Gillies Jones

"being makers is normal for us"

Who are you and what do you make?

We’re partners in life and art. We blow glass and engrave the surface, to make one-off pieces, limited editions and studio runs. We’ve been in our studio for 22 years in rural North Yorkshire and we sell most of our work ourselves. We specialise in vessels, bowls in particular. People love our work for its colour, purity of form, its interplay with light, surface design and the sheer finesse of the glassmaking.

Who does what?

Stephen blows, and adds layers of colour including cameo work. Kate engraves and removes the colour to create surface designs.

Why are you makers?

We’ve never known anything else. To us it’s normal to be a maker. Making is the easy bit – we love it. But making a living is a challenge even after 22 years. Our focus on new work is what drives us on. Our breakthrough was a British Council Touring exhibition called Home Sweet Home and a commission to make a piece for the V&A permanent collection. We want to keep on making, developing our work, and have a living from our craft.

Inspirations?

Materials and process – and the elemental beauty of the place in which we live and work.

Tell us about your studio

It’s a listed stone building, an old blacksmith’s forge. We live just 20 metres away in the village of Rosedale Abbey, in the middle of the North York Moors. Stephen’s father put this derelict building back into use and we were his tenant for years.

And your tools?

Kate loves her Japanese Craft knife – practical, light and easy to use, as close as I can get to drawing with a knife. Stephen loves his gripper – a tool to push blown glass pieces together and open the rim. He also favours his Jim Moore cup jacks (made in Seattle), the first tool to touch the glass on the blowing iron which makes the rim of each finished bowl.

Where do your tools come from?

Highly prized are our Ivan Smith diamond shears. Ivan was a Midlands blacksmith, who made beautiful glassmaking tools. Sadly he could never afford an apprentice and when he passed away so did his skills. Now, we buy our glassmaking hand tools from Italy made by Carlo Donna or from the USA made by Jim Moore.

Words of advice?

There’s never been a better time to make a living with your hands. It’s a good life.