In September 2016 Dr Jessamy Kelly (a Lecturer in Glass, and Director of Postgraduate Studies in the School of Design) put together Transition, an exhibition showcasing the work of Glass graduates from the last four decades, alongside a range of archival material.
Glass at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) was started in 1909 by Douglas Strachan and, since its inception, a diverse range of staff and students have contributed to its rich history and reputation. Upon discovering an archive of materials dating back to its early days, Dr Jessamy Kelly decided that she wanted to do something that celebrated that history and showcased the talent and creative work of alumni from the last few decades. Transition was the exhibition that brought together the Glass archive with images of work by staff, students and alumni, illustrating the tradition of Glass at ECA.
"The Transition exhibition shows quite a varied and diverse mix of students who have passed through the department," said Jessamy, "We have some very interesting stained glass artists from the early 90s in the exhibition and that runs right through all mediums in the discipline. So we’ve got kiln-casting, we’ve got glass blowing, there’s some really strong techniques coming through, and a lot of those are influenced by the staff who were teaching then."
Gemma Leamy, Glass - BA (Hons) graduate (2015) and current Masters student and Caithness Glass Scholarship recipient, participated in the Transition exhibition.
"It’s a really tight team in Glass," she said, "Everyone’s really close and alumni tend to stay around and work together, so it’s a nice community to be a part of."
"The piece that I submitted is a development from my graduate project," she said, "I won the Gallery Graduate Award in 2015, and this year I had a solo exhibition where I developed the work from my graduate collection."
Alan Horsley, a Glass - BA (Hons) (2010) and Glass - MFA (2012) graduate who currently works as a Glass tutor, submitted one of six pieces of work from his Masters show to the exhibition.
"I feel it’s kind of representative of how far my practice has come in glass," he said, "It’s a large-scale figurative piece which was a technical challenge. It was a sculptural challenge as well to work on that scale and to produce that number of works, so I think having that here for me is a testament to what I was able to achieve through the programme, and with the support of the programme."
The aim of the exhibition was to present for the first time the way that the teaching has influenced the students' styles and work over the years. "You can start to see this connection between the staff and the students, the teaching techniques and approaches, and the way that the students will have been taught over the years," Jessamy said, "It’s really interesting."
Along with her colleague Geoff Mann (Programme Director for Glass), Jessamy is looking at the ways the programme can continue to support the development of students who will continue to contribute to this tradition.
"The programme’s changing," said Geoff, "It’s becoming a design-related programme in the way that we’re looking at how glass makers can look at design, but also how designers can utilise the material of glass. This will involve the use of new digital tools alongside traditional processes. We’re trying to find a new creative language at ECA."