Artist Celebrates the History of Glass Shipbuilding at Cheeseburn

Cheeseburn welcomes art lovers back to its Sculpture Gardens on Saturday 18 May for its first open weekend of the year, with a new installation by award-winning glass artist and researcher Dr. Ayako Tani.

Situated in Cheeseburn’s 19th century Chapel, Tani’s installation features 150 glass ships in bottles placed along the pews. Glass shipbuilding was a popular trade in Sunderland from 1970 onwards, and from 1990 more than 12,000 glass ships in bottles were created in Sunderland each month, before being exported all over the world. Production ceased in the UK in around 2005, but Tani is working to ensure that this important part of North East history and the skills of the glassworkers are not forgotten.

Most of the pieces on display have been taken from Tani’s solo show “Vessels of Memory: Glass Ships in Bottles,” held at the National Glass Centre in 2018. The highlight is “Reassembled Mayflower Glass Ships in Bottles’” which was created by using reclaimed parts and utilising the lampworking technique, where a torch or lamp is primarily used to melt the glass. Once in a molten state, the glass is formed by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements.

“I am excited to bring my installation to Cheeseburn and to share the history of the North East’s glass shipbuilding industry with Cheeseburn’s visitors,” said Ayako Tani.

The first open weekend will also see the unveiling of “Nostalgie de la boue: Plastic Friend” a brand-new installation piece by Newcastle University graduate Clare Townley, the winner of last year’s Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculpture Award, and the recipient of the £6,500 commission.

WithNostalgie de la boue: Plastic Friend” Townley has transformed a group of trees at Cheeseburn with a series of long, sinewy, sprawling sculptures, mimicking the garlands and vines found so often in the natural world; in sharp contrast, the installation is made entirely of recycled plastic, in an attempt to highlight the impact of plastics on the environment. The installation also includes a swing-seat for visitors to experience.

“Putting up the first few sculptural elements in the grounds was a very enjoyable and pivotal moment for the project,” commented Townley, 25, “Nostalgie De La Boue: Plastic Friend has now become a real thing, as it is freed from the storage boxes of my studio and parents’ garage and set free into the Northumberland landscape of Cheeseburn Sculpture. I was very happy to see what the culmination of ten months of effort had produced; an invasive plastic parasite sprawling over the landscape. I can’t wait to see how people choose to interact with it, whether it’s a spectacle or a piece to engage with. I’m filled with curiosity as it reaches a point to be handed over to the public.”

As Townley prepares to unveil her piece to visitors for the first time, ten other young artists are vying for the opportunity to be named the next Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor of the Year. Proposals from each of the young artists will be exhibited in the Stables Gallery at Cheeseburn from Saturday 18th May.

One of the shortlisted proposals for the Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor Award. Kelsey Lynn Mayo, I’m (K)not Fine.

Visitors will be encouraged to explore the proposals of young artists studying or hailing from the North East, and to vote for their favourite proposal in the gallery space. The winning artist will be chosen by a panel of experts from will receive mentoring and £6,500 to produce their idea, which will be installed at Cheeseburn in spring 2020.

With over 60 sculptures in the gardens this year, 25% of which are brand new, there is a lot to discover at Cheeseburn in May, including artist Erin Dickson’s glass chandelier which is exhibited in The Stables gallery, and local business Handmade Tyneside who return to Cheeseburn’s Design Arch, selling their hand-crafted homewares made from locally reclaimed wood.

Curator, Matthew Jarratt said “Our first open weekend in 2019 features proposals by 10 young artists who I have been mentoring for the annual Gillian Dickinson Young North East Sculptor of the Year award - and also our winner from last year Clare Townley who has created a large scale installation in the trees at Cheeseburn made from waste plastic and plastic bottles. Linked to this we have curated an installation in the Chapel with over 100 glass ships in bottles by Ayako Tani and the glass theme is extended with a new installation in the stables by Erin Dickson, a 3D printed chandelier made at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland.”

Cheeseburn will open for six weekends in 2019 and future open weekends will include dance performances from Simona Yovcheva, Maria Vincentelli and Lizzie J Klotz, as well as sound installations from Bennett Hogg in June and July, plus a chance to discover new designers and makers with unique works for sale.

Said owner Joanna Riddell, “our audience for Cheeseburn Sculpture keeps steadily growing, and we look forward to welcoming visitors back to enjoy another year of outstanding talent.”