The lush valley in Carmarthenshire where glass artist Moira White lives and works inspires the images she captures in her glass art pieces. ‘In this environment, you can’t help it,’ Moira explains. ‘Every time I look outside my studio, it fires my imagination.’
The studio and gallery space of her business, Moriath Glass, is a converted stone barn tucked away behind her 19th century Welsh stone cottage, on a peaceful smallholding near the village of Dre-fach Felindre.
Academic to artist
‘I still can’t quite believe sometimes that I am doing glass art,’ Moira admits. ‘This was never the game plan: I was going down the academic route, and then suddenly branched out, got creative, and it just went from there, really.’
At first decorating recycled glass vases, goblets and dishes with what she describes as ‘intense, Celtic designs’, after a while she tired of what she felt was turning into a production line. ‘I also realised that I wanted to work with the glass itself, rather than just using someone else’s and painting on it.’ A friend of hers nearby had a kiln for sale, so Moira slowly taught herself all she now knows. ‘I read a lot of books – this was before the days of the internet,’ she adds.
Glass art designs
Her kiln-formed fused glass pieces often feature abstract representations of the surrounding landscape and wildlife – a curve of green hills, or rolling undulations of the sea, over which birds in flight soar. Ask her what attraction glass holds and her reasons are numerous.
‘I was completely hooked the first time I worked with it. It’s the way you can do so much with glass; it has an amazing quality, and working with it is a bit like alchemy, making a recipe and adding things. But at the point you put it in the kiln, you relinquish control because you think you know how it will turn out, but there is that element of not being able to master glass completely, which is a challenge. There are variations in how different glasses react with each other depending on their chemical makeup. I also love the colours in glass and the way that the light plays with them.’
There are many different processes to Moira’s work and she will build up the layers to create a sense of depth in a piece. ‘That’s why I like creating the larger items, because they are more expressive. You can put so many more levels of intricacy and meaning into each one.’
Decoration is applied with free-form brushstrokes of paint, colourful textural elements created by sieved glass powder, copper silhouettes that are sandwiched between sheets of glass, and surface printing using enamel paints.
‘I gather leaves from outside and also bird wings to use as stencils. My girls used to be horrified when I would screech to a halt in the car and scoop up some road-kill,’ she laughs. ‘I’ll spread the wings out to dry and then use them for patterns.’
A member of two craft co-operatives, Moira confirms that it is essential to have that element of support. ‘I love being in the studio, on my own, with my head down, but it’s really important to also get out there and meet people – to have that connection with other artists and makers.’
How Moira creates her glass art
- My days in the studio are driven by whether I have an exhibition coming up or need to get fresh stock to a gallery. I tend to leave things until the last minute.
- I will cut a panel from a large sheet of glass and then apply some background paint – this is a bubble paint, which gives a bit of texture. I have found cheap brushes are better for this as they give the paint a jagged texture. I usually leave it overnight to dry.
- I’ll put another sheet on top, and scatter over fine and coarse powdered glass and frits, for creating decorative colourful glazes.
- My work tends to be very organic, so I might then add further layers with copper silhouettes, or stencil on the impression of leaves or feathers that I’ve found in the countryside.
- I also draw on designs, working freehand. Most of my work involves multiple firings, where layers of design are added at each stage.
- ‘The curved or wave panels are put on a mould and given a final firing to shape them.