Portfolio Building @ North Lands Creative Glass

Bethany Lane tells us about her experience of a weekend visual arts workshop at North Lands Creative Glass in Lybster.

Thanks to my involvement with Time to Shine and HYAH, I was offered the chance to partake in a Glass workshop at the North Lands Creative Glass in Lybster. As well as having the opportunity to experiment with a totally new medium, the workshop also involved portfolio preparation, which was perfect timing as my university portfolio deadlines were coming up.

Furthermore, the whole project was funded by the Highland Youth Arts Hub, which was hugely beneficial to me, as living in the rural highlands makes it very difficult to attend workshops such as these – and they often cost far more than I can afford.

On the 13th of November, I travelled to Inverness via train where I met the rest of the lucky selection and the minibus hired by North Lands. The group of us were from all over the Highlands; Skye, Inverness, Fort William, Tain and Lybster itself. I knew one or two faces from various art-related events, but for the most part we were a bus full of strangers. Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by the staff and shown our impressive accommodation, before sitting down to dinner and a chat about what the course would entail.

Over the two weekends, we were taught techniques such as etching and cutting glass, introduced to materials like Frit (a mixture of silica and fluxes used to make glass) and played with machines such as the sand blaster. We learned about how the level of heat and amount of time spent in the Kiln affected the texture and colour of the glass, and all the ways in which everything we were using could kill us.

The first weekend was about applied glass work. We etched sheets of glass and used them to print with. The second weekend was more about the glass work itself, with an underlying theme of self-portraiture. By the end of the weekend, we had all made a clear glass piece, a cream glass piece with black Frit, a number of small sample coloured Frit pieces, and our personal final piece which combined all the skills we’d gained with the theme.

In addition to the glasswork, we also had a model come in to do life-drawing, a sculptor to help us try our hand at the basics of wire and clay sculpting, and a 4th year art student from Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee to speak to us about what Art School is really like, and what it takes to get there.

Furthermore, several guest speakers came in to talk to us about their trade. We had textile artists, landscape artists, designers, sculptors, glasswork professionals, and of course, the staff at the centre who spoke to us on a more personal level about their experiences with the arts.

The atmosphere was incredibly warm and friendly. Arriving for the second weekend in April felt like coming home, especially as by that point I knew everyone and was looking forward to meeting with them again. I would strongly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in applying for Art School, as the whole experience was extremely helpful, as well as thoroughly enjoyable. The skills, knowledge and insight gained was only part of it – spending a weekend with like-minded people, making connections and discovering all the places art can take you was just as important.

Overall, this workshop was fantastic – every young artist should go!