What's On

Your guide to everything in North East

Genius of glass artist

Work by a celebrated glass artist goes on display in Sunderland today.

art, Exhibition Designer, Graham Graham with the 'Mask' from the William Morris exhibition at The National Glass Centre in Sunderland.

Work by a celebrated glass artist goes on display in Sunderland today. David Whetstone explains the appeal of William Morris.

As the National Glass Centre lost a chief executive, it was in the process of gaining one of the top flight exhibitions which can help to ensure its survival.

Among the general population, the name William Morris is most easily associated with the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement and wallpaper designs which survive to this day.

But among international glass aficionados, the name brings to mind the Californian artist whose work is prized by museums, galleries and high profile collectors.

Look in those magazine spreads about Hollywood homes, advises Morris's friend and collaborator Graham Graham (and more of this name later), and the chances are you will see a piece of glass artfully displayed. The likelihood is it will be one of "Bill" Morris's.

Graham, who has worked with Morris for over 20 years, was at the Glass Centre yesterday unpacking the 30 elaborate pieces which will go on public view from today.

Recently they were displayed in Denmark and they will go on to Germany after the Sunderland exhibition closes on June 6.

Advance publicity about Morris's work explains that he has always been interested in nature and the evidence of primitive civilisations to be found in the caves around his California home. Animals and tribal artefacts have influenced his choice of shapes and colours. Yesterday his friend explained why he, and not the artist, was in Sunderland overseeing the installing of the exhibition.

"Bill's working. He typically works in the winter so he's just finishing up with a whole new body of work. It's very difficult to get him to travel when he's working.

"People must think it sounds lovely to be able to work in that seasonal way but I think if you consider the amount of time he works during that period, he probably puts in more hours than most people do all year. He works, sleeps and drinks it - it's his life."

Morris, he reckoned, "must be 47 now. As an artist with his reputation, that will be seen as quite young.

"But he's very humble and reclusive even. He lives very simply and it is very difficult to get him out. Although the nature of the work is such that you would expect an ego or something like that, it isn't prevalent in him."

Graham says Morris started his artistic life as a ceramicist. Both of them started blowing glass after meeting an American glass pioneer, Dale Chihuly, in 1978. Morris was soon excelling in the medium.

His friend suggested yesterday that while Morris's work was admired by academics, it was accessible to everybody with its rich colours and recognisable shapes. It should prove a popular attraction in the North-East.

Finally, a word on Mr Graham's echo of a name. He laughed and explained: "Yes, you can blame it on my parents and my Scottish ancestry."

He said he didn't have a middle name to fall back on but at least he does have an accommodating sense of humour.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer