Penny McCormick talks to artist PETER McGUIRE about his fascinating method of GLASS CASTING which REPLICATES GLACIAL MOVEMENT by melting glass over botanic matter to create pieces that CELEBRATE LIGHT AND TEXTURE …
Born in 1971, Peter McGuire studied architecture in the Dublin Institute of Technology Bolton St before channeling his studies to work with stained glass at NCAD. Steering away from traditional stained glass, McGuire was inspired by the movement of melting glaciers. His method of glass casting replicates glacial movement by melting glass over botanic matter to create pieces that celebrate light and texture, in the process creating detail and depth to stimulate the visual senses. His latest work can be viewed in the reception of the newly-opened Lansdowne Place, Ballsbridge, Dublin.
How did your particular method of glass casting come about?
I had an interest in developing the material of glass as a medium and had explored many forms of glass making: blown glass, stained glass and kiln-formed glass.
The most recent method of glass casting is kiln-formed and this fitted in well with a more contemporary application in architecture. It focuses on low relief panels and the texture of the heated glass is formed by the surface of the kiln floor. Colour may also be added using a range of oxides fired in to the glass.
I had also worked on restoration of curved glass conservatories, designed and made in Dublin by Richard Turner and Decimus Burton. They designed and built the glasshouses in The National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Kew Gardens, London and others throughout Ireland and UK in the late 19th century. This led to an investigation into the botanic world and produced the botanic cast glass series that celebrates nature and records a moment in time frozen in the glass.
Have you always been interested in botanics? Are any botanics resistant to this sort of glass melting?
Most organic matter works well in this process, but each casting produces unique results and more robust botanic material works more effectively than delicate – after all, it does have to reach over 800 degrees celsius. The organic matter is burnt away in the mould process.
The seasonal time of the year also affects the results, as blossoming spring plants contain more water. In summer the leaves are in full flight photosynthesis; autumn presents more seeds which are great to cast and even in winter there is a huge amount of activity in preparation for survival: the cycle continues. Trees are an endless source of interest for me.
Could you tell us about your collaboration for Lansdowne Place?
I was approached by Goddard Littlefair, from London, to respond to the site and concept of Lansdowne Place. As the location was originally Trinity College Botanic Gardens until 1966, it was appropriate to continue the botanic theme. I had begun to use an old silvering method to coat a silver film on the reverse of the glass casting after the firing process. The reflective/mirror quality was ideal for the reception location to spread the light around the entrance and provide a bright welcome. There are 16 panels composed assembled to fit with the scale of the room. Details were ironed out and there was plenty of discussion with the architects, interior designers and all the Lansdowne Place team. It has been a great opportunity to make relevant artwork on a high-end project.
You are preparing for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York – what are you working on for that?
The ICFF takes place in New York from May 20 – 23 this year. It is an innovative show to highlight design and artwork aimed at architects and interior designers, as well as private collectors. After a successful show in London at 100% Design last year to push the work into the UK, Europe and the Middle East, I decided to bring the studio work to the US market. This continues to explore the botanical casting method and using glass elements in furniture and wall-mounted work. There is an unlimited amount of reflective finishes that may be applied to the glass, and colour is returning after some years concentrating on form.
How and where do you work?
I have just moved to a new studio in Blackrock Village, Co Dublin. The gas-fired kilns are set up to produce the glass work, and there is a studio for drawing and developing ideas. I work quite regular hours, from 9am – 5pm, each day. I find being self-employed and studio work requires a routine, intentionally, to structure each day. Naturally, each day then throws up plenty of problems to solve.
Have you had any mentors or formative influences in your creative career?
I had a great art teacher in school, Henry Morgan, who encouraged painting. The combination of Bolton St Architecture and NCAD allowed stained glass to be an area that used drawing, painting and design to be used in architecture. I also learned a huge amount working for studios in Ireland and Italy.
You work on mainly private commissions – what is the normal time frame for a private/residential project?
It can be four to six weeks. Often a visit to the studio to see sample work is helpful; or samples are brought to the site. There is time spent discussing each project until the plan is clear and often involves input from the client and designers.
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