LEADERS in Scotland’s renowned glass sector are calling for more support for the industry to protect jobs and nurture new talent.

While countries around the world celebrate the UN Year of Glass 2022, they say Scotland’s glass artists face an uncertain future.

The call for support comes as leading international glass artists arrive in Edinburgh for a two-day conference on the issues facing the sector.

Catherine Lowe, chair of the Scottish Glass Society, said: “It’s not just those who want to become glass artists that are struggling for opportunities, it’s any person keen to work with glass in the heritage sector on renovations or restorations of glass in Scotland.

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“If you are an employer working with glass wanting to take on an apprentice, there is now no nationally recognised HND course that you can put that young person on to get any of the funding around apprenticeships to help young people get into the industry.”

She added: “At Scottish Glass Society, we are working on education projects to encourage young people in primary and secondary schools around the country to engage with glass – but if third level institutions are no longer running courses in glass, there is nowhere for them in Scotland to pursue that interest.

“The Scottish Government is keen to protect heritage industries but without ensuring there is an educational provision for them, these good intentions don’t result in real tangible results for those keen to work with glass.”

Craft Scotland director Irene Kernan said the issues facing glass artists had to be addressed.

“In recent years, Craft Scotland has supported and worked with award-winning glass artists based in the country including Juli Bolanos-Durman, Amanda J Simmons, Shaun Fraser, Carrie Fertig and Choi Keeryong.

“These makers have benefited from and made a significant contribution to our vibrant glass sector, but as educational courses close and the cost of production increases, Scotland’s glass artists face even greater barriers to developing their craft and building a career in glass.”

Celebrated glass artist Chris Day, who is a speaker at the conference, said there were now fewer opportunities for young people – particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds – than when he was starting out.

“If we want longevity in glass, we’ve got to be able to provide the opportunity for underprivileged people, people that perhaps don’t even know that glass is a medium that we can use as an art form,” he said.

Day added that although his work is shown in museums he did not want to become a museum piece as a maker.

“I want to be able to show people that glass is more viable than just looking pretty,” he said. “It’s something that can create a conversation around issues that are in society at the moment, but through the medium of glass.”

Delivered in a hybrid format with speakers joining in person and via video link, this year’s Craft Scotland Conference – The Power of Glass Symposium will explore identity, social and political thought within art glass. It will include a glass blowing demonstration by Day at Edinburgh College of Art. The second day is hosted at the National Museum of Scotland and the closing speech is by Dr Max Stewart will discuss the future of glass education for all.

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The conference, which is supported by Craft Scotland in partnership with Edinburgh College of Art (University of Edinburgh), National Museums Scotland and North Lands Creative, is open to the public.

A Creative Scotland spokesperson said: “We look forward to working with the sector to understand the challenges that glass faces and identify solutions that will help sustain the excellence that exists here in Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government will always seek to support skilled sectors across the country and government agencies, such as Creative Scotland and Skills Development Scotland, will continue to ensure the right provision is in place to nurture skills in vital industries.”

Tickets can be bought at: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/395914359507