A Day in the life of a Cornish Glass Artist

May 15, 2024

A Day in the life of a Cornish Glass Artist

I remember as a child being completely clueless about how adults know what to do in work.  Seriously…….they just seem to know  what needs doing next!  They don’t always have another adultier adult telling them to do individual tasks, they just seem to be able to figure it out. I’m not going to lie, there are still days now when I don’t feel grown up enough to be running a business and being responsible for all of decisions both big and small. 

Daily routine

My day starts with a little walk into town, it’s a good way of getting my steps in and apart from when the rain is heavy enough to soak through my coat (um 90% of this year so far lol), I enjoy my morning stomp.  My favourite part is going over the green railway bridge in St Austell, there is a fabulous view across the town and the sea mist can make it look ethereal!

First task once I’m inside is to get the kettle on to brew some coffee….nothing productive happens if the morning coffee is missed!

Once my bloodstream is suitably caffeinated, I start unloading the kiln from the previous days firing, I have one kiln to do the initial tac firing and another one set on a slump schedule.

The items which have been tac fused get cleaned and any sharp edges filed before loading them into the smaller kiln for slumping. Slumping is a process where the glass is heated enough for gravity to be able to push the glass into the shape of the slumping mould.  It isnt hot enough to affect the texture on the top of the fused glass.

Some of the items don’t require slumping, these will be cleaned up and either have string added or be framed, depending on the final product.

The items which have been slumped into waves and dishes get a good clean and checked over for any sharp bits, they then get organised onto the stock shelf. 

Whilst I am organising the kilns, Emma arrives and starts to pull the sales from the previous day.  I sell via Etsy and Folksy but obviously prefer it when orders come direct to my own website as the fees for other platforms are staggering.  Mondays are always our busiest day for online orders, Emma always aims to get orders out within 24hrs after they are received, not to blow our own trumpet but we’ve beaten a certain online ordering giant before with our despatch speed!

Emma then relists everything that was despatched back onto all of the online platforms.

I spend most of the rest of the day making, my making process is divided into 3 parts, I spend a couple of hours cutting large sheets of coloured glass to create the background colours for the artwork as well as any add-ons such as rocks, engine houses or groynes.  I then use glass line paint, (it’s not really paint, it’s very finely powdered glass mixed with a gel medium which allows me to ‘pipe’ it onto the glass to add fine detail). The third step is layering up the sheets of cut glass with crushed and powdered glass which allows me to add fabulous texture and depth to the artwork.
There are always lots of little jobs that need to be done during the day too, such as drilling holes in the finished glass to add string, wire wrapping tentacles on the jellyfish or smashing up the cutoffs in preparation for casting projects.
My studio and shop are connected which works perfectly for me. I can carry on working away all day and just stop to chat to customers whenever they pop in.  I love it when people tell me they have travelled specifically to St Austell just to visit my shop.

My shop also stocks a fabulous range of locally produced items from jewellery and paintings to handmade candles and pottery. 

Monthly routine

As well as the usual day to day tasks of running a shop and making stock, we also have the regular jobs associated with a business. Accountancy is my absolute nemesis……I procrastinate like an Olympic procrastinator.  However, both Emma and I love doing the social media posts, especially when we have enough time to play around with reels.  Luckily, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

When I first started my business, I worked from home and attended many craft markets and shows.  This all changed 5 years ago when I took over my shop, I spent all of my time in the studio, recently I have been missing the interaction with all of you guys so I have signed up for fortnightly craft markets in Truro for the whole of the summer – I am so excited to be able to get out and about again, please come along and say hi!

Ordering supplies is another regular task.  Not only do I need to source the raw materials for my artwork, I also need to make sure we never run out of packing materials, tape, printer ink etc and obviously coffee!

Another regular job is keeping my website up to date, it really is outside of my comfort zone but I keep pushing away the fear to make it as user friendly and findable as possible……..who ever thought that long chained keywords would be in my vocabulary!  Emma does the majority of the photography for the socials and website; she has a photography degree so clearly more qualified than me.  We like to play around with the photography for the social sites, using the natural sunlight which streams through the front windows of the Market House is a firm favourite. 

Product development

The best bit of my routine is when there is enough time to play around with new designs. This really makes my heart sing when I can get creative.  Keeping up with regular orders means that this is not as frequent as I’d like so it’s a real treat when I find the time.  This year I have been working on 2 new designs, the first one is the hanging jellyfish.  The jellyfish are made in 2 sections, the body is cast and the tentacles are cut from sheet glass. After I drill a hole in the top of the body, I then wire wrap the tentacles and body together. 

The second new design this year is my take on Kynance Cove, it is one of the most beautiful places in Cornwall but is a much more intricate design than my usual beach scenes due to the number of rocks and cliff formations.  I start by gathering source material (in an ideal world a visit to the site is fantastic but not always possible) lots of photos and a mind map.  I then start to sketch out ideas and run little trial firings of each section of the design to make sure each component works before I build the final piece of artwork.  I always have a couple of trial errors which give me a chance to tweek and improve. It took a while, but the final product is proving very popular.

The hardest part of developing a new product is figuring out how many to make before I release it for sale.  Sometimes new designs plod along at a nice slow pace, so I just need to have 4 or 5 available before I launch, but sometimes, as with the jellyfish, I make a social media post to announce it and everything I have made sells out within hours. I then have to start a list for people waiting and I hate to keep people waiting.  It’s a guessing game every time so I apologise in advance if I ever post anything new and run out straight away!

So, to sum up, some days I feel as though I’m playing at being a business woman but I love the continual learning and the challenges that this way of life poses and I’m still here so must be doing something right.  I love the interactions with my customers and the challenges that they set for me and would like to say a huge thank you for the continued support which allows me to keep growing and developing my business.