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Artist hits the glass ceiling with upcycled chandelier

Helen Pailing

Helen Pailing’s work ‘Adorn’ at the National Glass Centre.

Helen Pailing final piece for exhibition in London

Final piece installed at show ‘m2 at 15’ in London.

A Sunderland artist has hit the heights of upcycling with a beautiful chandelier made almost entirely of discarded pieces of glass. 

'Adorn', created by Helen Pailing, who is studying for her PhD Recrafting Waste in Glass and Ceramics at the University of Sunderland, is currently on display at National Glass Centre.

Adorn was made using almost 1,000 pieces of salvaged glass from Wearside Glass Sculptures. To the glass makers these pieces are the 'remnants' – rejected pieces of all different sizes. Helen is interested in re-using materials that have been cast aside and considered as valueless. She takes these items and reworks them, transforming waste material into art works. 

Helen said: “I loved the organic shape and form of this glass, created as a result of the making process. Building on my background in textiles a glass hook was added and then, with help from volunteers, each piece was wrapped it in copper foil. This changes the way we perceive the waste glass and the result is intended as a form of gentle activism.” 

Adorn is a semi-permanent installation that will change over time as the environment affects the finish of the copper. Helen added: “It hangs like a giant pendant, an adornment for the building.” 

In February this year as part of the Creative Dimension Trust programme, Helen worked with local teenagers to make their own chandelier out of 'recrafted' waste glass, inspired by Adorn. Their work was displayed in National Glass Centre’s  Learning Gallery in June and July. 

Helen, who was awarded the Futures Fund Opportunity Scholarship earlier in the year, had already had the opportunity to exhibit in a group show ‘m2 at 15’ in London alongside some high profile artists in a recognised gallery.

She said: "It enabled me to share my practice and research to a broad audience and to be part of the exhibition catalogue that was available at the show. People came specially to see my work who live in London and the South and do not often travel to the North East."

Julia Stephenson, Head of Arts at National Glass Centre said: “National Glass Centre commissioned Helen Pailing to create a new work to be displayed in the building’s double height foyer space. The space is a prominent location within a busy public building dedicated to the presentation of the highest international standards in contemporary glass. 

“The name of the piece is highly appropriate as the building now wears its own contemporary jewellery. Everything about the piece has relevance to our time, our priorities and our location. The hanging system suggests a nod to the nautical significance of the area. The structure reflects the design of the building’s lighting system. The glass elements are made from the waste created by the lamp workers resident in the building. They draw our attention to both environmental issues and the exceptional skills of the makers and their direct link to Sunderland’s long-term connection with glass. The copper foil alters and enriches the quality of the glass.” 

She added: “‘Up-cycling’ is fast becoming an established and even a standard approach within the crafts. There is, however, nothing standard about Helen Pailing’s practice. Her approach is utterly uninhibited, fresh and original.”

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