Stuart Akroyd is an award-winning studio glass designer-maker based in Nottingham. He creates forms in vibrant colours and organic shapes. Instantly identifiable, his work possesses a sense of movement and grace within the solid form. Stuart is currently exhibiting in ‘Colour & Form: Glass from Design-Nation’ at NCCD in Sleaford. Design-Nation caught up with him and asked him a few questions.
Design- Nation asked: Can you tell us about your practice and how your business began?
Stuart answered: The short answer is: Began after taking a degree, postgraduate course and working for 2 years as head glass maker in someone’s existing business. Funded through the Enterprise Allowance scheme I started Stuart Akroyd Glass Designs in Sunderland in 1991.
My practice: well that’s a big question on its own – I have had my Nottingham workshop since 2000 and at that point expanded it to include the hot shop, with a furnace as well as all the cold working equipment. It means that since then I’ve been totally self-sufficient, no longer needing to hire to do the hot making. I am the proprietor, designer, maker, finisher, dispatcher, mechanic, cleaner and tea boy! Luckily, it’s a family affair and my wife, Sarah, does the correspondence, IT stuff, marketing, invoices, accounts and general rock. With our daughter Izzy being roped in to help at craft fairs and the Open Studio (which is coming up on Sunday 2nd December).
D-N: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?
S.A: Jim Griffiths (first lecturer on BA 3D design at Sunderland) and my Dad who told me to do what I wanted to rather than go in to the family business.
D-N: What inspires you and your work?
S.A: See about my Dad above – he helped me to make it work as a business. In terms of my designs I’m inspired by architecture and forms in nature. Particularly the colours and patterns found in the flora and fauna of the ocean.
D-N: Can you tell us a bit about your design process?
S.A: I see something that excites me, a pattern, a shape – I draw what I think it could be in glass – I make a piece based upon that – I learn what is wrong or right about it, reassess, redraw and remake, reassess and remake, reassess and remake… it’s a slow process and sometimes gets there and sometimes doesn’t!
D-N: What is your work space like?
S.A: Large, full of equipment, noisy and very dusty – but it’s all mine!
D-N: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?
S.A: See above re: wife, I couldn’t do it without her – and yes she’s typing this but I’m dictating 😊
D-N: What are the main challenges in your practice?
S.A: Cash flow – finding the right customers – finding the right outlets – not being ill
D-N: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?
D-N: If you could collaborate with someone who would you like that to be?
S.A: Jamie Harris – a glass designer/maker based in USA that I met in New York on a Design Factory and Creative Twinning trip/exhibition – it would be really exciting, with our different backgrounds / training, I’d learn so much.
D-N: If you weren’t a designer/maker what would you be?
S.A: Chef / brewer / cheese maker – all blessed occupations that have creativeness, make something worthwhile and incredibly satisfying.
D-N: Why did you join Design-Nation? What do you enjoy and find helpful from being a member?
S.A: I joined Design Factory (that has now become Design-Nation) near the beginning; I had a support network back in Sunderland and was supporting other artists as a member of Arts Resource and Design Gap. When I moved to Nottingham, I knew being part of a supportive organisation is key to the success of creative businesses.
I have met the most brilliant people, those who work for DF/DN and other makers, had financial, moral and physical support as well as being able to offer my support with the mentoring and selection panels. And of course, we’ll always have Paris…
D-N: Have you got any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up that you are taking part in?
S.A: Open Studio Sunday 2nd December 11am-5pm
Gifted at National Glass Centre
Galerie Rosenhauer, Gottingen, Germany
Colour and Form, NCCD
Interview by Laura Jacometti