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An interview with Benefield Spencer Glass

Benefield Spencer Glass is a partnership between Scott Benefield and Andrea Spencer and based in Northern Ireland. Scott and Andrea met during a residency at North Lands Creative Glass in Lybster, Scotland in March 2004 and were married six years later. All of their work is designed, produced and finished in their Ballintoy studio entirely by hand. Design-Nation caught up with Scott and asked a few questions about their practice, read on to find out more!


Design-Nation: Please tell us about your practice and how your business began.

Scott Benefield: We operate a glassblowing studio (along with other glass working facilities) on a farm property that is a couple of miles from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. The business is ten years old and started whilst we were renting and still searching for a suitable site, so it was a relief to finally make the purchase and begin building our studios in a more permanent location.

DN: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

SB: Lino Tagliapietra, who I’ve known for over 25 years and used to see regularly when he was still teaching at the Pilchuck Glass School north of Seattle. He was an important liaison between the traditional world of Venetian glassblowing and the emerging international studio glass community.

DN: What inspires you?

SB: The history of glass, particularly Italian factory design from the early to mid 20th century.

DN: Please tell us a bit about your design process.

SB: We produce an annual range of functional blown glass products, so there has to be a certain coherence and continuity within the production line. Pieces that sell well can have a long life and inspire other work, as permutations in scale or pattern are explored or suggest some other kind of related development. It’s important that the whole line hangs together; that there is an evolution of form and function that you can trace back through its lifespan.

DN: What is the best thing to have happened in your business to date?

SB: Probably being able to find a permanent home in a peaceful, remote rural setting.

DN: What is your workspace like?

SB: The hot shop is built into two adjoining farm buildings that we connected through a common wall. Part of the structure is built from local basalt stone and the rest is very simple block construction. It was a very rough, raw space when we moved into it, but we have poured and built floors, wired and plumbed it for the furnaces and kilns, and transformed the two buildings into one large, airy studio space.

DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do others help you to market your business?

SB: Well, neither, really. We’ve marketed our work solely through wholesale trade shows in England and Ireland and built relationships with shop owners and buyers over the years. But starting to sell online will require a different approach, so that’s going to have to change.

DN: What are the main challenges in your practice?

SB: At the moment, the future of trade shows is very much in doubt, so I’d say the main challenge now is figuring out an alternative marketing strategy that will probably involve direct sales. It’s going to change quite a few things about the business, including designing a new line that is priced and packaged differently.

DN: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?

SB: That’s hard to say and if you had asked me the same question 10 years ago, I’m not sure I would have foreseen our present circumstances accurately. We could be melting glass with electricity instead of fossil fuels, for instance. It’s frankly impossible to project how technology and communications are going to change in the next ten years, and what impact that’s going to have on how work is presented and sold.

DN: If you could collaborate with someone new who would that be?

SB: I’m pretty happy with my current collaborator. {His partner Andrea Spencer.]

DN: If you weren’t a designer what would you like to do?

SB: I’d spend more time researching and writing about glass, both its history and more practical issues like equipment design and construction, glass chemistry, etc.

DN: Why did you join Design-Nation? What is helpful about being a member?

SB: The downside of living in a beautiful, remote location is that it can be isolating from a larger community of people who share your interests. Design-Nation gives you access to a community and various resources that go along with that, as well as opportunities to access markets and events that can be difficult to do as an individual.


Interview by Laura Jacometti. Photos courtesy Benefield Spencer.

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Liz Cooper


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