Meet fused glass artist, Helen Grierson, who works from the Bath House in Old Broomhill.
Helen creates and sells magnificent fused-glass pieces and runs a range of stained-glass making workshops. She creates one-off pieces and through her workshops teaches people the value of the materials and the skills involved, demonstrating how long it takes to make a piece - with not a disposable product in sight, Helen is creating pieces for people to value and cherish for years to come.
I started making things in my garage, then got a studio in the Biscuit Factory in the Biscuit Tin. After a year I came back to Northumberland and got myself a small studio at Eshott. I started running workshops and built up a customer base. This grew the business to the point where I started looking for bigger premises and I moved to gallery 45 in Felton. I took on one of old stables and refurbished it. That was great being part of a group of about 8 artists, which helped grow the business again.
After 4 years I was looking for more space again and wanted a bigger kiln to do bigger pieces. Along the way I developed other skills in glass and was doing fused glass by then. I was self-financing my own training and developing my skills all the time.
Then I heard about this building, The Old Bathhouse in Broomhill, being bought and I got hold of the landlord and started talking about moving in and about the building acting as an artist’s community. He was very supportive and when I moved in around 5 years ago, we got other artists to join and now there are 7 of us here.
I create and sell from the Bath House and also run workshops, and chat with clients about commissioned work. I have a website as well with a shop, and some pieces are sent to smaller places across the county (for example Woodhorn Colliery). With my workshops, I release them in blocks every fortnight on my website, for half or full-day experiences. I also run evening workshops which are for people who might already have some stained glass-making skills, but need the space and tools and maybe a bit of guidance. I also run private workshops which are popular with tourists who return to Northumberland annually. I also do work in the community, with children and groups who help people living with dementia.
I sell mostly through open studio events where all seven artists in the Bath House commit to being here, and we invite in guest artists and sell our work. We have pop-up street food outside, and make it a 2/3 day event. If someone is interested in seeing a particular artist and their work outside of our open studio events, it’s a good idea to reach out to them through the contacts on our website. We all love the connection of talking to people in person about our work. This is why the open days are so important for the community, and we tend to hold several a year. Additionally, sometimes 2/3 of us get together to run taster workshops where we will raise money for Women’s Aid, or for International Women’s Day we ran a special taster workshop day.
For me, it’s all about our incredible coastline. I’ve always lived by the sea and I think you feel very connected and grounded when there; It’s a very meditative space. I spend a lot of time on the beach, and at the minute rockpools. I am fascinated by the micro-world of the rockpool, and the constant change and adaptation these habitats go through. I think that stained glass is similar in that it is constantly evolving through the day as the light moves, and as a result it completely changes the feel of the space it is in. It’s these natural cycles that I find so inspiring.
I also have recently won a Contemporary Glass Association award. Whilst a lot of my inspiration comes from the coast, I’m at a point where I want some of my work to say more about what I feel strongly about too. The issues of equality and feminism are something I believe in massively and wanted to put into my work which is where a recent piece of mine came from that explores the feminine and the earth. As women we often keep ourselves hidden, we don’t always show what we’re capable of in order to fit in, which is a theme of a poem called ‘Embers’ by Mequeete Gill which I used as inspiration for the piece.
I’m delighted it has been selected by the Contemporary Glass Association for a Summer exhibition at the London Glassblowing Gallery titled ‘Earth, Sea Sky’ from July, and can’t wait to see it displayed amongst more brilliant work!
Why should people Shop Local?
It’s about supporting local businesses, and keeping money in the local economy. For example personally, when I sell a piece, I put some money away to buy a piece from another artist. When you come and buy from a local artist, it keeps money moving in your area and benefits people directly in your community.