Can you introduce yourself briefly?
Hi there, my name is Kate Osman and I work with recycled glass to create something new and lovely. I love what I do and you have no idea how fantastic that feels. Sounds a bit like a confession doesn’t it!
How did you get started working in glass?
In a previous life (before children) I trained as a photographer and have always been better at being creative than doing the everyday things. The commercial side of photography never did it for me, my passion being in the making of mural prints, taking something small, industrial, rusted and insignificant and creating a new and much changed viewpoint. Sadly after university there was little call for this so I fell into wedding photography and hated it! I was always slightly envious of people who made a living from doing something they were passionate about and with that in mind I returned to my art college routes at their most basic and started screen-printing one off pieces, adding beads, wire and sparkle to my work. The natural evolution was for me to make my own jewellery but I was constantly frustrated by the lack of beads in colours or styles that I wanted. Being the control freak that I am I decided to learn to make my own and so my love affair with glass began!
I was lucky enough to stumble across The Liquid Glass Centre just outside Trowbridge where I did my first glass course in lampwork bead making. Although I loved it and have made some beautiful glass beads I found all my spare time was spent watching the fused glass course, wishing I was doing that instead! I convinced my long-suffering husband that I needed to do their fused glass training and have never looked back.
I'm impressed - and feeling very inspired to go and do a glass fusion course myself... Where do you get your inspiration from?
We are a family who spend all available spare time outside and, preferably, by the sea. Nature and the sea have been a constant inspiration throughout my life – even my mural prints were more about what nature had done to technology over time than the technology itself and as inspiration, the natural world is even more important to me now.
Where do you work?
I am very happy to say that my studio has an inside and an outside – the outside being any beach that we are on and the inside being a small cabin at the bottom of our garden that I share with my very creative and tolerant husband who is mainly a 3D Draughtsman but also a maker of fabulous driftwood boats. He is incredibly patient with me and my expanding needs! He has crafted a raised work bench for me out of an old bedframe and has strung random tree branches around my space for extra hanging space… genius!!! Loving the re-use ethos!
Crammed in here I have my kiln, jars of sea glass almost sorted into colours, boxes of copper wire from my local garage, bags of driftwood, shelves of books ranging from my Dad’s editions of Kipling from his childhood to some of the most beautiful books on glass art, Pop Art, photography, fairytales and human anatomy (don’t ask!). My beautiful timber walls are lined with jewellery I have made, drawings by my children, random or favourite pieces of glass and a million post-its trying to remind me what I’m meant to be doing! I have a ‘little box of inspiration’ brought back by a friend and her daughter from India full of colour, sunshine and a little bit of seaside sand, crystals hanging in the windows to make rainbows and bags of vintage clothes that I sell as my alter ego Daisy and Jess. I am usually ably assisted by Phoenix our ever lovely and very cuddly black and white cat while her brother Brooklyn sits on the roof in the sun – you can blame Ian for their names, he got them before we were together!
That sounds idyllic! Can you tell us anything about the process of your work?
I’ll try not to bore you but I love this bit! Making a bowl is really a two part process...
Firstly I cut two sheets of glass to the right size and shape for the mould that I will eventually be using – ideally I like to use the same sheet of glass for a single piece to make sure it is compatible but as I work with broken glass it is often more about what I can cobble together, crossing my fingers and hoping! (Sound’s really professional doesn’t it!)
I then place sea glass, copper wire, foil, seed heads, flowers, whatever I’m working with for the piece onto the bottom sheet of glass and cover it all with the top sheet. This then goes in the kiln and is fired over a period of about 21 hours up to round about 800°C. This part of the process melts the glass and sticks it all together and is hugely exciting every time I open the kiln. Once the glass is cool again it is placed over a ceramic mould and fired gently so that it drops like pizza dough to take on the form of the mould – 17 hours later you have a bowl.
The glass in my work is most often broken greenhouse or picture frame glass with elements of the gleaming sea glass gems we find on the beach or coloured glass offcuts from alternative processes. The copper wire is from old car wiring looms and the wooden blocks and bases are either driftwood, fallen branches or reclaimed timber from builder’s offcuts.
I feel that we as a nation are hugely wasteful and it gives me enormous pleasure knowing that I am able to create something beautiful from discarded items.
It takes nearly two days to make one bowl? That must take a lot of dedication! How do you manage to juggle all the different aspects of a busy life in order to spend more time on your art?
It’s a crazy, bonkers world but I love it! Between the school run, the vintage business, our holiday cottage, the dog walk and an untidy house it’s all about balance. Helping with the homework while cutting or packing glass is not unusual and coming home from a dog walk with a huge tree branch that has just come down as it is nicely spalted and will make spectacular bases is just normal.
Have there been any artists or special people who have inspired or helped you along the way?
I can’t recommend highly enough Kim and Tom at the Liquid Glass Centre – they are fantastically generous with their time and knowledge.
I would also like to mention Jenny and Carol at the very lovely Fuggles Gallery, Mangerton Mill in Bridport, Dorset who stock my glass. They have called me 'the Merlin of fused glass' so how could I not give them a mention! They are open again after a winter break on the 1st March and I am very much looking forward to working with them again this year.
I adore the work of Salvador Dali, would struggle in the most part to have it on my wall but his view of the world is breath-taking, unique and truly spectacular, I have a signed copy of ‘Le Cheval Caligula’ and it makes my heart sing.
Is there anyone you'd like to shout out to?
Trite but true, I couldn’t have followed this route in my life without the support and belief of my parents Jill and Nick at many crucial stages of my life and the generous nature of Ian, my husband, who will make me random things at a moment’s notice before an exhibition or just because I ask him to. My three children are a constant delight if a little loud and squabbily and are now so well trained at beach combing that we always come home laden with goodies – I must remember to frisk the trousers before they go in the washing machine though!
Do you have and advice or tips you'd like to share?
As a family we re-use, recycle and upcycle wherever we can. Ian makes beautiful driftwood and flotsam boats, the children always have a craft project on the go and I love that I am creating something beautiful from something broken. We do not all need the latest gadgets to be happy but should look to see the wonder of what is round us with new eyes. (That being said, I’d fall apart without my iPhone, camera and laptop!)
Finally... do you have an online shop / blog etc where people can find you? If so, please let us know!
Thank you so much for spending time telling us about yourself and your work Kate - I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say how interesting your work sounds and it's clear you have a lot of passion for your work. I am really inspired now to go and book myself on to a glass fusion course... I have to say whenever I go to the glass workshop where I get my glass supplies for mosaic, I am always slightly tempted to sign up for one of their courses. Maybe I will actually go and do a course now! I love your work and wish you every luck with your continuing business. And to everyone else... go and look at Kate's work on her website, facebook and twitter!!
Thank you Kate!