Student engineers a window to the past
Released: Friday 22nd June 2012 at 11:40
A STUDENT has drawn on her family’s passion for preserving vintage vehicles and steam engines as the inspiration behind her artwork at an annual North East exhibition.
Helen Stafford’s work is part of the Glass and Ceramics Degree Show, an exhibition at the National Glass Centre which showcases the talents of final-year University of Sunderland students.
The 22-year-old has created a number of screen-printed glass artworks replicating photographs on a wall at her family home, associating the ‘Staffords’ with machinery and engineering, dating back generations.
Born and raised in the North East, once a thriving hub of heavy industry, it is perhaps no surprise that Helen has developed an interest in this area.
With an extensive family history in farming, you could say the mechanical is in her blood, as Helen was brought up amidst a variety of machines and has taken an active interest in matters of preservation. Though this interest is widespread, her work focuses on her home life and particularly steam engines she grew up with.
Helen, who graduates with a degree in Glass and Ceramics next month, said: “The majority of my work is based on theory and I have drawn on my family’s interest of restoring vintage vehicles as inspiration
“I grew up around agriculture and machinery and developed a love of preservation and express that through my love of drawing.”
She added: “The wall of photographs I have replicated for the Degree Show is in one of the farm sheds. It started off as a wall with a couple of images and has just grown and grown, there are now about 40 images hanging there!
“My piece - Age Shall Not Weary Them - is a scaled down version of that.”
Helen, who also works as a costume demonstrator at Beamish Museum, believes that in order to demonstrate the importance of preservation to an audience, she must explain the emotional attachment people develop with machines, particularly those considered obsolete.
The use of screen-printed glass represents an attempt to encapsulate imagery permanently, therefore preserving it.
By featuring drawings of her family photographs, she hopes to encourage an appreciation for the past and an understanding of the significance it can bear to a person.
Other artworks to feature in the 2012 Degree Show range from highly complex large scale structures to the most delicate of ceramic designs, reflecting personal journeys.
There are wide-ranging themes running from nature to industry, obesity to flight, there is even a memorial to honour all the horses which were killed in the First World War created by student Alice Hounslow.
Cate Watkinson, a glass artist, curator and lecturer at the University, said: “We have a really strong and varied show this year; it’s glass and ceramics, materials as we use every year, but this time we’ve used every last bit of equipment in the department to support the students’ works.
“It’s also a very diverse exhibition from horses’ bones to a large scale glass structure, I’m very proud of all the students. What the exhibition shows is that these students were not afraid to work incredibly hard to get what they want.”
She added: “We’ve changed the degree programme slightly, so the students are also getting a lot of digital knowledge as well as traditional skills; they’re doing everything from glass blowing, throwing pots and creating architectural glass, but also getting design skills working on the computer.”
The exhibition is open to the public this week at the National Glass Centre.
To view all the artists works, log on to: http://bit.ly/KmIdJ8