Keep Informed Where are you now? > 2000-2009Jessica Irena Smith

Where Are You Now?

Jessica Irena Smith

BA Glass & Ceramics 2006; MA Glass 2009

Position and company: Self-employed glass artist and writer

Jessica is a glass artist from County Durham. Since graduating from her MA in Glass in 2009 she has worked as a kiln-formed artist, selling online and through galleries.

She explained: “Alongside this, for the past 14 years I have also been writing, and last year I signed a two-book deal. My debut novel, The Summer She Vanished, came out this summer.”

For Jessica, managing to juggle her glass business and her writing for so many years it’s being her greatest achievement but also a challenge.

Jessica said: “When I graduated, alongside my glass work and inspired by my time at the National Glass Centre, I began writing a children’s novel. Unfortunately, despite some interest, I never found representation for it but, in 2017, I turned my attention to adult fiction.

“To cut a long story short, during lockdown 2020, I signed with a well-known London literary agency, then a two-book deal with Headline (a division of Hachette) at the end of last year. My first novel, The Summer She Vanished, came out in e-book in June, paperback last month, and the audio book is released in October 2023. Whilst this novel wasn’t directly inspired by my time at the Glass Centre, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have started my writing journey, or gone on to be published, without it.”

Asked what attracted her to the University of Sunderland, she said: “I always wanted to be an artist, and after ‘discovering’ kiln-formed glass by chance on holiday in Canada, there was no looking back. The University of Sunderland’s Glass & Ceramics degree, based at the National Glass Centre, had such a good reputation, my decision to apply was a no-brainer.

“I loved the course – I wouldn’t have stayed to do my MA otherwise! But I also remember how daunting those first few weeks felt.”

She continued: “I was influenced by just being around so many creative, talented, knowledgeable people. From the technicians to the tutors and visiting lecturers, to other students – everyone was so generous with their time and advice.”

While at University Jessica was also supported by the University’s DOSH (Development Office Scholarships) scheme, which was invaluable for her on getting the support needed to become a self-employed artist.

Jessica’s advice to recent graduates entering the job market is not to spend their time and energy comparing themselves to other people, as no good comes of it.

Jessica concluded: “After an incredibly hectic few months, I’m actually trying not to look too far ahead. I’m just about to dive into my first round of edits on book two, which is scheduled for release next year, so, as long as I can find a way of continuing to juggle that and my glass work, I’ll be happy.”

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