Case study

Glass design assistant — Bethany Wood

Bethany graduated from De Montfort University with a BA in Design Crafts. She hopes to develop her own glass designing skills by learning from established professionals

How did you get your job?

During a crafts fair in my second year at university, I approached glass maker Anthony Wassell and offered my assistance in his workshop over the summer and volunteered to assist him in the 2014/15 Art in Action (AinA) festivals in Oxfordshire.

The steps I took following graduation were to find a standard job, whilst keeping an eye on available work in my chosen design area. I applied for two glass jobs but unfortunately I was not right for the roles. This was a dilemma because I had been asked by the organiser of the glass tent at AinA to be 'Newcomer of AinA 2015'.

This was a fantastic opportunity for me but I didn't have studio space or the money to hire one out. I was then offered the break to work for Anthony in return for studio space to build up a body of work to be the 'Newcomer'.

Networking is very important, so make sure you stay in touch with likeminded people

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My area of study was important for my current line of work. 'A glass maker is only as good as their assistant' - this is a quote from the glass maker Simon Moore. He said this to me in a master class I'd won with him from exhibiting at New Designers.

The basics in glass making are the most important techniques. My degree was essential in learning these.

What are your main work activities?

A typical working day as a glass assistant, after making the morning coffee, is to set up: switching the equipment on, setting the equipment to the right temperature, making sure all the tools are in place and that there's a full bucket of water for the newspaper pad that is used for shaping the glass.

Blowing irons unblocked, floor cleared and we're ready to go. The rest of the day we create the glass pieces. Consistency and timing are key in production.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role has developed from working with different glass blowers. Each individual has their own procedures - even for the simplest techniques.

I want to be able to understand glass and I need the experience to make my unique ideas possible to create with this medium.

What do you enjoy about your job?

It sounds like a cliché, but I love learning new things. The more I learn, the more ideas spring to mind. I also enjoy the adrenaline rush - because glass is unpredictable.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

The heat is tough, especially in the summer. Also the pressure of being an assistant is nerve-racking, especially with large pieces. But the challenges of the job make the finished pieces even more fulfilling.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Networking is very important, so make sure you stay in touch with likeminded people. It is deflating when you have been turned down a few times, but work hard and be consistent.

Apply for everything as all experience is important for the next step up.

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