Bob Crooks: Master Glassmaker Posted on 30 Jan 16:46 , 0 comments
‘Bob Crooks draws inspiration from the process itself. He enjoys striving for perfection and the only way of achieving this is by repetitive making whilst trying for a better result each time. There is always room for just that little bit of something extra, more expression, more fluidity, more colour control. Every artist looks for inspiration. Bob Crooks finds it in shifting imagery and distortion.' Dan Klein
Bob Crooks is one of our most collected and well-loved glass makers, having exhibited with Iona House Gallery for many years. We are delighted to be showcasing a collection of Bob's stunning one-off and limited production forms in our new Winter Exhibition as well as a variety of his production pieces.
After studying at Humberside College of Higher Education and West Surrey College of Art, Bob spent a year assisting Ronnie Wilkinson, former Master Glassmaker at the Whitefriars Glassworks based at the Glasshouse, Covent Garden.
Bob then moved to Glassworks (London) Ltd as the Workshop Manager where he honed his craft further, working with Simon Moore, Catherine Hough and Steven Newell.
In 1990 he set up First Glass in Newent, Gloucestershire and subsequently First Glass, London in 1994 before relocating to Devon.
Bob is highly innovative; constantly designing dynamic new pieces which drive him to overcome technical challenges and express his creativity and eye for detail in an array of gloriously rich colours and intricate patterns which 'speak' to each other as they are viewed from different angles.
Drawing his inspiration from architecture, geometry and the intrinsic qualities of the medium itself, Bob designs, creates and hand-finishes every piece ensuring a unique three-dimensional form and is increasingly working at larger scale to achieve stunning one-off showpieces.
His work features in many prestigious collections including the V&A, London, The Fitzwilliam Collection, Cambridge and the Ruskin Glass Centre, Stourbridge and he has exhibited internationally in many countries including Italy, China, Scandinavia, the USA and Australia.
Arran Ryder recently interviewed Bob for Iona House Gallery to find out more about his work and inspirations:
- How long have you been a glassmaker and how did you start your career?
I started the business then known as First Glass 30 years ago. My first experience of glass was on my Foundation course, where I was lucky enough to experience building a basic furnace and blow a basic form: “I was hooked!”
- Where do you start when creating a piece of glass?
Sometimes I start an idea on paper then translate this into glass ‘sketches’ - experiments that lead me to the end result I am looking for. Over the years I have mastered many techniques and am able to harness them, metamorphosing several of them into a hybrid to create something completely different and the result I am looking for. The challenge is stretching the material and my ability each time I create a new piece.
- What are the artistic hurdles you face when creating your glass art?
For a skilled glassmaker it can often be the limitations of the facilities themselves that might create the hurdles, to find ways to create objects and pieces that are potentially complex and skilled in technique but also the scale and form that you desire. Creating 'Glass Art' is often a journey as there are so many elements that can be challenging, some you have control over, others you do not.
- You’ve been described as a colourist through the medium of glass? How do you respond to this, and how do you use colour in your work?
This I believe is part of a quote by well respected glass critic Dan Klein. I think this is absolutely true. Colour has always been central to my work, the techniques I use are multiple and cross the spectrum of both colour and technique, playing with transparency and opacity, line and pattern created using both traditional techniques such as threading, Murini and cane work to cutting and polishing exploiting the refractive qualities of the glass.
- In creating your Pi bowls you use Pythagorus theorem; did you discover this when experimenting with glass?
These pieces are called Pi as they are inspired by the natural spirals we find in nature. I use cane work in many aspects of my one-off works but wanted the simplicity of the two perfect spirals with the way the colours create secondary colours that are not really there, to be the focus that one is drawn to.
- What effect did you hope to create when designing your one-off lineweaver series? Tell us more about these 3D pieces and techniques you have utilised.
The Lineweaver Series came about as I wanted to create a series of thought-provoking still life groups; addressing the use of colour and form, looking at the relationship that could exist between multiple forms. I am particularly interested in form, pattern and colour and by developing groups, I hope to bring all of these elements together harmoniously. Lineweavers are made in sections, the axis of the glass is changed several times before the threaded trails of hot glass are added. The subsequent forms suggest a ‘conversation’ and a still-life group is created.
- You constantly push the boundaries of glass making; what pieces were the most difficult to create and what have you been most proud of to date?
I often get asked the question 'how long does it take you to make this one-off piece' - actual time varies depending on the piece, but the short answer is 30 years, and however long I’ve been sat in the bench this morning.
All of my one-off pieces are complex to make. All of them encompass more than one technique, and often they are very different to each other.
The Flower pieces in comparison to the Lineweavers or the Pi Bowls to the large scale pieces you have today vary greatly in technique, scale and use of colour within a form to create the overall piece. I enjoy all of the pieces I have made but as with most masters or artists you always see where you can develop further, push yourself and the material in a variety of directions, so the journey continues and with it you continue to learn.
Purple Flower Bowl - Available to order
- Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you see yourself within the glassmakers world?
Both the natural and man-made worlds around us; from cityscapes to the landscape around me today in Devon; from music genres to fashion. I also draw inspiration greatly from the techniques themselves and as I combine them, the overall effects that I can achieve. Mark making and colour are centre stage in every piece.
- Who are the people in the public eye who have collected your work?
I am fortunate to have been collected by many famous collections around the world in the last thirty years in both public and private collections. By having your work in a public collection you know the longevity of its presence is there for all future generations to be inspired by, enjoy and discuss. No matter what their background, it's for all. However, it is also due to loyal collectors and individuals purchasing the work over the years that creates an opportunity to continue and to have reached the position we are in as artists today, and for that I am appreciative. The support an artist gets from the sale of their work enables them to continue pushing the boundaries and create future ranges or creations.
Can your work be scaled up? What are the most ambitious pieces you have made?
Some of the pieces I create can be scaled up or down but often some pieces do not necessarily work in the same way, They can lose an intensity or quality. Sometimes something completely different happens; not better or worse just different. Some of the most ambitious projects would be a large series of wall installations to work as individuals as well as one collective; similarly with lighting.
Turquoise chandelier - commissions available
Many thanks to Bob Crooks for his time in sharing insights into his processes and inspirations with the team at Iona House Gallery