Designer makers, Christina Greenhalgh and Jane Glibbery met at Chelsea College of Art and Design and both shared a love for glass. After they successfully finished their Public Art Degree at Chelsea, they planned setting up a glass workshop together. They would share in the expense to get glass equipment (returning to Chelsea to use the collage facilities could only go on so long!!) and sell their little mini mirrors with slogans on. That was going to be their “bread and butter” and in a nutshell, that was the original grand plan!
Christina recalls, “When we first moved in to the workshop in November 1994, all our friends clubbed together to help us be as economical as possible. We created tables out of inch thick MDF boards that we varnished and held up with builder’s trestles. We were given throw away desks, chairs and cupboards and found an old sink. It was a real mix of stuff to help get us started. We spurred each other on and I remember often working 16 hour days, mostly with my head stuck in a sandblaster! It was love and fear of failure and maybe a kind of arrogance or hope, I’m not sure. Looking back, I remember we actually only had one computer at the time and would have to take turns using it!"
Passionate primarily with painting and then discovering glass as a means to invoke a mood, Christina produced some of her own individual art pieces that now reside in both public and private spaces and collections. Both designers were interested in using cold glass in a very different way than the traditional stained glass method and just enjoyed the techniques involved with glass and the making process, combined with the ability to express themselves through visual means.
Their big studio break was in 1995 when they won a pitch to do all three sides of the Harvey Nichols Christmas window display with metal artist Sophie Marsham. It was at the time when Mary Portas was the running the visual merchandising department and an acted as an incredible launching pad. Published anonymously in every main National Newspaper, The Sunday Times wrote, "Who creates these incredible, ephemeral works of art?"...
The success of this became a great endorsement for the 25 year olds who went on to create centerpieces and furniture for interiors throughout the UK, including yachts, private schools and homes and specialist department store refits. Using glass they created original ways of displaying jewellry to making illustrations of mermaids into embossed glass centerpieces surrounded by Lalique and stunning full length layered glass window panels for doorways in to exquisite private interior spaces.
Their passion, single-mindedness and naivety were all factors that drove them to the next cross road. At Christmas they sold off a great deal of their valuable 19mm left over glass from the large commissioned works, by making pieces in to small paperweights and tokens sandblasted with deeply carved hearts and stars. They created interesting samples as ideas for bar tops and windows that they also showed interior designer, that they started to realise were inviting objects on their own. With these new objet s'art, the two designer makers, set up a stall in Greenwich market and always promptly sold out. This led them to find a small growing factory in China that would work alongside them to produce their small glass objects. Armed with a loan from the bank to invest in stock, and a grant from The Princes Trust, their ideas in glass started to become produced in the far east, from the original mini mirrors with slogans on and the signature red heart token, to now over 2000 designs. They were lucky in that the same small factory in China that they started with is the very same factory they use today.
Christina went solo in 2009 and in 2014 started to produce all their personalized products in house. “We invested in a laser machine which is such an incredible piece of technology. Having one of these in our studio allows us to deliver personalized pieces really quickly to our customers, and more generally invites people to be creative and say things in their own words, mark an event, say something meaningful, or funny, but participate in the process of making something more meaningful by choosing a relevant design and size and finding the right words… Some of the messages people write to each other are so incredibly heart-warming it can’t help but give you faith in humankind.
We also love to experiment with all kinds of ideas and occasionally even step out of the glass world (ooooh!).
Having the retail website means we can try things out and see if the desirability we see in a new object, is something that other people appreciate too. It allows us the luxury to simply be creative without investing a fortune in stock. It means that sometimes the packaging is not as polished as it might have been when having work manufactured in greater volume, but it’s such an important process to make sure that we are not just producing things we like, but that other people like too!”
Rozsika Parker said, "The embroiderer sees a positive reflection of herself in her work and, importantly, in the reception of her work by others." It's about feeling a part of the world we live in and being able to connect to it through making and inviting others to become a part of the process of really making something that we begin, their own. This can be true not only of sharing the idea to do a personalised piece, but also of choosing something that you feel someone might love. What did you choose, what triggered your thought process, how did it make you feel giving it, make them feel receiving it, where is it kept or in some cases, how is it used or displayed? Is it so personal that it's kept private, only to remind you of a moment, and not to share openly; or is it up on the mantlepiece inviting people to comment?
Glass remains at the core of Spaceform’s work and originality and high level of craftsmanship are key factors for each of the pieces. The passion and attention to detail to create beautiful objects really sets Spaceform apart from other organizations. The touch and feel of a Spaceform piece is like brail, each piece feels carved and the paint work is applied to feel as if it was always a part of the object rather than something that can be scratched off the surface easily.
Most importantly the pieces resonate as a little piece of goodness that exist as an object representing individual and separate emotional connections between people all over the world.
If you are just starting out and have questions to ask, please feel free to contact [email protected]