and the fastest way to develop your glassmaking skills..
The Kiln Formed Glass Club Studios was the brainchild of Liz Sparkes, (former owner and founder of Glassification) and it is now coming into it’s 9th year! (No we can’t believe that either!!!)
Running a successful glass workshop specialising in splashbacks meant Liz hardly ever got round to trying out new techniques. Books languished on the shelves, whilst ebooks and tutorials cluttered up the hard drive, waiting for that moment to “get around to it”! She knew she probably wasn’t alone!
Liz also missed her time on CGG 32 week course, where every week she should meet up with other glass enthusiasts and develop her skills, learning as much from the other students as she did from her (albeit excellent!) tutor! It was the one day of the week where she had the time and space to try new things.
So, as soon as she moved to large enough premises, she developed the idea further, launching the first Club in 2016
A Low Cost Way to Learn…
The unique thing about KFGC Studios is that is just that, a group of people learning together. There is no (one!) tutor. This way of learning, called peer to peer learning, can be incredibly rewarding. Within any one group of glass artists there will be someone who knows something about something.. by pooling our knowledge, and by researching articles, tutorials and ebooks freely available on the web, we create a rich learning environment for all. The magic is in the group… hard to explain, but magical to experience!
And the best thing is, it doesn’t matter what your current skill level, our experience has been even newbies have something to share, and seasoned professionals learn a lot too!
And of course with no tutor fees to pay, it became a very cost effective way to improve.
What Techniques to We Cover?
The club is very democratic, the members decide what we are doing! However over the last years we found that the favourite topics were popular with new members
- “Working with Powders and Enamels” covering techniques such as wafers, crackle, landscapes, and 3D imagery.
- “Drop Vessels”
- “Working with Flow” pattern bars, pot melts, raking and other ways to use the way glass moves in the kiln to create interesting effects.
- “Cold Working “ (stop sighing! lol) covering sandblasting, engraving etching and cold fusion (aka glueing!) (the surprising winner for new members every year!!)
- Casting and mould making
The important point is members take responsibility for their own learning, so if the topic for the weekend isn’t up your street, just use the community Facebook group to see if anyone else wants to do something else.. the Somerset workshop is big enough, and we have enough kilns to accommodate all sorts of things going on at once! (and often do!)
So, how does it work…
Each Kiln Formed Glass Club Studio meets 4 times a year at weekends (currently in Somerset but others are planned for the future ) .. and each weekend has a ”topic” to be explored. This could be a product (such as “powders”) or a technique (such as drop vessels or vitrograph). But the unique thing about the Club is that MEMBERS decide! Liz may help by making suggestions, but ultimately Club members discuss what they want to do between them, and then we make it happen!
For 2023 we will be continuing with 2 very distinct types of groups which have been incredibly rewarding over the last 3 years, (yes, even during Covid times!!) .. Explorers and Adventurers. Simply put, Explorers are having fun exploring different techniques, get to make a whole raft of different things, based on learning our craft…whilst the Adventurers (who have much more experience) are working towards finding their artistic voice, and holding exhibitions! So, if you’re new to Club the Explorers will be where you want to start! But if you really want to explore what you may be capable of as an artist, then Adventurers is for you.
We know one of the biggest benefits of membership has been the strong bonds which build up in a group, which month on month help to enrich the learning experience, and members keep in touch with each other between weekends too. Many members have found friends for life, and it enriches all of our experiences.
Meeting up 4 weekends a year makes it very do-able, even in the most hectic schedules… and we avoid school holidays, and stop long before the madness of Christmas craft fairs kick in!
Demand for the club is high, and particularly so now as Liz is only offering 2 groups for 2023 so it’s really important to reserve your place asap! And to make that easier, you can just pay a deposit now, and the balance just before your first weekend.
What does membership cost? A year’s membership is just £500, giving you 4 weekends, Online KFGC Membership, and use of the facilities at a reduced rate (subject to availability)
Can I pay in instalments for KFGC Studios? Yes. You can pay in 2 instalments if you wish, a deposit of £250 to secure your membership, with the balance due by your first weekend meet up.
Do I have to sign up for 4 weekends? Rather than thinking in terms of the weekends, it’s better to think in terms of an annual membership, which offers you 4 weekend meet ups with other members AND full access to Kiln Formed Glass Club Online! As well as the weekends, membership also offers use of the workshop and kiln hire at a reduced rate, as well as discounts on products that can be bought in bulk for the members. As a member you will also be offered the chance to enrol in Glassification courses before they are offered elsewhere. The club is a community, and we do everything we can to support that community.
Is there somewhere to stay locally? Absolutely. This part of Somerset is full of hostelries of all kinds, from swanky hotels to reasonably priced B&B’s, and a Travel Lodge just a few hundred meters away. There are plenty of camp sites if you have van, and there is also the option of AirBnB. so plenty to choose from. To search use the post code TA19 9PS (Ilminster, Somerset)
I don’t drive. Can I get to the workshop easily? Ilminster is a bit out on a limb, however if you can get yourself to Taunton, (railway or bus station) Liz is happy to pick you up from there. Alternatively there may be someone else coming from your area who is willing to car share, so let Liz know if you need help getting to and from, and she will try and find a way for you. Over the last 8 years we have had members from Inverness, to the Isle of Wight and Ireland too, so it’s doable for everyone!
Are materials included in the club fees? Some are, but not glass. In principle the rule is, if you can take it home with you, it’s extra. So the Studio provides all the consumables for each topic required, fibre paper, thin fire, glues, glass cleaning materials etc, and most of the equipment required (i.e. sandblaster, various kilns, cold working equipment, tile saws, grinders etc) Sometimes it helps if members bring some of their own equipment too, (i.e. kiln posts, or favourite cutting tools). We use the community group page to discuss what is needed for the next weekend , if anything.
I’m not sure how it can work without a tutor… does anyone learn anything properly? The answer is yes, absolutely, but it is harder to explain HOW! It can be chaos on occasions with up to 10 – 12 people with different ideas on how to attempt something, but on the whole it’s truly inspiring to see what you can achieve without someone showing you step by step how to do it “their way”.. in fact we could argue that we learn more in many ways. Take the drop vessel weekend as an example. We met having researched many different ways of creating drop vessels, freely available on the internet. Then 20 people (in 2 groups) set about trying out the various ways. By the end of the 2 weekends we had learned SO much from these 40 odd examples.. if we’d had a tutor, we would only have learned one way… Think of the club as a structured supportive way to experiment, and you get the picture…
What are the dates?
For 2023 we are offering just one Explorers groups as follows. (Additional dates may be offered for any missed, or at an additional fee if non have been missed) depending on need.)
25th & 26th March
22nd & 23rd April
8th & 9th July
30th Sept & 1st Oct.
I have a lot of experience, could I join the Adventurers instead?
That may be possible, but in principle we believe (from experience!) it’s better for people to get a real understanding of what KFGC Studios is all about, how it works, and to build relationships first, before moving into the far more experimental Adventurers Group.. but please feel free to email Liz and you can talk through the options with her (email@example.com)
I’m in! How do I join?
To enrol just follow this link.
Got a burning question? Then just email on firstname.lastname@example.org .
And here are a few shots of some of the fun we’ve had over the last 8 years!