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The Sunderland Glass Heap Challenge

Glass Challenge

University of Sunderland students Michael Emmott, Helen Pailing, Anna Selway, Liz Waugh McManus and Antonis Koutouzis.

Helen Pailing photo


University of Sunderland students and graduates join with glass artist Matt Durran this Saturday for the Sunderland Glass Heap Challenge, bringing together recycling, art, and one of the North East’s most iconic structures. 

The Glass Heap Challenge takes place on 26 May (1pm – 3pm) at the Roker Pods on Marine Walk. This free event will give passers by the chance to watch artists and makers explore the creative potential of salvaged glass and clay from National Glass Centre.

Helen Pailing, who is studying for her PhD in Glass and Ceramics, is leading the project for the University of Sunderland. On Saturday she will be joined by 15 other Sunderland glass and ceramics students, staff as well as industry professionals.

She says: “There is often excess material produced when working with glass and clay, and we’re keen to show what can be made out of these remnants.”

Helen will be speaking at the Roker Pier Symposium, organised by Senior Lecture in Glass and Ceramics Inge Panneels, at National Glass Centre on Friday, ahead of the Glass Heap Challenge, in which she’ll discuss her research into Recrafting Waste.

The event has grown out of the Roker Pier and Lighthouse student project, developed in tandem with the Heritage Lottery Funded Roker Pier and Lighthouse project. The symposium aims to bring together critical and theoretical research on materials and recrafting waste, and introduce undergraduate and postgraduate students to industry experts. 

“It’s appropriate that we will be creating work at Roker for the Glass Heap Challenge, as the restoration of Roker Pier and Lighthouse was really the catalyst for this,” says Helen. “Lots of students have already been involved in projects in response to the restoration and I've made artwork out of the old floorboards from the lighthouse.” 

The idea of the Glass Heap Challenge, as conceived by Matt Durran, is to challenge the creativity of artists, designers and glass protagonists to find and demonstrate unique, creative and inspiring works which show ways to utilize stockpiled waste glass. This not only brings a greater level of awareness to the potential of upcycling waste glass but also provokes discussion on how to make better use of waste material in general.

The Sunderland Glass Heap Challenge is funded by the University of Sunderland Development Trust Silver Fund with support from AHRC CDT and Heritage Lottery Fund (Roker Pier & Lighthouse Project).

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