Ever wanted to melt glass?

Hello and welcome to our new Suffolk Open Studios blog!

We at SOS are trying to make our already fantastic website even more attractive by turning our boring old news page into a brand new blog instead. This is the first in a series of fun, informative articles to keep you captivated, - well we're trying anyway!

What better way to start off than by introducing myself, the face behind the majority of the endless text on this website and the one who does Facebook and Twitter for SOS. My name is Catherine Allen and I have been editing this website since we revamped it earlier this year. I am also the new membership secretary, who will be pestering all you SOS members to pay up and put your artists profiles onto the site. I'm hoping the other committee members will follow suit and blog here too, or in fact any member out there who fancies helping out is more than welcome.

Ever wanted to melt glass?

What do I do when I'm not proselytizing about the virtues of opening your studio to the public? The answer is I'm a bit of a pyromaniac. I own four blow torches of ascending fierceness and a handful of soldering irons too with which I melt glass and stick it back together again. Coming from a background in microbiology in the food industry I have no art qualifications to speak of, but a love of laboratories and sterile technique. In fact visitors to my studio this year commented how lovely and tidy it was compared to Brin Edwards' studio down the road, but then he is a real artist!

Melting glass in a flame

I have a need, bordering on OCD, to have colours arranged in rainbow order and this applies to the glass rods I have stashed under my lab style stainless steel benches. These rods are the raw material for glass beads, made with an ancient technique called lampwork or more descriptively flamework. My "lamp" is an oxy/propane blowtorch with a 1500 centigrade flame into which I twiddle glass to make the beads. It's a bit like glass blowing on a table top scale without any puff.

After decorating the glass surface with fine silver leaf or wire or just drizzles or spatters of more molten glass, the beads are annealed in a kiln and cleaned with a diamond coated drill to remove the release agent from the hole (that's the grey stuff in the photo that stops the glass from sticking permanently to the stainless rod on which it is wound.) Yes, I make beads with holes in, I don't have to laboriously drill them in later as some people have thought in the past.

That's the benefit of getting visitors into your studio, no-one can then say "Are your beads acrylic?" or "Lovely jewellery, where do you buy your beads from?" - because each June I demonstrate lampwork to everyone that shows up to our Open Studio Event. If they stay and buy the finished article that's a bonus, but I get a real kick from just showing people what I do, any don't worry about asking me a silly question, I don't mind really! If you are really keen and are prepared to wear a welder's apron and dark goggles, I give tuition in lampwork and you can pay me to have a go yourself. Find out more about what I do here at www.paintboxcrafts.co.uk.

So if you are hiding your light under a bushel (does that count as being a performance artist?) - join us at Suffolk Open Studios and open to the public with us next June. The only requirement is that your studio is in Suffolk, we don't judge you on artistic merit and you can benefit right away from your own profile page on this website.

If you are just interested in what goes on behind the scenes with arts and crafts make sure to visit some of our members in their studios next year. If like me you are impatient and can't wait until then, contact them directly (search via the Artists tab above) and see if you can visit at a time to suit you both. Most of our members welcome visitors and lots give tuition in their particular field.

Catherine Allen in her studio


Art About Town

Suffolk Open StudiosArt About Town which ran from 26th April to 11th May in 2013, brought together local businesses and SOS artists, member's art being displayed within the business premises, giving you the opportunity for a sneak preview before studios were opened to the public in June. In 2013 we had a total of 22 of these mini exhibitions running in 9 towns around the county. 

The photo below shows Patricia Colyer's Art about Town exhibition 2013 at Orbis Energy in Lowestoft. Patricia is on the right, on the left is Katie Snell, the Centre Co-ordinator at Orbis Energy.


Suffolk Open Studios Directory 2013

Directory 2013

A pdf version of 2013 directory can be down loaded here. Use it to plan your Open Studio visits this June or during the rest of the year by appointment.


Chairman's Report to the AGM 2013

Welcome, It would be fair to say that the year to date has not been an easy one for artists or for Suffolk Open Studios with the sales for the 2012 Showcase being disappointing.  The winter exhibition was poorly attended this was also disappointing as the work shown was excellent.   This having been said it is no good dwelling on negatives; it simply means that we have been motivated to look for alternatives and solutions.


Winter Exhibition 2012

The Winter show was of the usual high standard produced by SOS artists.  Despite the excellent work that was on show the footfall was disappointing.