An Interview with Catherine Keenan

Welcome to Wednesday on Handsome and Pretty.

Do you know much about glass blowing? We didn’t either – before now that is.

Today our very special guest is glass blower Catherine Keenan who creates the most beautiful pieces of art and jewelry.

Catherine Keenan’s fascination with hot glass began while studying at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, graduating in 2006. At the International Glass Centre, West Midlands she specialised in glass blowing techniques of colour application and refined cold working processes; in particular carved lens patterns. This has culminated in her ‘Eye Candy’ body of work for which she has received much recognition, winning her awards at the National Crafts Competition, Ireland (second prize in Glass Category) and The National Crafts and Design Fair of Ireland Award. She is a recipient of the Anna Cheyne Award for Visual Arts in Northern Ireland. Her work has been showcased as part of the Craft’s Council of Ireland’s ‘Portfolio’ of makers in 2010 and 2011. Her work is also in major national collections including the Ulster Museum, the National Museums of Ireland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Crafts Council of Ireland.

How and where are you today?

I’m feeling great today, although a little tired as I got home late last night after a week of blowing glass at the Stourbridge Glassblowing Studio in the West Midlands. Right now I’m in my studio at Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart. I was placed here in November 2011 on the ‘Making It’ scheme, a 2 year business start-up run by Craft NI.

 How would you describe the journey that has brought you to this place? And was this the destination you had in mind?

I first saw glass making at the National College of Art and Design Dublin’s open day. I was fascinated by the molten material and also it’s potential to transmit light and colour. So I signed up for the degree course.

When I left uni there didn’t seem to be a standard path to continue working in glass. In fact, its quite difficult to blow glass in Ireland/N.Ireland as there are no open access studios for hire. It took me a while to figure out what to do, but with each opportunity I’ve discovered more opportunities and made invaluable contacts. It has also given me the opportunity to work with amazing glassblowers in interesting places, such as the North of Scotland and Denmark. I don’t feel very much like I’ve reached a ‘destination’. I feel like I’m in a state of flux, I am very fortunate to be on the ‘Making It’ programme until 2013, but I’m not sure what the next move will be after that. I hope to have a glassblowing studio set up in the next few years, which will root me more firmly.

 Do you have a process to ensure you are in the right frame of mind to create?

When I’m blowing glass I need to be relaxed and focused. This can be difficult at times because of hiring studios in England, I pay a substantial amount of money and have a finite time to create what I need. I work with an assistant, so it’s also important to keep a good rapport to make sure things go smoothly.

 How do you think your background and culture influences your creations?

I strive for bold simplicity. I think my mum has always had a good eye for beauty and design, she would take us to lovely gardens and stately homes on holidays. I think I get an acute visual appreciation for nature from her.

 What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty, in making, is a sensitivity for simplicity of form.

If we had interviewed you when you were 11, what would you have told us you wanted to be when you grew up?

An author I think, perhaps an artist although I’m not sure I thought that was a ‘job’ then!

What advice have you received that you would like everyone to benefit from?

Be yourself, courtesy of my Mum.

Check out this amazing video of Catherine at work:



Wow wee! What an amazing and interesting career! Thank you so much Catherine for sharing with us. We are delighted that you are in the handsome and pretty family, welcome!

handsome and pretty



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