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  • Samantha Sweet

Starting Glassblowing

Writing about glassmaker Catherine Hough for National Women's Day got me thinking about the start of my glassblowing journey.

Clear glass by Catherine Hough, handblown then cut and polished
Sculpture by Catherine Hough

This is where I first met Catherine Hough, my tutor and later employer. She was the first person to impress upon me that glass could be used as a sculptural material. I’ve learnt so much from Catherine technically and aesthetically for which I will be forever grateful. Catherine's work is characterised by clean forms with simple, curving lines. A lot of her one off pieces are made using clear glass allowing us to focus on the shapes alone. You can find her work at Contemporary Applied Arts, London and in the V&A glass collection.

Samantha Sweet and Fred Daden glassblowing
Glass blowing at Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education with Fred Daden

Catherine was a visiting lecturer at Buckinghamshire University - then called Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education. One of the shamefully rare (it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with photographing myself as well as my work) is from this time, it shows me and Fred Daden in the hotshop. Fred Daden was a Whitefriars glassblower who worked his way up through the ranks to be gaffer. He was very technically accomplished, we were fortunate to have him come to the college once a week to make his own work and pass on some knowledge in the process. I'll always remember watching his demonstration of a wine glass with a coin in the stem, it looked like pure magic to an aspiring glass maker!

Handblown glass with coin in the stem
Handblown glass with coin in the stem

Throughout my degree we were always supported by the hotshop technician, Kalim Afzal. Kalim always went above and beyond, instilling a real love for working with glass in all the students that completed the two week trial, never letting internal college politics dull his excitement for teaching us newbies the ropes. I'm sorry to say that the hot glass department at Bucks has since closed, but there are lots of graduates from the program still working with in the field.


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