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 established during her MA, to produce large and striking pieces.
Nicky’s 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, which constitutes a coral reef. The clusters of transparent coral with specks of white are representative of a bleached reef. The wall mounted reef is back lit, with the coral becoming brighter then dimming to further underline the demise of the reef.
The glass coral will be mounted in clumps of three on to black, circular Perspex panels, with LED lighting mounted behind the Perspex. There will be five 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 slugs) are sculptures, which can also be worn as brooches or reversible pendants, when not worn, they sit on their ghost-like glass reef, becoming a piece of art.
The nudibranchs start as piece of sheet metal, which I drill into and 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 that are associated with the nudibranchs.
Most of Nicky’s work is concept-led, drawing attention to the impact that global warming is having on our oceans. She often starts with an end idea in her head, for instance, ‘Vertical Reef’ started as a memory of diving through a bleached reef in Egypt. As a bleached reef, it needs to be white or transparent and the message needs to be simple. Rather than try to replicate coral, she aims to create the essence of it.
In the next stage of her process, Nicky thinks about which materials she can use that best interpret her idea. Materials play a very important part in her work; they are the route to interpreting her ideas into 3D. Nicky works predominantly with blown glass, fused glass, and copper. She starts with the ‘raw material’, in her case glass cullet (that gets shovelled into the glass furnace and heated up to 1,200⁰c – for blowing glass), Bullseye sheet glass (for fusing in the kiln), and sheet metal. She sculpts each of these materials, sometimes fusing them together, to create her end product.
For ‘Vertical Reef’, she has 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, the molten glass is rolled in white frit (crushed glass) and the piece is swung onto the iron – creating the streaky, coral-like effect. To create texture, a fine layer of bicarbonate of soda is rolled in between the layers of glass to create the bubble effect. She also pokes the molten glass with a sharp spike, when she wants to create deeper, more regular bubbles.
Texturing the top and sides of the coral glass is fun and relatively simple. Nicky’s technique involves shaping, or indenting the sides by hand, with a pad of damp newspaper. She creates the textured tops of the coral by blowing down on damp, rolled up balls of newspaper.
For ‘Vertical Reef’, she plans to light up the reef from behind and gradually fade out the light.
Nicky has recently experimented with Goodfellow’s honeycomb Aluminium. She slumped a piece of transparent glass into the Aluminium in a kiln. The melting temperature of Aluminium is 660⁰c and the slumping temperature of Bullseye glass in 640⁰c, so it should have worked. However, the Aluminium was crushed in the kiln, distorting the honeycomb form that she wanted to use. She will try the experiment again with a 2mm sheet of glass, if this doesn’t work she will try reducing the temperature by 10⁰c.