Glass Blower and Sculptor
|John Martin moved to
Cornwall from Bristol in the early 1970s. Over the next 20
years, he worked as a freelance glass sculptor from
various workshops, studios and Craft Centres producing and
selling his unique glass items.
John was my Dad. I spent many happy hours as a child hanging round his workshops, helping or hindering and watching marvellous creations being born in the flames, spellbound at the way the white hot molten glass rods could be stretched, squeezed, blown and pinched into designs straight fom his imagination. On several occasions I remember him undertaking hugely technical scale pieces, such as a glass model of a biplane which I believe was sold to the Brazilian Embassy. Or something.
The stupid, sad, frustrating thing is, because it was always about it never occurred to me to keep any of his work. When he died in the 1990s almost all of it was sold, scattered across the world. As I got older, I scoured the internet but could find nothing - the internet didn't exist in his lifetime, and I guess nobody had enough reason to put anything together later on. I gave up, and just lived with a nagging regret that I hadn't thought to keep or document more of his work.
now. Over the years I've managed to collate a few pieces
from within the family, and decided to put a page online.
At least if anyone else ever searches the internet they'll
find something, even if not much. It's my hope, however
unlikely, that people might get in touch with stories or
photos of pieces that they might have, maybe even track
down some of his major pieces. We'll see... but meanwhile,
here's what I've got. Hope you enjoy it, and please,
please get in touch if you can help add to the page.
Dave Martin, June 2017
|John at Lands End in the
1980s. I helped out here in the holidays and learned a few
basics - another gas torch for me to use is just out of
shot to the left. On the shelves, you can see ships,
unicorns, swans and... Cupid?
||This building was Lands
End Craft Centre in the 80s. Dad was right opposite the
front door, facing out to sea. A fantastic place to work
and sell. The photo is a bit later - it's no longer a
Craft Centre and the track is a LOT better!
|John made a large
variety of glass flowers - these are two he photographed
himself. I'd guess these were 70s / early 80s from his
studio at St. Buryan, deepest Cornwall. It really was the
middle of nowhere - I can't imagine how his customers ever
found him, but they managed it! He made and sold quite a
few of these, all different, based on a blown glass bubble
which he would then break and stretch to form the petals.
In my memory, Dad worked from a home studio at Treverven, a few miles outside St. Buryan, before getting another within the village. He also worked in a Craft Centre at Lelant Garden Centre near St. Ives, and finished up at Land's End which was probably his most lucrative spot.
pieces are still in the family, both with a nautical
tracked down - Glass Cannon, about 10" long. He also made
several horse and carriage pieces and even a few vintage
|When I was in my teens,
Dad came home with a box under his arm which turned out to
be an airfix-type plastic scale model kit of HMS Victory.
I can't imagine how many hours it took for him to recreate the whole thing in glass, using the model as a templare. It stood perhaps 18" tall and was just incredible. I imagine this was the most complex thing he made, and was fixed in a glass case to protect it - it was enormously fragile with much of the rigging less than a millimetre in diameter. These photos were taken by him before he sold it and I wondered for many years what had happened to it.
The only piece I loved even more was his 'scrapheap'. I have a horrible feeling it was probably thrown out. It was roughly vase-shaped, perhaps a little over a foot across and was made of things that had gone wrong, all stuck together in a madly surreal three-dimensional sculpture - mermaids, cartwheels, unicorns, sea monsters and all sorts of other bits and pieces - the longer you stared at it, the more things you saw.
|Earlier this year, I met
the Victory again and was glad to see that my childhood
memory hadn't exaggerated it's size or intricacy.
|Most recently, a cousin
unearthed this. It suprised me as I didn't know Dad had
ever done anything in 2D. I wasn't even positive it was
his, even though the design was similar to his 'Mousehole
Mice'. He made hundreds of these, mostly sold via the
souvenir shops in the area. Many had tails curled like
springs, some played instruments, some rode bicycles - I
recall they became quite famous in the area. But I'd never
seen anything like this. It's authenticity was quickly
proved beyond doubt by a signature on the back of the
frame - nice one, Dad. I'm guessing it was made for a
special occasion or perhaps an anniversary gift. I'll ask
my Mum, bet she'll remember. Will keep you posted.
Until then, I'll keep looking and hoping for more. Thanks for visiting, I hope you've enjoyed this obscure little corner of the Web. And please, if you can add to the information and photos here, or you happen to be searching for info on John Martin's glass sculpture and stumble across this page, I'd love to hear from you.