I have not posted on this blog for a while, and I think it started from not completing one month’s task, and then slipping from there. Ironically, this has led to me not posting about the one fairytale I was looking forward to for most of the year, since, early on, Emma and I decided that “Rapunzel” would – handily – coincide with my Follies for Follies project, where I did, indeed, do “Rapunzel”. So, let me do a bit of a year’s re-cap:

My favourite view

Rapunzel – the culmination of seven months of work, which is also what distracted me from this blog. Following the first year, we kind of slipped out of our strict “one tale a month” routine, and I – well, I lost the “plot”, I guess.

Recently, I re-visited and re-did my Snow Queen sculpture:

Let Me In Full

Let me in Crop 2

…this is now on display at the Ashton Memorial.

And I guess, with a bit of creative thinking, I could align this one to the Three Little Pigs:

House of Hopes - writing by Y6 Christ Church School, Lancaster

A House of Hopes, featuring future hopes and dreams from Y6 at Christ Church School in Lancaster – don’t huff and puff!!

I did work on Icarus, and actually did so with a specific exhibition in mind, but the submission deadline passed, and the project was left unfinished. Well, that won’t do :) So, here we go, I’m giving myself until the end of May to finish my “Icarus”, and after that……..who knows!

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When the glass talks

To continue the theme of stories and conversations, sometimes a new idea really does feel like a conversation with the glass itself.

I started with goblets and dragons. They made me want to develop a new idea along the same lines, mixing sculpture and blowing but with a plant theme. So I built a goblet, using the base as the plant bulb, adding leaves and a stem and then putting a flower with wide extra petals at the top, using the goblet to form part of the flower. I hated it! It hated it too – the stem cracked, the flower petals cracked. I looked and thought a bit and redid it with a different way of making the top flower, incorporating it into the goblet top.

I still hated it. It too wasn’t happy, again cracking on both stem and flower. Clearly, we weren’t getting very far, me and the glass.

So, I looked at what I liked – not much, as it turned out, but I did like the base with its wrap of blue and I did like the bulb and the root. Yes, they were the parts that remained uncracked and yes, it did feel as if I was being told what to work from. After some thought and a drawing session, a new plan evolved.

Coincidentally, I’ve been showing Jamie, my “apprentice”, a sleeving technique involving coating one piece of tubing with another to create a new look. The result works perfectly as a bulbous vase stem, giving rich colours and depth. I knew instantly that it was what I wanted, and so did the glass. I suspect you could have heard the collective sigh, if only you’d been there.

The tops for these bud vases just about formed themselves as ideas as soon as the vases themselves appeared. I wanted to use British flora and natural themes to complete the picture. It is very often, certainly for me, tempting to go for fantasy and exotic themes but this time, I wanted to stay local. I’m very happy that I did.


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Telling tales

A couple of months ago, we visited Istanbul. We walked and we walked and we walked, and we could have walked for many more days before becoming tired of all the sights and sounds and smells of that city. It is a place of tales untold and told and yet to tell.

It is also a place of coffee houses and restaurants, where Turkish tea and coffee are a part of every interaction. Turkish coffee…. now, there’s a thing. We passed the Mehmet Efendi coffee shop near the spice market by the Bosphorus, where the coffee is so fresh that it hardly has time to see the air before it is bagged and in the customer’s hand. The queue was long but speedy and we went from 20th in the line to having ground coffee in hand in under 5 minutes.

Turkish coffee comes with rituals. The coffee is brewed a certain way and drunk from small cups with the grounds left in as a thick sludge at the bottom. These grounds can then be read like tealeaves, an art that is apparently as old as the tradition of coffee itself. There are apparently ‘coffee reading’ gatherings, where the art of reading is discussed and taught to those who have the ability.

I’m not really one for having my fortune read, but in Istanbul, when the offer was made, I accepted. I found it a strange experience and could not really say that I was completely convinced. I’m not sure whether my host and fortune-teller, an intelligent lady of a certain age, was either. However, it did make me think about drinking vessels in general, and how intimately they are connected with our lives and our history. If cups could talk, what stories they would have to tell. I’d like, I think, to move away from taking particular fairytales in favour of making vessels (and maybe other items with equal connections to history and stories) with their own ‘untold’ tales. These may connect with ‘real’ fairytales or they might not. After all, truth can seem more of a fantasy than fiction.

And so to my first ‘coffee cups’. Settle down and pour yourself a small brew…but only small, because this is only a small beginning.

My first looks like this:

This one reminds me of Istanbul.

My next, which comes with a little story:

This cup belongs to a girl with a very special voice whose bedroom was in a tower and who grew up in the woods with a strange love of Dr Who. The cup shows a dog barking at a bowl of porridge. I’m not sure why this is exactly, but I know that this image relates to the girl…. that’s her story to tell. With luck and a fair wind, she’ll be telling it to the world in time.


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What happened before

Well, I made an Icarus… but he proved to be, for me, a flight too high. I still need to work on my figures and the winged  figure, while it did work, wasn’t something I felt particularly happy with as a piece.

So I decided to concentrate on the wings. After all, the story of Icarus hinges on those wings. If they’d been sturdier, built with solar-heat-resistant wax, they’d have held up better to the stress. Perhaps, if they’d been designed by NASA, the story would have read very differently. But they weren’t and so they failed and fell…. and likely floated gently down, landing in a different place to their erstwhile wearer.

If you came across those wings on a pavement, would you know where they had come from, what tragedy of ambition led to them being there? Probably not. But it just goes to show – everything is part of a story. Even the piece of chewing gum spat out next to those wings on the ground. Stories are vital. They’re gossip, morality, history and geography, fairytales and fantasy, truth and fiction. Without stories, what would the world be?

And with that, I move on. Or sideways. Because thinking about stories made me think about the pen that writes them. This is, I’ll admit, self-indulgent. I’ve been wanting to make a pen for ages. But it hadn’t occurred to me until recently that the pen could match the tale.  And so here is the pen for fantasy writers:

And here, Bram Stoker’s:


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Flying too high

Coming back home a few weeks ago, I caught a radio programme – one of those start-the-day type programmes on Radio 4.  One of the people featured was a young poet, Kate Tempest, talking about her latest work.

Now, I am not a poetry lover and I’m not particularly keen on rap either. Despite that, I found myself very drawn to Kate’s work, enough to look her up when I got home and listen to much more. One poem in particular caught my attention:

I like the idea that, just possibly, by trying to reach the sun  Icarus gained a moment of pleasure so great that it made the fall – well, maybe not exactly worthwhile – but at least less completely without point.

I often wonder why I do what I do. I never quite feel good enough, never quite feel satisfied with where I am. So I continue to push, to experiment and to attempt to move forwards. Onwards and upwards, much like Icarus. Most of the time, it doesn’t work or I try too hard to be clever and fail. I crash and burn. But just occasionally, just briefly, before the doubts and the criticisms set in again, I get a moment of real pleasure from having made something. I’d like to start by making myself an Icarus to remind myself that those moments are worth it, however much gravity (and my abilities and doubts) pull me back down to earth.


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It’s been a while

Actually, quite a while. Probably fair to say that both of us found ourselves too involved in other things to keep this blog going at the same time. I think it is probably also fair to say that we had both come to find the structure no longer quite suited us.

However, we’ve missed this old blog. So, we plan a fresh start, with a new and improved structure. Looser, more individual and hopefully more (or equally) creative. Rather than setting a fairy tale for the month, the idea is to take a fairy tale, or an aspect of a fairy tale, each and work on it for as long as we think we’ll need. There will (or may!) be updates along the way and with luck, some nice finished pieces.

And with that, I’m off to start a new post.

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I know, I know, it’s terribly bad form to finish the year on a no-show…..however!!! I have an idea. I have, in fact, an idea that I like *so* much that I refuse to try for a quick cop-out. My idea may not work, but the one thing I do know is that it won’t work in my studio. I hope that I’ll be able to make most of it at Bild-Werk this summer, so I kindly request acceptance of an IOU, which I hope to redeem by the end of summer. With the humblest apologies, Sabine xx

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The Little Mermaid

Has it really been a year since we dreamed up this barmy idea of engaging in a very public journey of creation? Yes, it has!! This month, March, is the last one of our mission. One more fairytale…which shall it be? We both wanted to return to something a bit better known, and settled on The Little Mermaid, for my part, because, even though it is very well known, and even iconic, the actual details are often a bit hazy.

Andersen wrote it nearly 200 years ago, and yet it is ageless, a story of what we are doing for love. What I remember about it is that it was the book I read most often in the library. As a child, my mother worked in the same building as the library (i.e. the town hall), and as soon as I could read, I would often wait for her there while she would hop in to do a bit of work out of hours, or she’d go say hello to some colleagues while I was in seventh heaven in the children’s section.

The true version of the Little Mermaid is a tricky one to understand, because the ‘reward’ for hardship, unlike a lot of fairytales, isn’t ‘the prince’, ‘the money’, etc., but the chance to win an eternal soul….not even an eternal soul at tale’s end, but the opportunity to gain one. It fascinated me. And of course, Disney managed to put its own spin on it. But, looking at the ‘reality’ – first, you rescue somebody, but selflessly disappear before that somebody comes round to thank you. Then, you trade your beautiful voice for immeasurable pain, first in the transformation to gain a pair of legs, then every time you walk. Then, you put yourself through more and more pain, dancing to gain the same somebody’s love…until it becomes apparent that the somebody loves the person he *thinks* rescued him, even though that was you. Then, given the opportunity to kill him and reclaim your mermaid-ness, you choose to die. That is – I’m sorry to say – an awful lot of selflessness to sell to a kid! And, again I’m sorry to say – more self-sacrifice than seems viable. There are different kinds of strength at play here – being able to endure in the name of love, sure. However…the prince loves the ‘girl who he thinks rescued him’ – by sheer luck, she turns out to be the princess his family want him to marry. So…I’m imagining the pillow talk here. Prince: “Thank you for rescuing me when I nearly drowned.” Princes: “Erm…….sure……any time, love!” – did they genuinely never talk about his miraculous rescue? Is the princess – gentle though she is being described – a liar? And if you love somebody – love them so much that you’re willing to die for them – would you not want to make sure that they are able to have a relationship built on trust and truth, rather than on avoidance and/or outright lies?

However, even as a child, I remember that it was the details that caught me – the idea that mermaids, when they die, become sea foam. The complicated relationships of lesser characters – the mermaid’s sisters, for example.

But only in researching the fairy tale for this blog did I find out that Andersen originally had the mermaid simply dissolving into sea foam – no immortal soul, no reward at all. I think that would have been more consistent than a sudden morality ending – doomed to live for 300 years as a ‘daughter of the air’ – if she finds a well-behaved child, she can deduct a year, if she finds a naughty one, she will cry, and each tear will add time (depending on the version, a month or a day)…I think, at this point, at the very, very latest, I would have chosen to harden my heart, and not to shed tears because of a naughty little brat I know nothing about.

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The endless dance

I think my efforts this month could fairly be called Work in Progress as well. The result reflects a continued desire to make something kinetic and (if only vaguely!) functional and to combine glass with other materials. I have been wanting to work with copper for some time – the intention had been to make parts for a marble run, but I hope the very generous person who gave me a big paper bag full of copper pipes, solder, flux and wires for that purpose won’t mind too much that I’ve used some of it for something a bit different.

Making this was tricky for lots of reasons, but I’ve learned a huge amount (including, don’t heat copper after you’ve soldered it!) and I’d love to do more.

So, Katie Crackernuts. Well, I said I wanted to make a mobile for the baby and that is what I set out to do. The baby is a fairy baby, and it was apparently a common European belief that fairies forced young men and women to come and dance, causing them to become exhausted and waste away. The disease involved was consumption (or tuberculosis).

My dancing figures are circus acrobats, unable to stop, constantly twisting with the wind, their colour drained by the structure that holds them fast and will not let them go. I’m used to working in colour  – I don’t ‘do’ clear – but for this mobile, my colour has gone, leaving just an outline.

An endless dance

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Cracking a Nut

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun! I was overtaken by events yet again, and Plan A turned out to be too work-intensive. Never mind! So, my (rather tenuous) link this month is that Katie Crackernuts is, in essence, a problem solver. She perseveres, she doesn’t abandon her sister – or the prince – she hangs in there until she finds a solution.

So…no giving up. Not even when the first attempt of a technique, back in 2008, produced a rather interesting, blobby failure about the size of a baby’s palm. Thankfully, we pick up skills along the way. Now, there are people who are very good at this kind of thing, for example Carrie Fertig and Scott Chaseling, but still, for a first attempt, I’m quite pleased… might be more egg than nut (it was a walnut I was aiming for, lol!). In the spirit of this blog documenting a learning journey, I don’t mind showing it off, but I’ll let you know that it’ll only have its name in lights for a few minutes, just enough for a photo shoot (from its most ‘nutty’ side). I wouldn’t say that I ‘cracked’ a nut, but next time, I’ll be starting from a higher vantage point.

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