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Living treasures of Dorset – Emsie Sharp, glass blower, Child Okeford

GreatFaceofDorset

It takes a long time to perfect the technique of successful glass blowing but after twenty years Emsie Sharp has, as it were, cracked it.
She began her career learning about stained glass at Farnham Art College, but after a spell in the ‘hot shop’ was hooked on the art of glass blowing and now commands decent prices for her beautifully fine tableware, lamps and abstract work. ‘As soon as I tried it [glassblowing], that was it…, but it takes a long time to be really good, so you have to persevere.’
She spent three years in Venice where the work is on a much larger scale, allowing the glassblowers to have up to twelve pots of different coloured glass melting away in the volcano-like furnace. Emsie uses clear glass, to which she can add colour from blocks, like sticks of rock, arranged neatly in her studio.
Her work is sold through fairs around Christmas, as well as to customers far and wide, with people often buying her work for wedding presents. She does some teaching too. She explains of her art, ‘You’ve got to be in control of it. You need an assistant, you can’t make glass on your own. It is very quick, takes only ten to twelve minutes, but is very intense and things can go wrong.’
It is a physical craft with mouth, arms and legs all involved in the process, from standing twiddling the irons in the heat and twirling them like a majorette’s baton, to rolling them on a bench and, of course, the blowing; it is this that magically transforms the fiercely hot molten silica, with its honey-like hue, into a form that becomes quickly recognisable as glass. In fact time is of the essence. Everything is done free hand, using calipers for measuring which produces a perfect but hand-made looking result. ‘I’m a chaotic, untidy person, but in this (showing studio) I am very precise.’ ◗

❱ Portrait by Millie Pilkington, pen-portrait by Liz Pope. Abridged from Great Faces of Dorset, published by Dovecote Press at £20, ISBN 978-0-9929151-0-0 and available from bookshops across Dorset and via www.dovecotepress.com

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