The use of glass in art has a very long history. Egyptians used glass beads in their jewellery 5000 years ago and the 12th century ‘Golden Age’ of stained glass led to huge awe-inspiring stained glass windows like the famous rose windows in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Henry Willet, one of the American craftsmen who revived the art of stained glass in the 19th century talked passionately about ‘the lust and the lure and the love of stained glass.’
And when you see some of Emily Hatzar’s stained glass pieces you can see what he meant: the texture and shine of the glass brings a new dimension to each of her incredible portraits of current icons like Frida Kahlo, Amy Winehouse, and David Bowie. There is something very special about owning a piece of art where you can see the work of the craftsperson in the piece and stained glass is exactly that- each item is unique, each has its own specific colouring and catches the light in a different way.
Emily, who lives and works in Walthamstow, is the designer and maker behind the contemporary stained glass company Crafty Glass. She is one of a handful of craftspeople in the UK combining the centuries old tradition of stained glass making with modern design ideas, and by bringing the two together she creates beautiful, witty, affordable (£8.50-£70) art that stands out in a room. My Dad used to make stained glass lampshades in our basement and I loved how warm and glowing they were, I’m so glad that artists like Emily are rethinking the tradition to keep it alive and relevant.
How would you describe your work?
Contemporary stained glass.
How did you get started?
A couple of years ago I dislocated my knee on a night out which unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which way you look at it) resulted in me having to take two months off work. I felt myself going mad with boredom, so asked my Dad who’s been working with glass for a few years to teach me, it all went from there!
Do you have a daily routine? Can you describe it for us?
I always make sure I’m up, ready and in the studio by 9 am. It really throws my day off if I get in there late! I make a cup of tea, put the radio on (always Radio X) and get on with whatever is on my to do list. When working from home I find it can be really easy to work through the day forgetting to eat or even sit down, so I make sure I give myself a solid lunch break too.
What keeps you going every day?
At the moment a lot of my work is commission based, so clients’ reactions to their final pieces is what keeps me going.
What are the main challenges that you face in your work?
Glass is a really tough material to work with and, understandably, clients don’t always realise that there are certain limitations to their designs. Altering designs whilst trying to keep the client happy can be really difficult.
What three pieces of advice would you give anyone wanting to do similar work?
1. Don’t waste your money a cheap soldering iron, invest in a good one.
2. Don’t be afraid of hurting yourself. It’s bound to happen at some point and soon you won’t even realise you’ve cut yourself till your pattern is covered in blood.
3. Have patience. Some pieces can take days to finish and you’ll really regret rushing it if you’re unhappy with the final product.