From her glass studio in Edinburgh, Scotland, Rachel Elliot tells us about her work in this week’s CraftBritannia Shop of the Week interview. Rachel creates unique glass sculptures using kiln and flame techniques. From leverets to yellow submarines her diverse range can be found in her Etsy Shop, FlyingCheeseToastie.
Describe your “typical” working day or week
I’m a full time self employed glass artist, with my own studio and no staff, so for me there is no such thing as a typical working day, let alone a week! Each day I tackle the things that need to be done to keep the business running, whether that’s physically making things at the studio, shipping works, or conducting the numerous administration activities that take up more time than anything else. I also live alone, apart from my cat, so the normal routine of mealtimes and weekends bear no real meaning either, resulting in tasks being completed at all hours and usually in the last possible moment before a deadline!
What was the first piece you ever sold?
The first piece of sculpture I sold was to a fabulous glass collector and champion for UK artists called Dan Klein. He bought a piece called ‘If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going, Any Road Will Take You There’, which is a cast and slumped glass sculpture of impossible roads with cars, lorries and tractors on them. He tragically passed away in 2009 but bequeathed the UK part of his collection to the National Museum of Scotland who now hold this piece.
What material do you most enjoy working with?
Although I mostly work with glass using kiln-forming techniques, I also incorporate other materials with it, ranging from metals and woods to textiles and paper. Also what few people outside of the glass profession realise is that there are many different types of glass. The material that is in your double glazing is completely different to the Pyrex dish you cook a meal in, and this is different again to the cut glass wine glasses you have never got out the box for fear of chipping them. I use all of these different types, but each one requires specialist knowledge of how to form with it and what properties it has that you might need for a piece.
Which piece of equipment would you be helpless without?
The piece of equipment I would be most helpless without would be me, plain and simple! If I didn’t have my vision and hands to see and make the things I do, then I wouldn’t have the career I do. I have built up the studio to contain the specialist equipment, such as kilns, polishing equipment, sandblaster and more that it has and whilst every upgrade has been necessary and welcome, I still produced work prior to having it. If something broke or needed replacing entirely then subject to financial restraints it can be, but your own health and wellbeing are not so easily bought in.
Tell us about one handmade item that you own and love
It’s very difficult to pick out just one handmade item that I own and love, my life is surrounded by the handmade, whether that’s heirloom pieces passed down through the family, or made for me especially, to the things I buy myself from other makers. I also occasionally swap pieces, which is really fun as you always remember what you swapped for and it becomes part of the piece’s story too. I think if it was a burning flat scenario and if I had a squirmy cat under one arm then it would probably be the sampler and rug my Gran made me. I know that’s technically two items but they both feature a Noah’s ark scene and were made when I was born by my father’s Mum, who passed away when I was 5. I think they are the only things that I couldn’t replace at all, as everything else no matter how precious could be remade or bought again.
Thank you Rachel for this insight into your specialist art!