Places of Contemplation

The work showing at the Museum Humanum this August as part of the 2013 Kulturbrücke is about the human experience, spirituality and the subconscious. Throughout time and across cultures humans have felt the need to create religions, spiritual practices, and art to express their subjective and intuitive experiences. For the Musuem Humanum I am exhibiting work that incorporates the archetypal female form with artifact and cave imagery.

Glimmer Glass Art

Artifacts have a life of their own that span many human lifetimes. They can often be the only windows we have into another person’s life and how they understood the world. Can we really identify with a prehistoric person? They may have the very same basic desires for food, shelter, and clothing, and perhaps even self-expression, but their worldview would be so different. Can we ever view their possessions with the same understanding they did? They who may have made it and viewed it as a vital part of their life and survival, and us who hold it up high and revere it as valuable art?

Moving from the objects that people leave behind, to their stories and myths, we find caves playing a mythical role in society. Caves are closely tied with female sexuality and its life giving powers, they were considered to be the ‘wombs’ of ‘Mother Earth’. Mayans believed caves to be sacred, a place where the gods could move between worlds. In my work I use caves as a metaphor for the subconscious, and spiritual dimensions of human existence. With the shift to a secular society, science has replaced mysticism and has renamed the realm of the gods ‘the subconscious’. Spirituality, psychoanalysis, and art are all human endeavors to explore this hidden aspect of our nature.

Using the archetypal female form and its close associations with caves this exhibition explores a common and deep-seated intuitive attraction to these forms and the mysteries they present.

“The Year of the Woman” opens on August 24th, 2013 at 3pm, at the Museum Humanum, Fratres, Austria. Please email for more information if you would like to attend.


Museum Humanum, Fratres welcomes international Artist Criss Chaney for Solo Show

Window Glass Wall Art

As part of the 2013 Kulturbrücke, hosted by the Museum Humanun, Fratres, Austria, I have been invited to fill the gallery with as much artwork as I can. This years theme its ‘The Year of the Woman’, so I have created a dozen new pieces specifically for this show revolving around the theme of women, goddesses and caves, using my unique blend of glass and mixed media. The exhibition opens August 24th, and is free to all, but bring your wallets as this is a unique opportunity to buy some original artwork and support the Museum in its cultural activities and events.

University of Sunderland’s Alumni Award

I have recently completed a commission for the University of Sunderland’s Alumni Association. The Alumni Award celebrates and honours Sunderland graduates who have gone on to make a difference in the world either in their careers, community involvement, philanthropy, or by displaying meritorious heroism.

This year they wanted a custom design base on the University’s logo, but not just a direct copy of it. So taking inspiration from some of the design elements in the campus buildings I went for this.

Award Design for Sunderland Alumni Association

If you have any awards or commissions you would like made in glass go ahead and contact me to discuss the options.

The Big Picture, Community Artwork for Sunderland

The Big Picture, in the kilnFor the past couple months I have been collaborating with two other local artists from other disciplines to create, a piece of community artwork.

From 3rd October 2011 until the 16th October 2011 Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens will play host to one of Sunderland’s largest collaborative pieces of artwork. The Big Picture project was specifically developed to encourage
as many people as possible to create artwork in a similar theme to show the massive variety of responses individuals can have.

Three local artists from very different disciplines Criss Chaney an American glass artist based in Sunderland, Liz Shaw a ceramicist and entrepreneur, and Jo Howell fine artist owner of Maverickart, stopped around 150 people on a busy
Friday in the Bridges shopping centre in July to get them creating their very own small artworks. Supported by Starbucks, The Bridges, Creative Cohesion and Sunderland Council, the project took the theme of Summer and encouraged participants to create a 3” x 3” tile in any of the art mediums mentioned.

The response was phenomenal, with some people choosing to stick around to make a tile in all 3 mediums! For 2 wonderful weeks the tiles will be shown altogether creating The Big Picture which you can see between the Museum’s opening hours Monday to Saturday 10am until 5pm, and Sunday 2pm until 5pm.

Due to the resounding success and number of participants, plans are being put into place to develop the project for 2012 in a Sports theme to coincide with the Olympic Games. So if you missed out making a tile this time, don’t worry there is always next year!

Jo Howell the Big Picture Sunderland

Arts Festivities in Sunderland

I will be having a stall at the first ever American Market on July 2nd, in Sunniside Gardens, Sunderland. I will have a selection of small gift items for sale including original handmade jewellery, and paperweights.Glass Necklace Sunderland

I will also be offering people the chance to have a go at making your own glass to take home, it’s a little taster session for my full six week evening class. Cost £10.
You can make a small item for yourself, or as a gift, its totally up to you what you want to make, it could be a small sculpture, an item of jewellery, a little box, or bottle, coaster… really anything you can make in clay- we can do in glass. The taster session will last between 45 minutes to an hour and half it depends on how much detail you want to put in your piece and how long it takes you to sculpt it.
Handmade Jewellery, SunderlandThis session is great for kids as well. Once you have sculpted your clay, we will pour the mould, you’ll have to let it sit for about 30 minutes, in which time you could go and enjoy the other wonderful activities we have going on in the park including a live 50’s style rock’n’roll band. Then you can come back and dig out your clay, and clean out the inside of the mould, and pick your glass to go into it.
I will be casting all the glass at a later date, but I will be videoing it so you can see all the steps. Then your piece will be ready to pick up!

This market is part of the Sunderland International Friendship Festival which runs across the city. This year we are celebrating our connections with the US, Washington DC being one of our twin cities, the theme is aptly coordinated to the US celebrations, 1-4th of July, culminating in American Independence Day celebrations at Washington Old Hall on Monday, July 4.

On July 2nd the great activities and entertainment includes:

  • Live glassblowing demonstrations in the gardens

  • Ceramics demonstrations and you can have a go at making your own pot

  • Make your own glass sculpture mini sessions

  • 22 stallholders selling fine foods, handmade crafts, and gifts

  • Live Jazz

  • American Style Rock’n’Roll Band

  • Live Radio Broadcast by Spark FM

 Activities in Sunniside Gardens July 2nd 2011

Art Courses at Creative Cohesion

Well Joe Robinson’s Life drawing classes are off to a good start, they’ve been running for a few weeks now, and we have a steady flow of professional, amateur, and student artists. Remember its never too late to take up drawing and its never too late to take this course- each session is a standalone session, and all materials are provided. Just bring £15 and your inspiration. Classes are held Wednesday evenings 6:00-8:30 pm.

Liz Shaw’s Ceramics workshops are going to start on this Tuesday (June 7th) so its not too late to join. They will be starting from 6:00pm and will end at 8:30pm. The sessions will be £15 pound each. In the first week she will be covering Slumping, throwing and also if there is time, some slab building. If you are interested in coming down then either give her a ring on 07816204986, or just turn up at Creative Cohesion, 20-21 Nile St, Sunniside, Sunderland, SR1 1EY.


Announcing a New Course: Glass Sculpture and Casting!

Learn to cast glass and create your own art pieces from scratch. Great for easy and personal gifts or just to liven up your home. Make sculptural decorative work, or a functional display item.

This class will cover clay sculpting, basic open facemoulds, rubber alginate moulds, lost wax, and glass casting. Perfect for beginners to learn the process, and for those who already know the process to experiment with new ideas.

A range of glass is included in the materials fee, and all Materials will be provided. Please wear old clothes, plaster can be messy.

Course Fee: £125 for six, three-hour sessions Payment due at first lesson.

Location: Creative Cohesion, 20/21 Nile Street, Sunderland, SR1 1EY

Dates: Mondays, July 4th, 11th, 25th, Aug 1st, 8th, 15th 6-9pm

You can contact me if you have any questions- or if you’re ready to roll just fill in the course registration form!




Plaster/Quartz Mould

Well I’ve finished my latest mould I don’t have too many pictures of this process as I was elbow deep in plaster most of the time, but I’ll describe it here as best I can. I started out with the wax, with the negative stalactite shapes in it, now, as discussed in my previous post, the plaster that fills these shapes needs to be slightly softer than the rest of mould, so that when the the piece has been cast as the glass cools down and contracts, the plaster needs to be soft enough to flex and give way to the glass, otherwise the piece will crack. But of course this softer plaster needs to be strong enough to hold up to all the processes that happen to it before it gets fired, so in order to reinforce it I have taken the advise of far more experienced casters Heike Brachelow and Katya Filmus and used cuts of copper wire embedded into the mould as it was set.

I hand built the mould  in one part, so the first step was to prepare the copper wires to fit into the stalactite shapes, I’ve never used this method before myself, I’ve only heard it described to me, and I was a bit concerned about the wire being smooth and having no tooth, so I used one piece of slightly thicker wire about 1mm and wrapped a fine copper wire around it, about .02mm thick to give it a sort of thread. I cut them down to a length that meant they stuck out of the stalactite a bit and would be sticking into the main part of the mould. I prepared a small mixture of the weaker plaster and quartz (normally I use a 50/50 ratio of plaster to quartz, just taking alternating handfuls of each, for the softer mixture I just added an extra little bit of quartz) I poured (well dribbled really it was such a small quantity) that into the stalactite shapes and as the plaster set I wanted to ensure that the wires were in their correct positioning. I didn’t want the wires to be all the way at the tip of the stalactite because when the glass is cast, if any of the copper touches it, the copper oxide can cause the glass to turn blue, so I had to keep adjusting the wires to the correct and centered position as the plaster was setting.

Then I proceeded with the usual 50/50 mixture hand building the mould, I did a couple layers and then put a chicken wire cage around it and put on another couple layers. Once it had set, it was time to steam out the mould. I’ve spoken to a few people about how long one should wait for a plaster/quartz mould to set before they steam out the wax, I was initially taught that it takes 24 hours for the chemical reaction to be 100% finished and if you steam out before then you could lose surface detail. But in my own experience I’ve never had much problem steaming out once the mould has cooled off. For this particular mould I decided to wait a week, when I have attempted this shape in the past, what I found was that in the steaming process the stalactites in the mould fell off, because they got so soft from all the moisture. So this time I wanted the mould to be well set and also to dry out a little. While it was steaming out I checked and rotated it often to ensure that one area wasn’t getting over saturated. And Voila! So far so good, the mould has come out just fine, and its now drying out, getting ready to go in the kiln. All I’ve got left to do is order the glass!