Surface tension

glass close up

Staring into this micro-universe of whirling colour I reflected just how fortunate I am. That day I’d been shown my work interpreted onto two very new and different surfaces – the results of two collaborations. I’d been invited to design a special celebratory rug (can tell you more soon) and to work on this wonderful glass. In the few weeks preceding the glass-blowing evening Michael Ruh, Natascha, his studio and I had worked on two other pieces together.


Before the Friday of the event we met briefly to discuss the latest little painted sketches I’d sent over. The evening came, Michael’s plans for their interpretation buzzed along in his head and preparations were made. The pizza was cooked, bottles opened, guests arrived –  we were ready for the ‘off’.

glass sketchbook

I was part of a team of experts, included in the graceful dance of glass-making, the balance of strength and delicacy, of urgency and patience, hazard and control. Between the tension and spontaneity I had such an exciting, exhilarating evening. Solid little stubs of dark glass – the colours for the patterns – were pulled out into long glass strings, snipped and cooled. These were my ‘lines’ for drawing onto the glass that was being blown and grown in and out of the furnaces. Watching molten liquid hover between fluid and solid states, of planes and surfaces being built, formed and re-formed is mesmerising, to draw with melting colours directly onto the radiating surface is magical – if nerve-wracking.

finished glass

finished glass close up

The finished piece shows the planes of ambiguity, the depths of coloured light that had set us off on this great journey – and will, I think, lead us on to other work together soon.. 

glass blowing

I like to ponder on the colour, pattern and surface moving from fluid to settled in the glass, and from settled to fluid in fabric. Many different marvellous journeys of exploration and discovery were shared at the My Nature Symposium – all to do with textiles. We were a company of stitchers, weavers, printers, researchers, painters, growers and dyers – our work ranged from the fundamental growing of seeds through to the most elaborate decorative couture embroidery. Each speaker contributed an aspect of their expertise and passion; I left with much more than I’d brought and many thoughts about the future of textiles.

cordwainers garden

My friend the humble potato played its part in another collaborative venture too. I was invited to run a workshop for some year 7 students as part of their arts bursery award. We had an hour and a half for a special after-school printing project, which included a speedy account of my credentials – ‘my professional life in pattern’. 

potato prints

potato printing

Repeats and layouts were for-instanced and with the theme of Autumn we set to with knives, spuds and brown paper. Between us we created a bank of cut images which we could all use – a sort of printers collective – and in the short time allotted the students, and some teachers too, had the fun and satisfaction of each completing a printed panel; we had to ask all their mums if it was okay to stay a bit later though. Anyone up for an afternoon printing wrapping paper…?

Another evening I sped back from a visit to the archive to watch a fashion show of new young designers at InModa. It was part of the BTec students’ extra-mural agenda and I was lucky enough to get invited along and have a peak at what’s in the offing. I’d got a cold and lost my voice somewhere on my travels but the energy and involvement of the students vanquished my rather weary being and topped up my enthusiasm levels again – thanks!

philip turner sketch

This week WestElm opens its doors at last in Tottenham Court Road – I’m looking forward to the ribbon-cutting on Thursday morning – see you there! Apart from simply enjoying their tremendous and imaginative assortment of homewares I’ll be proud to have some of my work for them available on these shores.

west elm glass box

Outside my windows the last of the leaves are clinging; then away they flutter and gradually the bare branches are exposed. The willows are the first to come into leaf and the last to lose them. The pavements are covered in their pretty narrow feathers, which I can’t resist picking up.

dancing leaves

And yes to the many enquiries – the 2014 calendar is available online now! Molly and I have been busy rebuilding the shop and it’s not quite ready yet but we’ve put up the calendar – ‘Freshly Picked’ – anyway. New cards and card-packs will be available soon too.


The calendar reminds that next year approaches fast, and with it will come a new range of six printed birthday and greeting cards for Roger la Borde – a chirpy and varied group of freshly-painted designs bloom and flit across the paper. When it comes to gouache it’s ‘Nature – alizarin rose madder in tooth and claw’!

new cards

Plans for talks, visits and workshops are being hatched, new product and designs are all coming along – exciting times.

Thanks to AlanMolly, Emma Neuberg, Cordwainers Garden, Frances Calman, The Norwood School and Stafford Cliff for his constant and witty encouragement.

painting with glass

15 thoughts on “Surface tension

  1. Pingback: different strokes | Sarah Campbell Designs

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed the glass demo at Michael Ruh’s studio and went back on their open weekend and saw your finished vase. Splendid. And received the lovely vibrant 2014 calendar. thanks, april

  3. Brilliant and mind boggling – how do you do it? Please now turn your attention to ceramics, utility ware which could be used at the Royal Academy tea rooms – they could do with a bit of inspiration, as you will see if you go and have a cup of tea there! Cheers Dave

  4. The glass is quite “mind blowing”, sorry I couldn’t resist it, but really, everything you touch turns to a wonderful burst of colour, love it! X B

  5. From truly vibrant glass to modest potato print, every medium you use delivers such luscious eye candy. I can’t wait to see the delights at West Elm in London.

  6. Your news and activities leave me breathless, Sarah! I’ll forevermore think of you as the Phoenix, rising courageously and creatively from the ashes of loss and grief and profound change in your life to return more alive and beautiful than ever before. I am truly impressed. Potatoes! Glasswork! West Elm UK! Gah! Could I be any happier for you? I think not. Lots and lots of love to you, dear friend.

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