Visitors to the meeting room here at Philip Elliott Associates are not dazzled only by the acumen and expertise of the team. There’s also the eye-catching wall-mounted artwork made by award-winning studio glass designer/maker Stuart Akroyd.
In the latest of our occasional blogs about the people we work with, here’s a little more about the man and his crystal displays.
Which came first: the need to express yourself or glass as a medium?
The former, definitely; I was always creative as a child, drawing, painting, making things from wood. The spark was probably my father’s woodwork hobby. He made a lot of furniture which we still have at home. I was not good enough to be a fine art painter but working with glass for the first time and seeing something beautiful come out of that treacly, sticky stuff was a real ‘Eureka moment’.
What qualities do you need to do the work?
There’s obviously a certain amount of grunt required. You could have something weighing 10 kilos at the end of a metal pole which you can’t grip at the obvious pivot point because of the heat so you end up holding it almost like a fishing rod. You acquire experience of working under pressure and finding out what works and what doesn’t. One of the glass makers’ expressions is ‘if you have to think about what to do next, it’s too late’.
Do you have a ‘style’?
There aren’t many of us doing this work and we all have individual approaches. I like to use sharp, bright colours – there’s no point on making clear crystal because the factories can make that really well. All glass styles come originally from Venice and I use variations on the English tradition as well as the American and Swedish techniques in a very contemporary way.
What is the attraction of carrying out commissions?
I love doing them for businesses because it’s often a chance to work with a lot of space. With 10m or 15m to play with, for example, we can do something incredible that sings and stands out as a one-off piece which, in turn, makes the client stand out, too. We recently did a piece for a wall at Ragdale Hall spa in Leicestershire – swooping glass discs in very calming turquoise and lime green. There’s always to-ing and fro-ing as the one thing you mustn’t do is lead a client in a direction they’re unwilling to travel. You never want to hear anyone say ‘thanks, that’s really nice’. It’s like a girl dumping her boyfriend and telling him he’s nice, but … it means she has her eye on something much better.
What did you do for Philip?
Earlier this year, he had a triple sculpture on spikes – Fall Into Winter – which ranged in colour from autumnal tones into snowy white. He liked it so much, we started playing around with the forms, enabling them to ‘move’. The result is 20 or so pieces in bright red which look like a murmuration of starlings swooping up and down the meeting room wall. I think there’s something of Philip’s vibrant and fun character in there, too.
Stuart Akroyd Contemporary Glass: www.stuartakroydglass.com