2022 is the UN’s International Year of Glass, a major celebration of this magical, beautiful and amazingly versatile material. Amongst the many exhibitions and events, we’re focusing on the British Glass Biennale, which opens this week and features over a dozen Design-Nation current and alumni members.
This time we’re talking to Hannah Gibson, who makes cast glass figurative works in her Surrey studio.
Design-Nation: What work are you showing at the Biennale?
Hannah Gibson: I am over the moon to have the opportunity to exhibit at this year’s Glass Biennale. I’m exhibiting a collection called Recycling Narratives, Ten Green Bottles.
DN: Tell us a little bit about the ideas and processes involved.
HG: Recycling Narratives, Ten Green Bottles is a collection of cast glass figures made from recycled glass. Each made from a different type of glass found in our everyday lives and some include other materials: car windscreens, milk bottles with watch part inclusions, television screens, recycled glass with textile inclusions, water bottles, champagne bottles, gin bottles, Marmite jars, Neal’s Yard Remedies bottles, and Covid-19 vaccination vials.
This work conjures a narrative: with milk bottles on our doorsteps, we stare inwards at television screens and out of car windscreens. Our favourite drinks, condiments and cosmetics are packaged in distinctive glass bottles. Hope is delivered to billions in a tiny glass vial to blunt a deadly pandemic. Glass can be endlessly recycled, yet too often ends up in landfill. This work aims to explore the journey of glass as well as its final destination.
DN: What makes this amazing material special to you? Why do you choose to work with it?
HG: Whilst studying geology at Edinburgh University, I was introduced to glass in a scientific context. Phil Anderson, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, wrote in 1995, “the deepest and most interesting unsolved problem in solid state theory is probably the theory of the nature of glass and the glass transition”. After graduating from Edinburgh University, I took my first course in glass making. It was love at first sight. Being able to interweave my passions for glass and geology was a dream come true.
In 2017, after almost two decades of exploring glass, I completed a Masters in Glass at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham. Two years earlier I had started working on a collection of cast glass figures, which came to be called Recycling Narratives, Whispering Sweet Nothings. A growing collection of 27cm tall, cast glass figures, each made from a different glass artist’s recycled glass. A way of bringing people together.
Glass is ubiquitous,100% recyclable, and can be infinitely recycled, over and over again without losing quality. The opportunities of working with recycled glass are limitless, especially with so many different new types of glass to explore. My cast glass ‘Sweet Nothings’ pieces encourage a dialogue about where the glass comes from and the transformations it goes through such as recycling and reuse.
DN: What are your plans for the future? Where would you like to go, physically or metaphorically?
HG: I really am living the dream. So far this year I’ve had the opportunity to exhibit at Gallery Ten in Edinburgh; London Glassblowing; the Coburg Prize for Contemporary Glass in Germany; Bankside Gallery in London; Habatat Galleries in Detroit and Florida; the Imagine Museum in St Petersburg, Florida; National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia; and Pyramid Gallery in York, amongst other places. And later this year I’ll have work at Wadsworth Athenium Museum in Connecticut.
I would love the opportunity to both continue growing, and to exhibit, the collection of Recycling Narratives, Whispering Sweet Nothings in a touring exhibition.
Next year I hope to exhibit my series Recycling Narratives, Casting Call. A series of cast glass figures made from recycled glass with textile inclusions from Dungeness. As well as pushing the boundaries of textiles and glass, which behave very differently at high temperatures, I aim to facilitate discussions about the impacts of fast fashion on the environment. I’d love to take this to Collect.
And where would I like to go myself, physically or metaphorically? My passions are geology, glass, recycling, sustainability, being with friends and family… and cake… imagine being able to interweave all of those.