Nicky makes wearable and non-wearable sculptures in blown glass, fused glass and metal. Her two-year residency at Farnham’s University for the Creative Arts saw her further develop the techniques she had created during her MA to produce large and striking pieces.
Her years in South East Asia, where she witnessed first-hand the destruction of our coral reefs, has left a deep and lasting impression on her. The marine environment and its loss is a common theme throughout her work, not least in her latest collection; ‘Vertical Reef’. In this, the blanched ghosts of once-vibrant coral seascapes are chillingly represented through pallid, blown glass shapes, displayed against a wall. Shifting backlights symbolise the ripples of sunlight that give life to a reef, whereas the changing hues capture the speed of their demise.
For her ‘Coralscape’ collection, each nudibranch (sea slug) nests on a dedicated glass reef sculpture and when removed can be worn as a brooch or reversible pendant.
“The marine environment and it’s loss is a common theme”
‘Vertical Reef’, my latest collection, is a series of blown glass coral reef. The clusters of transparent coral with specks of white are reminiscent of a bleached reef. The wall mounted reef is back lit, with the coral becoming brighter then dimming, further underlining the demise of the reef.
The glass coral will be mounted in clumps of 3 on to black, circular perspex panels with LED lighting mounted behind the perspex. There will be 5 groups of coral mounted on a white wall in a dark area of the gallery.
Below the vertical reef, on plinths, there will be glass coral sculptures, lit from below. In contrast to ‘Vertical Reef’, this coral will be lit in colour, indicating a healthy reef. Sat abreast the reef, will be brightly coloured nudibranch (sea slugs) enjoying the biodiversity of this healthy reef.
The nudibranchs (sea slug) are sculptures but can also be worn as brooches or reversible pendants and, when not worn, sit on their ghost-like glass reef, becoming a piece of art.
The nudibranchs start as piece of sheet metal, which I drill into then dome, using a hydraulic press, then fill with glass and put in the kiln. The glass fuses through the holes, leaving the iconic gills, reminiscent of nudibranchs.
Most of my work is concept-led, drawing attention to the impact of global warming on our oceans. With this in mind, I often start with an end idea in my head, for instance for ‘Vertical Reef’ started as a memory of diving on a bleached reef in Egypt. As a bleached reef, it needs to be white or transparent. The message needs to be simple. Rather than try to replicate coral, I aim to create the essence of it. I then think about which materials I can use to best interpret my idea. Materials play a very important part in my work, interpreting my ideas in 3-d.
I work predominantly in blown glass, fused glass and copper. I start with the ‘raw material’, in my case, glass cullet (that gets shovelled into the glass furnace and heated up to 1,200’c – for blowing glass), Bullseye sheet glass (for fusing in the kiln) and sheet metal. I sculpt each of these materials, sometimes fusing them together to create my end product.
For Vertical Reef, I have chosen to work with blown glass as it is easier to sculpt the reef forms on the iron. In order to create a bleached appearance, I roll the molten glass in white frit (crushed glass) and swing the piece on the iron – creating the streaky, coral like effect. To create texture, I roll a fine layer of bicarbonate of soda in between the layers of glass to create the bubble effect. I also poke the molten glass with a sharp spike, when I want to create deeper, more regular bubbles.
Texturing the top and sides of the coral glass is fun and relatively simple. I shape/indent the sides by hand, with a pad of damp newspaper and create the textured tops of the coral by blowing down on damp rolled up balls of newspaper.
For Vertical Reef, I plan to light up the reef from behind and gradually fade out the light.
I have recently experimented with Goodfellows’ honeycomb aluminium – see images in ‘raw materials’-. I slumped a piece of transparent glass into the aluminium in a kiln. The melting temperature of aluminium is 660’c, the slumping temperature of Bullseye glass in 640’c, so it should have worked. However, the aluminium was crushed in the kiln, distorting the honeycomb form that I wanted to use. I will try again with a 2mm sheet of glass. If this doesn’t work, I will try reducing the temperature by 10’c.