No secret here: among our Evil Pleasures, Dan and I count single malt whiskies in the Top Ten, just slightly below kiln-glass, Scotland and our cat Annie.

So, no surprise that I was hugely excited a few months ago when a Google Alert took me to the blog of a major Scottish artist making a window for a Highland distillery, using Bullseye frits.

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I’ve watched Scottish-based artist Amanda Simmons’ work for the last few years as she developed her practice in kilnformed glass. Her singular style, exquisite color choices and the coherency of her line are unmistakable – as they obviously were to the judges who presented her The Gold Award at ORIGIN 2010: The London Craft Fair.

“London, September 29, 2010:  Amanda Simmons, based in Corsock in Dumfries and Galloway, has taken first prize in the Crafts Council and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Export award 2010. Over 200 contemporary craft makers exhibiting at this year’s Origin show were eligible to apply. This award provides the successful applicant with the opportunity to explore a chosen overseas market and get bespoke export advice from a personal International Trade Advisor.

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The difference between a blog and Facebook?

On a blog, no one talks to you. Ask a question? Good luck. On Facebook everyone is so busy yabbering that your questions are drowned out by all the other chatter. But more often than not, people respond. Silly stuff sometimes. But at least you’re heard.

It’s kind of like speaking on stage compared to blathering in the local pub. And with Facebook you don’t really need a prepared speech. Anything seems to fly.

Get AWAY from me with that stupid camera – go embarrass some of your human friends!

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I know, I know. Late again.

My American summer got buried in art fairs, our new Santa Fe resource center and just keeping my head above the flood waters.

I’ve just landed again in the Northern Highlands of Scotland – after an inspiring visit to the International Festival of Glass in Stourbridge – and elated to be back in the place where I and 13 artists left our hearts earlier this summer.

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It’s hard to turn around in northern Scotland without bumping into a church. They seem – to me at least – nearly as ubiquitous as the sheep. This is probably due to the numerous religious schisms that resulted in denominations of Catholic, Presbyterian, Free Church, United Free, Wee Free and even Wee Wee Free erecting or maintaining an increasing number of places of worship for an ever-decreasing population.

To be honest, I’m not sure which faith St Mary’s represented. Like so many churches in the area today, it is derelict, despite the fact that it sits prominently on the main street of Lybster village and quite close to the studios of North Lands Creative Glass.

Like many decommissioned church properties, its gutted shell was sold in recent years, but due to extreme costs, not yet refurbished. This has not stopped years of artists at North Lands from exploring its bones and leaving their delicate marks on its mysterious interior.

Like Harbour House, St Mary’s is a testament to the indomitable spirit of a place that, while tumbling down, still has the power to lift souls.

This June some of those souls looked at St Mary’s, as they did Harbour House, with an eye to “kiln-glass in the built environment”. Their visions ranged from topographic renderings to site-specific sound and light installations to adventuresome plots for community-building, all anchored in the conviction that art – and glass as an especially evocative medium – can reconnect the lost threads of time and place.

NEXT: The Artists-in-Residence

The traditional houses of northeast Scotland are typically stone, intensely practical, and hauntingly lonely. “Harbour House” is almost iconic in its reflection of the style, a simple, squat, double-gabled building with chimneys on both ends and symmetrical window/door placement on the front that sometimes gives the lime-washed houses a Friendly Ghost face.

That this particular house is perched so tenuously on the steep hill above the village harbour adds power to the metaphor. There is a precariousness to life in this place. A building like Harbour House has survived – for various reasons. Many others in the area have not.

That Parrish and Klein selected Harbour House as one of the two case studies for this residency insured that the participants would have rich material to mine as they considered the place of kiln-glass in the built environment.

And mine they would. But Harbour House was just one way in.

Next: The Other.

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In June artist Steve Klein was teaching in La Granja, Spain. By July he had led a professional artist-in-residence program at the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. It’s August now and he’s co-teaching a workshop with Kaffe Fassett at North Lands Creative Glass here in Scotland. This fall he’ll be at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem.

Steve claims to have bad knees. I can’t imagine how much faster he’d move with good ones.

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How many of you know that 2009 is the Year of Homecoming in Scotland?

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It sure felt that way last weekend when many of us gathered for two sensational events: a benefit whisky tasting hosted by William Grant & Sons distillers on Saturday night and a panel discussion the following day by four artists who have taught and studied at my favorite school: North Lands Creative Glass.

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A lot of Bullseye’s gallery team spent the last week on the edge of our seats.

2006 e-merge finalist Robin Provart-Kelly was battling a coven of kiln witches in order to get a piece to us in time for SOFA Chicago. After what seemed like a lifetime of hell in the hot zone, we got an email from Robin with a 20 point EUREKA and a picture of this amazing pâte de verre work.

Robin Provart-Kelly, “Bounty”, 2008. Pâte de verre and kilnformed glass. 3.5″ x 8.25″ x 8″

It’s missed our outbound SOFA truck, so it’s traveling solo to meet up with us when we get to Chicago. We’re all elated – and minus fingernails – to be able to show Robin’s work for the first time at the fair.

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I’ve been back in Caithness, Scotland at North Lands Creative Glass for a few weeks this summer…awed as ever by the quality of the light here at the 58th parallel and equally awed by the glass people I meet in this remote corner of Britain.

On a dash through the North Lands kiln-glass studios I spied an interesting set of tests at the worktable of an artist in the Bullseye Forum.


By purposefully casting wedges of varied colors together she’d created remarkable fades at the interfaces along the edge.

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