Chris Day on glassblowing

1.09.21. Internet

Chris Day is an emerging artist with a fascinating hinterland.  The glassblower was a plumber and heating engineer in the Midlands for two decades before deciding to change his life.

Since graduating from Wolverhampton University in 2019, his rise has been startling. That same year, he received a special commendation at the British Glass Biennale, which was followed by a solo show at Vessel Gallery in London’s Notting Hill.

And at the moment he has an extraordinary, and genuinely moving, installation at All Saint’s Church at Harewood House, just outside Leeds. This is glasswork like you’ve never seen before. Day employs materials he used in his previous career, such as copper piping and wire. His pieces tackle the black experience in both Britain and the US, based around his own mixed race heritage – often focussing on the history of the slave trade in the eighteenth century, as well as events leading up to the American civil rights movement.

The artist says that his main purpose is to ‘engage the audience on issues that are hard to confront on many levels, using art to help overcome some of the traumas that haunt our collective past.’

His work is already held in a number of private collections, as well as the V&A, the National Museum of Scotland and The Chrysler Museum in the US.

In this episode we talk about: his installation at Harewood House; how he discovered glass; growing up mixed race in Derby during the ’70s; why his pieces are concerned with slavery and the black experience; dyslexia as a super-power; becoming a successful engineer; and his urge to be seen as a role model for emerging black glass blowers.

My thanks go to leading glass specialist, Vessel Gallery, for sponsoring this episode. To find out more about them go to:

Find out more about Chris Day

Strange Fruit was inspired by Abel Meerpol’s 1937 poem about the lynchings in the USA’s deep south. It’s made from blown and sculpted glass, with steel, hessian cord and reclaimed electrical wire.

This is a vessel from Under the Influence, which was made specifically for Harewood House and was inspired by rum bottles found in one of its cellars. 

The Congregation examines the church’s role in slavery and is made from handblown glass, terracotta, micro bore copper pipe and copper wire.

The steel rebar in Message in a Bottle alludes to the construction industry and the fact that ‘slavery was the foundation of many people’s profits’. (All images courtesy of Vessel Gallery)