Studio visit - interview with Ian Mowbray
There is a magnetic voyeuristic pull with Ian Mowbray’s painstakingly executed glass pieces - the scale and detail draws you in and the subject matter can repel.
For a large portion of his thirty-year plus making history, Mowbray has unapologetically been exploring a physicality of what it means to be human, expounding the lustier and murkier aspects of love, loss, death and carnality.
In this video Mowbray discusses some of the challenges which have faced him during his making history, his pioneering ‘plunge casting’ technique and the conceptual and fabrication processes behind his Souvenirs of My Family series.
IAN MOWBRAY: I'm a glass maker and have been for 30 years. I started off doing leadlight went through to kiln working, had a business with Vicki Torr for a long time, and now I'm carving glass.
I developed a technique of plunge-casting. You cast a little figure and then decorate it, paint it, sand it, using fireproof paints, and then make another container full of glass -heat that up to very hot, 1100 degrees, and then have the object in another kiln. You take one out, take the figure out of one kiln, because over 500 degrees glass can't break, but it still holds it's shape, so you could take the figure out, plunge it into this container full of glass like honey. Push it in. Push it right down. Turn the kiln down over a week, and then at the end of that week you'd pull it out and hopefully there would be an object in the middle of a block of glass. Sometimes there would be total failures. Once it went in at 1100 degrees it was just out of control. So whatever happened, happened. So some were total failures and some were fantastically better than you could ever conceive of making.
I love objects. In museums and galleries I am always drawn to little sculptures and big sculptures more than the tableware or functional pieces.
So now I'm doing a body of work called my families souvenirs. Which is basically, instead of having the photo album of your family. I like to play with things like sex and death. They are all sort of taboo subjects and a big taboo subject was always family. So the family souvenirs are basically a series of specimen jars with carved body parts in them. Keeping all the pieces that have been cut off the body for you families history. Instead of the photo album.
I've loved glass and worked with glass for 30 years. So I have collected glass. I have collected all these chunks of crystal, all ex-army glass from the 1940s and as a raw material its fantastic. Its bubble free. I have enough of it to make a serious body of work of these pieces. And so I just pick a piece that will fit the shape I want to make and that will eventually fit in the jar and so then I just start with the diamond saw, cutting it down, roughing it, and from then with a 100 grit diamond wheel I grind it down, and then onto smaller wheels, and then it goes to dentist drill and then hand files. Usually I can do them in a month or two, but sometime they take a lot longer.
My work has never sold very well. Which, back in the beginning, was a real problem. I felt like I should sell pieces. But then after a while, when pieces didn't sell, I came to the idea that I can really do whatever like with these pieces. So then my work got a lot tougher, ruder, harder, darker, which was fantastic. It was very good for me, very good for the work I think.
Basically all my work has been about questioning. And all my work has been basically images in images, in objects. I like to draw people in so that they will come across a room, see a block or a snowdome, look into it, and hopefully get a bit scared and jump back a bit and then laugh and come back to look at it again.