Michael Ruh is a celebrated glass artist creating blown glass pieces with a modern aesthetic. Since establishing his Studio in 2004, Michael has worked with simple, traditional tools that have been used throughout the centuries to craft exquisite tableware, lighting and home accessories.
Michael’s forms are each marked with his signature technique of scribing lines across the surface of each vessel. The technique is reminiscent of Japanese Bokuseki calligraphy- each stroke being applied with intent and assertion.
Michael Ruh is a celebrated glass artist, creating blown glass pieces with a modern aesthetic. Since establishing his Studio in 2004, Michael has worked with simple, traditional tools that have been used throughout the centuries to craft exquisite tableware, lighting and home accessories. Michael’s forms are each marked with his signature technique of scribing lines across the surface of each vessel. The technique is reminiscent of Japanese Bokuseki calligraphy - each stroke being applied with intent and assertion.
Making handblown glass is a long, absorbing process whereby molten glass is gradually rolled and manipulated into shape. While Michael’s pieces may seem simple, each object is a technical challenge requiring precise timing, perpetual movement and teamwork. Michael scribes much of his work with near indiscernible lines that only become visible when light hits them. His work is utilitarian and made with reverence for process, simplicity, and observation.
1. What motivates you to make?
There are two main things that motivate me to make. Both play equal roles in my work. The caveman and the dreamer. In terms of ‘the caveman’, it is the sheer joy and fulfilment of making that continues to motivate me. A craftsperson works in an expanding universe and as we work and obtain greater skills, we are able to pose ourselves with greater challenges, and continue learning. I have a visceral attraction to the environment of our workshop; its repelling heat, and the seductive gloopy attraction of the glass itself. We are practising a skill unchanged for centuries and I want to add my voice to its long history.
In terms of ‘the dreamer’, this is the more ethereal thing that motivates me, and defines my aesthetic. There is this thing I sense when I sit and look. That sense might simply be called seeing, or more specifically, what I see. It is the thing I try to capture and hold long enough to describe in my work. I try to make visible to the viewer how I see things, and make clear the sense of what I see.
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
I am intrigued how light, colour and line define space. I’m most inspired by the changing of light through the day, and through the seasons. Light is not just illumination, but also colour. The nuance of colour determined by a season, or the passing of time, is what influences and informs my work.
Other inspirations include the architectural structure I find in the paintings of Mark Rothko. Rothko’s paintings use colour to define a space beyond the canvas itself. In much of my work, the colour of the object illuminated by natural light creates an ambience beyond the surface of the objects themselves, and the observer becomes aware of light by means of colour transmission and line. I wish to create an environment of colour, allegorical line and unmistakable beauty within the body of work I create.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
I am captivated by process, and that is a huge part of glass making. I perceive the material I use as a carrier for my aesthetic goals and try to make objects of everyday beauty that go beyond the boundaries of the objects themselves. Things that will create an environment or make the viewer aware of light, colour or shadow. Things that will tell the viewer how I see, or what I see. I scribe much of my work with near indiscernible lines that only become visible when light hits them. It excites me that these lines become visible when the objects are struck by light and they cast defined shadows beyond the piece itself. I’ve especially made tools to scribe the vessels during my making process.
I completed a BFA. At uni, much of my sculptural work focused on landscape installation. I would walk to the woods, manipulate the forest floor, observe and document the installations over a period of time. Other projects were simple interventions on sandbanks using a minimum of tools, sometimes only a spade. I would return daily to document the project, and observe the environment.
Upon graduating and later commencing work as a glassmaker, the objects I made became more and more utilitarian. I’ve never given up on the observational aspects of my work though. A drinking vessel that will slowly unfold over time and reveal its beauty after much use. Something that with the passing of time enables its beauty to be seen. Observing slowly and with time tells you what I see and how I see.
Many years have passed in our studio now where we have observed colour and nuance and created our language. My work is utilitarian and made with reverence for process, simplicity, and observation.
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
We’ve been involved in so many exciting and rewarding projects over the more than twenty years our studio has been established it is difficult to single out just one defining or proudest moment.
Some things I enjoy most are when we successfully articulate the aesthetic goals of our clients. I enjoy meeting with prospective clients for the first time to discuss a new project. I think the projects I most enjoy are the ones that start out very broadly and very abstract where we are try to give definition to vague thoughts and concepts. These projects involve mostly talking, listening, divining nearly how to create an object from such ethereal elements.
A few standout TNC projects that we’ve been pleased with was the Makers Retreat for the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show, and the installation of Chelsea Jars at Selfridge’s font bar
5. What is your dream project?
I really dream of working on something large scale. Something that will be immersive. We are currently developing new work for TNC that I would love to see installed in multiples in a large public space. Something the viewer doesn't want to stop gazing at.
I want the viewer to experience that thing of an ambient filled with exuberant beauty
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