The Gathering Hand: Interview with Edmond Byrne Sept 14, 2022
Cambridge-based glass artist Edmond Byrne has earned international acclaim for his exploration of colour, texture and form. His work is innovative, highly sensory and thoughtful, and above all it harnesses the sublime nature of glass. Through GRAS’s first furniture and objects collection—The Gathering Hand—the design team sought to celebrate the work of a local UK glassblower and in turn, contribute new works to the relatively small glass art scene in the firm’s native Scotland. Edmond Byrne was invited to join the project to produce a series of three mouth-blown vessels with a unique crackled texture. In the following interview with Byrne, we hear about the making of The Glassblower’s Vessels.
Q: How did this collaboration come about and what attracted you to it?
Edmond Byrne: GRAS invited me to collaborate on their project and I was curious about what creative outcomes could happen when working with architects on a project that drew inspiration from the built environment.
Q: How did you interpret the brief from GRAS?
A: The brief was quite open and GRAS was the perfect collaborator. We trusted each other and developed a great working relationship. GRAS understand the design process and the time and challenges associated with it. We both understood the value of creative risk and how it can transform the design process. The collaboration was helped by the fact that we liked each other’s work, so there was going to be a creative and aesthetic connection to begin with and a shared sensibility.
Q: What was it like to work with an architecture and interiors practice on product design?
A: Collaborations always push you to think beyond your own way of thinking because at the end of the day, it’s a creative partnership. In our collaborative process there was a dialogue that explored the boundaries between architecture, interiors, product and making which offered a wealth of creative opportunities.
Q: Describe the creative process behind the vessels.
A: We decided to take a broad approach based around materiality. We did lot of tests and samples exploring different processes and how building materials could be used in glass as a pigment as well as different degrees of surface qualities. Experiments like mixing materials into the glass such as Caithness, Sandstone or red brick and drenching the hot glass in water to create a crackled tactile texture on the surface. We then discussed the different outcomes and selected the key elements we wanted to use in the final designs and worked to refine these processes in the glass hot-shop.
Q: How did the work evolve and how did you arrive at the final solutions?
A: We started with some ideas about the Scottish landscape and built environment. It was important that materiality was at the heart of project and that the designs complimented the GRAS aesthetic. We engaged in a highly experimental approach incorporating stone, brick, wood and glass. This allowed us to identify the key processes and effects that had resonance for us. From that point we developed them into the final designs and making processes.
Q: What is special or beautiful about the final forms, materials and finishes used?
A: The natural surface tactility on clean forms really captures both our aesthetic values. The vessels are designed for everyday use and the texture naturally invites the user to touch and pick them up. Engaging with them is instinctive. The crazing texture also acts as a grip for the surface adding to their functionality. When light passes through the glass there is a beautiful shimmer which interacts with the contents inside, bringing a different dimension to the everyday.
Edmond Byrne’s work on The Glassblower’s Vessels was showcased for the first time at Blue Mountain School during London Design Week 2022. The vessels represent one of three product typologies within GRAS’s exhibition and forthcoming collection, The Gathering Hand. Process photography by Shaun Barton.
Edmond Byrne is a glass artist and educator with an experimental approach to process and making that explores tactility, colour psychology, sustainability, and digital craft. He has an MA from the Royal College of Art, Ceramics and Glass and a B.Des in Craft Design from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and holds a Senior Lecturer position at De Montfort University’s multidisciplinary Design Crafts course. His award-winning work is exhibited in galleries and public collections internationally.