From time to time I like to draw readers' attention to items of interest other than clothing. Here, I've found the perfect bespoke gift - beautiful hand-painted glass from Toasted Glass, ideal with Valentine's Day coming up shortly. I was lucky enough to have two shot glasses painted for me with the Grey Fox image, and here they are -
They were beautifully painted by Monique Low, who was kind enough to agree to be interviewed by Grey Fox. This is what she told me about her craft.
Grey Fox – I love my Toasted Glass Grey Fox shot glasses, thank you. How long have you been finding an outlet for your obvious artistic talents by painting on glass?
Monique - You are most welcome. I was drawn to your Grey Fox logo as I had just been painting some foxes of my own and I find it impossible to resist the thrill of painting something new. I've only, relatively recently, seriously taken up my paint brush again as I found motherhood all-consuming (I have a six and nine year old), but I have been painting on glass for twenty years. I used to help run a shop on Fulham Broadway that sold painted glass and I became co-designer and painter there. Sadly, that came to an end, but I never really stopped painting, even if it was just for presents for friends and family.
GF – What sort of glassware do you paint on?
M - I paint on all kinds of glassware; drinking glasses of all types, from champagne flutes to shot glasses, egg cups, espresso cups, vases and bowls. I am always on the lookout for new shapes to try out and have some great new coffee cups and wine glasses just waiting for me to get started.
GF – Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
M - Everywhere; literally. I can't open a magazine, walk past a building, go into the garden without something catching my eye. I have a ridiculously long list dating back from October last year of things I want to paint and the list just gets bigger. I do tend to be drawn to things from nature and I've always loved drawing flowers, even as a little girl - for a start, they keep still and are never judgemental!
GF – Do you accept commissions?
M - Absolutely - in fact, I really enjoy the challenge of a commission and over the years have had the opportunity to do some really interesting work, including a mirror surrounded by sunflowers, glass door panes with a shoal of angelfish and decanter with Gustav Klimt's 'The Kiss' to name but a few. More recently, I've painted Bond-themed champagne flutes, family crests and added names and dates to existing designs.
GF – Describe the process that is gone through to design and paint a piece of glassware.
M - When I get an idea for a design, I always draw it out first on paper until I am happy with it. That way, I find my hand has already learned where it has to move. Then I use an outliner, which is like a tiny tube of toothpaste with a long thin nozzle, to lay down the outer edge of the design. When this has dried, it provides a slightly raised edge, as in stained glass, that can then be filled in with colour and left to dry for at least 24 hours before firing. This is done at 160 degrees, so it can be done in a regular oven. This makes the colours very hard-wearing and glasses can even be dishwashed at a medium setting.
I have recently transformed the front room of my house into a studio, which has made the process even more enjoyable. I have a big table by the windows where people can see me at work and I am in the process of putting up open shelving to display the glass on. I need a lot of space to store stock and packaging too so it's great to have everything in one place.
GF – They strike me as the ideal present – I see you have some beautiful designs for Valentine’s Day!
M - Well of course I am hugely biased, but yes, they do make great gifts and having the option to personalise work with names and dates or changing colours to fit a particular decor scheme means you have something really individual. Valentine's Day is the perfect time to give something handmade. I think it shows you've actually thought about it rather than grabbing a card and flowers from the supermarket!
GF - Monique, thank you very much.Here are a few examples of Monique's beautiful work. For more visit the Toasted Glass shop here.