Meet the Maker: Laura Smith

Glassblower Laura Smith draws on her childhood home in Bermuda as the inspiration for her exquisite glass creations, blended with precious metals

Laura smith glass blower artist

What’s your background?
I’m based in London, but grew up in Bermuda, which is where I saw glassblowing for the first time – I found it mesmerising. I decided to study art and design, so I came to the UK in 2003 to do my foundation year at Chelsea College of Arts and then studied glassblowing at Edinburgh College of Art.

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Can you tell us about your early designs?
At college, my first attempts at glass were tiny pieces that involved lots of different processes, from layering colour in the hot shop to cutting and fusing. Art school glass was more about concepts and exploring ideas and having the freedom to develop them.

Why did you choose to blend glass with precious metals?
Initially, it was for a college project inspired by the Lascaux cave paintings of ancient animals. I was captivated by the way copper reacted to the hot glass, turning black on the surface and orange and red on the interior. I loved playing with different ways of working the copper into the glass. Later, I started using silver and gold.

Handmade glass door handles.
Handmade glass door handles.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on orders from professional trade fair Maison et Objet, where I debuted my Cascade lighting collection. It’s a grouping of pendants in a chandelier, arranged in an organic flow of water droplets.

‘I became addicted to playing with different ways of working the copper into the glass, expanding at a later stage to using silver and gold.’

What inspires you?
I sketch ideas and take inspiration from different materials – textiles, concrete and wood. I often return to themes revolving around water and how the landscape of our world is influenced by extreme weather, storms, the ocean or snow.

How has your childhood in Bermuda influenced your glass work?
The light and colours are so vibrant in Bermuda and, growing up on an island, the elements are very much a part of everyday life. Hurricanes, storms and water shortages all highlight a beautiful yet fragile ecosystem, which inspires my work.

Laura takes inspiration from her childhood island home for her multi-texturedblown-glass vessels.
Laura takes inspiration from her childhood island home for her multi-textured
blown-glass vessels.

Talk us through your process
To make a Cascade pendant, I gather molten glass from the furnace on a blowing iron – it’s like honey at this point. I blow through the iron and, once a bubble appears and the glass is the right temperature, I apply the metal to the surface of the glass. Then I gather more glass over the bubble and metal leaf. The next stage is to shape it with a wooden block and wet newspaper, which allows me to get my hands close to the glass and mould it. I use my tools to create a weakness in the neck of the glass, where, with a tap against it, the piece is transferred to the solid iron. Then it’s a mater of heating the glass, shaping the neck and sizing the piece so the light fitting can be placed inside.

What are your future plans?
I’m currently developing a new lighting range using hot cast glass and cast metal. I’d also like to establish an interactive glassblowing studio, which could include different disciplines, though it’s very much at the beginning stages.

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See more of Laura’s glass designs at lauraelizabethglass.com. Prices start from £75.