Explosions of Colour by Mollie Barrow

Featured Artists

We found Mollie Barrow on Facebook in the midst of a discussion on Pot Melts. Mollie cooks up her incredible glass creations in a quiet eco-village in rural Ireland with her 10-year old son Elliot and cats Bonnie and Oscar. She is continually inspired by the Northern Lights, and the rich swirls of color in her pieces prove it. We were blown away by her magical melts, and we know you will be too.

How did you get started in glass?

I've been in love with glass art since I visited the Murano Glass Factory in Venice when I was 16. I was hypnotised by the skill and speed those guys had working with molten glass, and I would have loved to pursue glass seriously from then. As is often the case, however, life had other plans and it wasn't until I was in my late 20s that I finally picked it up. I took a 16-week fusing course at the only teaching studio in the country, with the intention of making some nice jewellery for myself. Then I made some for friends, and then their friends. And it grew from there. I'm a natural rule breaker, and I was soon experimenting with glasses and kiln times and mixing things I shouldn't mix and getting up to all sorts of shenanigans. One of my favourite early panels came about from over-firing a piece of art glass, COE unknown, just to see what would happen. It bubbled and boiled and swirled and contorted, and I couldn't have been more pleased.

Who or what inspires you?

I live in Ireland, one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth. Never mind the 40 shades of green...we have more than a 100 shades. And that can be over the same mountainside as the sun chases clouds through the course of a single afternoon. But that's not what inspires me! I can't help but look further afield: to the Northern Lights, to the swirls of coloured gasses out in the cosmos, to the other worlds we create in our own minds. And no other glass artist encapsulates otherworldliness more than the fabulous Dale Chihuly. His fantastical of-this-place-and-yet-not blown sculptures have stuck with me since I first laid eyes on them more than 20 years ago. I wish I had a fraction of his talent and vision.

You seem to be an expert in creating unusual and beautiful pot melts, how did you become so skilled at this?

Thank you for saying so, but the truth is the kiln and the glass do most of the work. You can never quite predict what a pot melt is going to do, but if you understand the process you can visualise how the the glass might melt into its crucible. Of course, the actual result is a surprise every time.

Any tricks to getting that perfect melt?

Clear glass! I can't emphasise this enough. You can have the most beautiful combinations of colours imaginable, but if you don't have plenty of clear in there it will inevitably come out looking a bit flat at best or like a mud pie at worst. Clear glass separates colour and adds depth to your piece and means the difference between having something quite pretty and something that mesmerises you and pulls you deep into it. I also almost never use pots in my pot melts. I prefer to use high temperature wire, wound tightly and randomly around a drop mould or firebrick dams, with glass stacked on top. This means the glass will fall differently every time, depending on how you've stacked your glass.

You also make some really beautiful ornaments, jewelry and sculptures, which of these creations are you most passionate about?

My signature style is the Spleodar necklace (pictured below left). 'Spleodar' is the Irish word for 'explosion of colour' or 'fireworks', and I make many of these in different glasses. The dichroic Spleodars are particularly eye-popping. But I think my masterpiece has to be the Nautilus necklace (above left). It is huge and heavy and has enough fine silver around it to sink a ship. I love it.

How have other hobbies or interests influenced your work?

I've always had an interest in felted wool art, and especially the unique Irish take on felted wool design. I'm still only learning, but I am increasingly incorporating felt into my finished pieces. I haven't seen much work with glass and felt together, and some of my newer pieces are starting to get noticed because they are so unusual.

Your photos are also beautiful. Do you dabble in photography? If so, do you have any tips for shooting glass?

Would you believe all my photos are taken in the scrapyard of the mechanic's garage behind my house? Possibly the most unscenic spot in all of Ireland! But I found a couple of feet of 17th century mossy stone wall to use as a backdrop for the jewellery, bowls and smaller ornaments. I stand on the front bumper of a roofless 1970s fiat to get those perfect shots! My product shots have been helped enormously by moving the operation outdoors. Until I did so, no matter what I did I just couldn't get a decent photograph of any of my glass work. Natural light is key. And never EVER use a flash. This is one rule that even I won't break. A flash washes out colour and depth and you'll never capture your glass perfectly with it on. I love the photo of the Cosmic Flotsam bowl (bottom right). The bowl is a common enough design. It's just my take on the coral bowl that everyone has tried, but I think the combination of a perfectly clear day, the colour, and the angle of the photo make it something special.

Any shows or upcoming exhibitions you're excited about?

For the month of May, I'm in an exhibition of Tipperary artists at The Craft Granary Gallery here in Ireland and I have a number of shows coming up this summer. But what I am most excited about is a series of children's glass workshops I'm doing in July as part of the Cloughjordan Festival. I've never taught anything before so I'm not quite sure if I'm very brave or very very foolish! Either way, it'll be an adventure and I suppose that's rather the point of it all.

Mollie also owns a bookshop and caf, though she recently stepped away from the day-to-day management of the place to concentrate on her glass work full time. You can contact her at http://molliebarrow.ie, http://spleodar.etsy.com, http://facebook.com/spleodarglass

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Jannon G.  •  May 22, 2011
This is way cool! I teach glass arts and have tons of scrap glass. Going to look into this.
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Michelle C.  •  May 21, 2011
Inspiring and humble- The idea of using high temp wire intrigues. As a teacher of young children- you'll never know what hit you. You'll get more ideas and insights than you could have imagined. Bravo for passing it on!


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