Unearthing Inspiration

Four years ago we collaborated with celebrated glass artist Michael Ruh to create our beloved Chelsea Jar range; a collection of modern vases inspired by traditional British floral displays. To commemorate the launch of this collection at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2015, Michael has created a new range of vases inspired by ancient Roman artefacts, which subtly reference the original Chelsea Jar form.

We sat down with Michael to discuss the new collection, what inspires him and what he believes the future holds in store for the craft.

Vases from Michael's new Roman, Collum and Sphaera collections Vases from Michael's new Roman, Collum and Sphaera collections

On the original Chelsea Jar range:

“I was thinking about apothecary jars when creating the original Chelsea Jar range; a simple, humane shape. The simplicity of an object compels you to find its inherent beauty, if it’s not obtrusive, you need to approach it quietly and frequently to see it. The Chelsea jars are uncomplicated in their nature, so you can surround yourself with many of them.”

On channeling ancient Roman influences in his latest work:

“These new Roman forms arose from a conversation with the Creative Director of the New Craftsmen, Catherine Lock. It’s fascinating that so many ancient Roman glass artefacts are still being unearthed in London today. Numerous excavations continue to reveal treasures of the city’s ancient past."

"The Romans blew glass mainly to create utilitarian vessels and set up workshops everywhere they settled. Although decorative vessels exist, most Roman glass was unadorned and functional. I was particularly drawn to the simplicity and near modernity of many of the ancient Roman vessels you can discover in numerous museum collections across London.

The Roman-inspired vessels are quite different in nature from the Chelsea Jars. The Chelsea Jar collection is an intuitive extension of some creative development in the studio; less thought through, more spontaneous. The Roman series, however, is based upon research and historical context and the development was more deliberate and measured - searching for the perfect shape and balance within each piece."

All of Michael's pieces are crafted in his London studio All of Michael's pieces are crafted in his London studio

"I’m also fascinated by how time can change colour physically and mentally - the colour of things fade over time, or the memory of colours change with time. Many of the historical Roman glass objects were imbibed with a patina due to being buried for hundreds of years. Hence I tried to reflect these subtleties in the final finish of the pieces.”

On pursuing a career in glass blowing:

“I was first attracted to take up glass blowing due to the elemental aspects of glass, such as heat and time; and how these are basic skills which have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Working for people who love my work is always a dream project, but I love the idea of experimenting with light scapes, creating an installation of myriad glass objects.”

On the future of the craft:

“These days glass courses are expensive to run and teaching budgets are decreasing. There is too little emphasis placed on teaching skills so students with inadequate training are expected to produce competently made work that reflects their creative thinking. I am optimistic, though, that UK schools will continue to produce generations of expert glass makers.”

<The original Chelsea Jar collection The original Chelsea Jar collection

On The New Craftsmen's values of humanity, integrity and imagination:

“These words strike a chord within my own practice. I try to make all of my work with skill and humility, and create the most beautiful things I can.”

Explore Michael's new collection online and in store now.