Having recently won the cold glass section of the Royal Easter Show in Sydney Australia, Margot Thigpen of Margot May Designs is one of the few U.S based Glass Engravers.
With skilled training and discipline she has developed into diverse areas of her work. Here we showcase some of Margot's intaglio engraving work and chat to her about her business and her future hopes for the art of glass engraving.
Who or What Inspired You to Begin Glass Engraving?
I first started engraving in the early nineties. I had always loved drawing from an early age and had worked in stained glass so it was an easy transition into carving.
I believe that fate led me to glass engraving as I wanted to attend an Ausglass workshop and the only vacancy was with Anne Dybka, Master Glass Engraver/ Artist. It was a three day workshop and the beginning of a wonderful mentor-ship that lasted until Anne passed away 8 years ago. To this day, my first engraving is one that I keep with pride as it is a joint piece.
Anne was definitely a major influence in my art. She was very honest about my skill level and abilities and helped me to work harder and learn more. She taught me to look for details, illusion and to tell a story or illustrate and decorate. She also taught me to work with the glass in front of me...not the other way around.
We were both heavily influenced by nature which works so well with intaglio engraving. 20 plus years of engraving and many influences later I still return to the work that I learned from Anne as being my favorite. Probably more so now as I no longer fight the need to be unique.
Honestly, I think that no matter what my influences have been over the years, my passion for the illusionary effect of the light on the glass and my own stories are what draws me to engraving and makes my work different from others.
Red Tailed Black Cockatoos, Portrait of a Lady hand engraved onto a 3" glass lens and Anzac Poppies bowl.
Do You Have a Studio You Work From?
I have always worked alone in my own studio. Engraving is very solitary, especially in the USA. To me, it is a deep meditation. My wet studio space is small and not very interesting but serves my purpose.
What Techniques Do You Favour?
I work in intaglio, relief, occasionally stipple engraving, scratching and carving. My preference is generally towards deep carving but now I'm venturing into cameo. This is very labour intensive and uses a dentists drill or Micro Motor.
I've worked in abstract and figurative modes but continue to love figurative pieces. I have also worked in collaboration with wonderful woodworkers whose bases really make my work sing. See image below of an engraved antique glass light with woodwork by Julien McCarthy.
All in all, it is the quality of glass that really matters and finding a glass blower to compliment my work has been interesting to say the least. Right now, I still have my blanks shipped from Brian Hirst, Australia.
Tell Us More About Margot May Designs...
I see my engraving as a full time job. I work 6 hours a day in the studio, 5 days a week and supplement my income with a B and B.
I know that some people struggle with the creative inspiration but I don't. I tend to break up my work into "bread and butter" and exhibition work. More and more it's becoming exhibition work as I get older.
I don't find it difficult to work and I make sure that I integrate drawing skills and life drawing into this creative time.
Where Do You Sell or Exhibit Your Work?
Exhibition and commission work is scarce in the USA. Glass engraving is really no longer a preferred art form here, and as far as I can find there are less than half a dozen engravers.
The Dale Chihuly phenomenon has taken the USA market by storm with most buyers preferring colored and free form glass pieces.
I enter competitions, local galleries and submit to juried shows, accept all commission work and tour the country looking for an appropriate gallery to show my work.
To find out how to commission or order any of Margot's work please see the website link at the bottom of this article.
Engraved antique light with wooden base and Sea Turtle vessel.
What's Next for Margot May Designs?
Glass engraving requires dedication, skill, drawing ability, an understanding of light, form, anatomy and glass. Few people have the patience for this in our fast paced world today. I am thankful for having taken the time to learn, and hope to continue this art from until either I can't see or can't hold an engraver. I will always be looking for glass to carve or lights to illuminate it.
To commission or order any of Margot's work please visit her website at www.margotmay.com
Dedicated and skilled artists such as Margot help to inspire and encourage others to take up this art form, and we are very grateful to her for chatting with us about her work and passion, and for sharing some of her incredible pieces.
Whether you are a beginner glass engraver or more advanced, we enjoy hearing about your work, and the work of others so please feel free to drop us a line.