IN CELEBRATION OF SPIRITS (SIMPLE THINGS)

All copy as provided to the publication.

In Sweden, instead of celebrating All Hallow’s Eve they commemorate Alla Helgons Dag – All Saint’s Day – and it is an altogether more gentle affair.

Halloween evolved out of Samhain, a Celtic festival during which people would light fires to ward off evil spirits. In 731AD, Pope Gregory III declared 01 November a day of remembrance for all the saints without official days of their own. From the 11th century, the day commemorated all dead and became All Souls’ Day. The night before, All Hallows’ Eve, took on some of the ideas from Samhain as a cleansing ritual before the day ahead. Over time it has evolved into Halloween – a secular event in which children dress up and knock on doors calling “trick or treat” – the threat of practical jokes unless they are bribed with sweets. The increasingly commercialised celebrations embraced by much of the Western world have largely been imported from America, where elaborate costumes bear less and less relation to the origins of the festival. The Swedes, however, have a different approach.

Sweden experiences extreme winters with only a few hours daylight, so Swedes take the changing of the seasons very seriously. Alla Helgons Dag (which now falls on the first Saturday of November) coincides with the first day of winter, and so, with a more positive focus than the preceding evening, is also about celebrating light as the nights draw in.

If you can’t visit Sweden to take part in Alla Helgons Dag yourself, why not celebrate at home with one of these three ideas:

1.    If you’re not comfortable walking through a cemetery at night, take a walk through your nearest graveyard before it gets dark and contemplate the people you’ve lost as well as those you still have around you. Come home to a cosy fire and light a candle in honour of each person you want to remember.

2.    Create a miniature shrine to your lost loved ones including a photograph, a candle and perhaps a couple of mementoes. Use the evening as an opportunity to share happy memories about that person.

3.    Share a candle-lit meal with the loved ones you still have around you – Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam would be perfect. Raise a glass to those you’ve loved and lost.

EDMOND BYRNE IS BLOWN AWAY BY GLASS (CRAFTS MAGAZINE)

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Glass artist Edmond Byrne finds inspiration in the endless versatility of his material – on both sides of the classroom. Katie Treggiden discovers how the cycle of teaching, learning and experimentation shapes his craft.

Watching a glassmaker stretch a piece of molten glass into a string the width of a hair and the length of a room was the moment Edmond Byrne knew he had found his calling. “I was hooked from that instant,” he says. “My perception of glass had been of transparent cut crystal – very precise, very controlled. And yet this was so malleable – it was like toffee. Glass is a tremendously diverse material and I was attracted to its spontaneity.” Byrne was undertaking a BA in Design in Craft at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design at the time, but he was studying graphic design. The demonstration was part of his core year (the equivalent of the foundation year in the UK) and resulted in both an immediate switch to a glass specialism, and an appreciation for the power of education that has seen him combine the two ever since.

Photography by Ester Segarra. 
Photography by Ester Segarra

Listed chronologically, his qualifications alternate between glass and teaching – as well as his BA, he has an MA in glass and two postgraduate qualifications in education, the most recent of which was earned at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) where he remains as a technical tutor to this day. He believes this combination of teaching and learning – of being both student and mentor – is crucial: “The two things feed each other. The more you develop your practice, the more you learn and the more you have to teach. It’s a tacit knowledge that can’t be learned from books. I’m always researching and experimenting to discover interesting ways of working with glass to use in my demonstrations to students, and my own practice in the wider glass community brings real-life experience and relevance to my teaching.”

When he is making his own work, he rents ‘hot shops’ – the part of the workshop where glass is blown, as opposed to the ‘cold shop’ where glass is polished – but his day-to-day base is within the industrial-looking glass workshops at UCA, surrounded by towering shelves of supplies. The art school comprises a series of low-slung modern buildings on the outskirts of Farnham – a market town in Surrey designated England’s ‘craft town’ as of 2013. The university boasts its own museum, often curated by students, and state-of-the art facilities built for function not form – a hot-shop, kiln room, and cold working facilities are about to be enhanced with a £100,000 investment in new glass blowing facilities. “UCA is a vibrant and creative environment,” he says. “Being surrounded by people who are as enthusiastic about learning and as excited about glass as you are is really inspiring.”

In the future, Byrne has ambitions to create a massive ‘emotion landscape’ of glass. “Something like the Tate Modern’s Turbine Gallery where the work could completely envelop you, filling your peripheral vision,” he suggests. “I am a huge Rothko fan, so I’d love to work at a scale where your vision is filled – and experiment with how your eyes react. When you look at those Rothko paintings and you get retinal fatigue so they dissolve into a single tone of burgundy, it’s magical.” But for now, his proudest accomplishment is twofold and, unsurprisingly, it includes both learning and teaching. “Getting through the RCA was a pretty big achievement,” he says. “And being able to pass that knowledge on to the next generation is a wonderful thing too.”

You can buy Issue 268 of Crafts Magazine here.

Lin Cheung (Crafts Magazine)

By the age of 10, Lin Cheung, had made cushions, curtains and bed linen for her own bedroom, using sewing skills inherited from her mother, but didn’t see craft as something you might make a living from. “My mum was very talented, but in our family craft skills were for fulfilling practical needs.” The third daughter of Chinese parents from Hong Kong, Cheung was born in the UK and grew up in Wiltshire, where her father ran a Chinese take-away. It would take a BTEC National Diploma at the University of Southampton for her to realise that craft could be a career. “Visiting my metalwork teacher’s studio opened my eyes to a completely different way of life,” she says. “I knew from that moment that I wanted to make things for a living.”

A book called The New Jewellery by Peter Dormer and Ralph Turner, discovered during her BA in Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics at the University of Brighton, focused that ambition into a desire to make jewellery. “Opening that book for the first time was profound,” she explains. “The images were powerful and the work was technically incredible, but crucially, it was unlike any jewellery I had ever even imagined. It blew my mind.” Brighton was also where Cheung developed her ideas-led approach. “When you talk to people about jewellery, they launch into memories and emotion before they talk about form or materials,” she says. “It is deep in human nature to imbue objects with meaning.” An MA in Goldsmithing, Silversmithing, Metalwork and Jewellery at the Royal College followed and visiting lecturer Onno Boekhoudt opened her eyes to the potential scope of a jewellery artist. “It was like finding a spiritual home for my thinking and making,” she says.

Photography by Lin Cheung, apart from portrait by Nick Clements.
Photo: Lin Cheung

Today Cheung’s making process is very direct – and despite the advice she gives her students (she is a senior lecturer on the Jewellery and Textiles Programme at Central Saint Martins), she rarely sketches. “I just feel around, often working on a few ideas at a time, until a finished piece pops out,” she says. It’s clearly a process that works – she has won an Arts Foundation Award (2001) and a Jerwood Contemporary Makers Award (2008) among many others, exhibited all over the world, and designed the London 2012 Paralympic Games medal.

And now she’s been shortlisted for the Women’s Hour Craft Prize with Delayed Reactions, a series of politically motivated brooches exploring gemstone carving. The first piece was Confused, a pin badge made from blue lapis lazuli inlaid with gold stars depicting a bemused face. “I am not overtly political,” she says. “But following the EU referendum, I wanted to put all of my thoughts and feelings into a piece, just for me.” Other brooches include more interpretations of the EU flag as well as the US flag, and explorations of what pin badges say about the people who wear them. She describes being shortlisted for the prize as the highlight of her career, but as for winning, she says, “I couldn’t even imagine that.” Having been supported by the Crafts Council throughout her career, she does concede that it would be an endorsement of their investment. “It would be a lovely way to acknowledge that – ­I simply wouldn’t have got this far without their support.”

You can buy Issue 268 of Crafts Magazine here.