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Shining stars of the glass-making industry head to Stourbridge

By Heather Large | Stourbridge | Dudley entertainment | Published:

From the UK’s last glass eye producer to the eye-catching creations of contemporary artists – it’s all on show at one of the world’s biggest celebrations of glass-making.

The Fragile Nature of Earthly Pleasures by Cathryn Shilling and Anthony Scala Photo Credit Ester Segarra

The International Festival of Glass is returning to Stourbridge to celebrate and showcase the skill and innovation of the British glass industry.

This year, the theme is Glass For Good and organisers have sought examples of how glass has been a positive influence in people’s lives.

Shining stars of the glass-making industry head to Stourbridge

Events and activities will take place at the Ruskin Glass Centre, Red House Glass Cone and the White House Cone museum of glass, as well as other venues.

Festival director Janine Christley, from the Ruskin Mill Trust, said: “I felt with everything that had gone in the world during the past year that we needed a positive message for the festival.

“We have this fantastic glass-making heritage but also a thriving contemporary industry too and there so many ways glass is making a difference.

“We looked for artists and projects that are trying to help make a difference to people’s lives and communities.”

Govinda knives Circus Raj

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The festival, which will run from August 25 to 28, includes the launch of a new programme to support veterans at the Ruskin Glass Centre.

It has been inspired by the Hot Shop Heroes project in Tacoma, US, which has been supporting some of America’s wounded soldiers by teaching them to blow glass.

“Project leader Patricia Davidson is joining us to share her experiences and launch our own programme for British veterans,” said Janine.

Heads by Martin Janecky from Prague

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“It’s a really inspirational project and we have seen how working in a hot shop with glass has benefitted soldiers in Tacoma in so many ways.

Some of them have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but working with glass has given them a focus and the opportunity to create something positive.”

Jost Hass, who has been making glass eyes for 50 years, will be demonstrating at the festival.

Narcissus by Scottish artist Alison Kinnaird; photo credit Robin Morton

He was apprenticed and trained for four years in Weisbaden, Germany.

Mr Hass still holds clinics at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, as an ocularist.

But now he is close to retirement and when he switches off his bunsen burner for good there will be no more glass eye makers in Britain.

Czech artist Ondrej Novotny

“This is one of the last chances to see him in action before he retires. This is a really great example of glass being used for good,” explains Janine.

Scents and Sensibility will showcase the history of perfumery and the use of glass as a product to contain and preserve scent. There will also be a world-record attempt for the longest length of glass-bunting.

One of the highlights of the event is the British Glass Biennale – a world-renowned exhibition of excellence in contemporary glass which features the work of 63 contemporary artists selected by jury.

Simon Bruntnell

Since its inception in 2004 the Biennale has awarded £100,000 worth of prizes to artists.

This year’s main prize winners will be announced at the festival launch on August 24 but visitors will also have the chance to vote in one category until September 4.

Among those keeping their fingers crossed is Jonathan Michie, a student at Sunderland University, who has entered his complex creation, Pursued by a Bear, which was hand-built and includes LED lights.

Other work on show during the festival includes a sculpture of glass heads by Czech artist Martin Janecky.

For the full programme go to the website.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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