Peter Layton’s passion for creating exquisite studio glass can be seen up close at Bermondsey Street’s London Glassblowing
Within seconds of emerging from Bermondsey Street railway tunnel you can enter a whole new world full of colour, amazing skill and wonder. Step into London Glassblowing on Bermondsey Street and drink in the atmosphere as your gaze moves from the shelves exhibiting perfect contemporary glass pieces to the glowing furnaces at the back, where craftsmen grapple with molten lava.
With its gallery and furnaces in the same room, and a viewing area where you can watch the ancient craft of glassblowing, London Glassblowing is a destination you can’t afford to miss. While some visitors come to London Bridge specifically to visit the premises, others wander in unplanned.
Peter Layton, the artist and owner of the studio, says: “Passers-by are drawn-in by the vivacious colour, inviting atmosphere and cheerful welcome to discover a treasure trove of artistic expression in glass unlike anything on offer elsewhere in the UK.”
Not only is the glass vibrant in colour, its detail is exquisite. With Peter inspired by nature, other artists and exhibition themes and commissions, his work is varied. Visitors are stunned when they see what Peter and his team of glassblowers are capable of.
“Visitors are impressed by the magical/alchemical process of turning a blob of molten glass into an object of desire, an expression of deep artistic intent – and the fact this is going on in the centre of London,” says Peter. “Their jaws drop when they realise what we can do/make with this extraordinary medium, which is too often taken for granted.”
Over milllenia glassmaking has been a secretive trade, passed from father to son and carried out behind closed doors. Studio glass is the name given to the small scale creative/artistic glass production of a workshop or an individual – and the global studio glass movement began during the 1960’s when an American potter, Harvey Littleton, inspired artist craftsmen to experiment with this expressive medium, which was previously limited to factory production.
Peter warns the art and craft of glassblowing is in danger of being lost in the West but hopefully by providing London’s only public access glassblowing studio, and running classes for individuals and groups, glassblowing can only gain more fans.
Peter says: “Our classes are for complete beginners – a wide range of people of different ages and personalities take part, people who are captivated by the magical possibilities of the glass making process and want to experience it for themselves. By all accounts our students are totally ‘blown away’ by the day!”
With increasing numbers of visitors coming and going, Peter is pleased the studio moved to Bermondsey Street in 2009. Peter says: “Bermondsey Street has something of the feel of Soho, New York, with its village atmosphere, amazing restaurants, excellent galleries and quirky shops. I like its vibrancy and ‘buzz’ and the sense of an area on the ‘up’.”
In 2015, Peter plans to create two to three more series of work but reveals this can takes months of experimentation. Existing series will continue to evolve and there will be Open House shows and exhibitions including ‘Young Masters’ and a ‘Collaboration’ show where glass artists will link up with another artist in glass or a different material.
With fans including Elton John and the Duchess of Kent there is no doubt Peter’s work will continue to astonish and we’ll see more striking works in 2015. So next time you’re wandering down Bermondsey Street, make time to explore this treasure trove of beautiful glass pieces.
Find out more
London Glassblowing is at 62-66 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UD. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm (although there is limited glassblowing to watch at lunchtime). Admission is free and large groups can book ahead.