’re pretty much irreplaceable.

On the other hand I’m all for decent material-specific tools so I rent time in a commercial glass works to do most of my grinding and polishing.

My Dremel pendant motor and diamond engraving tips are probably the best things that I’ve invested in.

Jenny Ayrton's miniature glass and wire worlds

11. What's the best piece of advice you can give to someone wanting to start up their own creative business?

Make friends with others looking to set up creative businesses (but not too close to your own ambitions).

I was extremely fortunate to be selected to take part in the Crafts Council Hothouse scheme; aside from all of the business advice that we received I met lots of other people in a similar position to myself. It’s great to be able to share your successes, troubles and doubts, a safe-circle of others in the same boat!

12. What's next for Jenny

I found the last year a bit of a juggle with a young family so I’m hoping to get my work into more galleries and exhibitions, and just do a couple of local shows each year. I would really like to exhibit at the Glass Biennale in Stourbridge this May/June... Fingers crossed!

In terms of new projects I’ve got so many ideas! I’m working on both larger and smaller pieces...

I feel like my work sits slightly awkwardly between art and craft so I suppose I’m going in both directions to see what works best, though I really like the scale of my current pieces as they feel really good to pick up and handle yet are substantial enough to sit on their own.

I also have ideas to create a series of pieces to illustrate a short artisan story book... Watch this space!

It has been a real pleasure to showcase some of Jenny's work. If you would like to see more please visit her website at: