The Bowes Museum is a remarkable venue in which to hold an engraved glass exhibition.
The Northern Branch of the Guild of Glass Engravers last held an exhibition at The Bowes Museum in 2003, when the Museum staff and the engravers, produced a superb exhibition. The Museum team have sustained their professionalism in their production of the current outstanding exhibition — Echoes of Light — that is now running until late October 2016.
Among the first thoughts when planning an engraved glass exhibition are, will there be enough well engraved exhibits and will they be diverse in design and glass type? It is always exciting to see all of the potential pieces entered on selection day. The different methods of engraving and variety of glass, combined with innovative designs, promise a wonderful piece of engraved glass for display.
With any exhibition, there is a myriad of paperwork that needs organising. Entry and exhibition information forms are emailed to the engravers well in advance and all the relevant details are entered into the exhibition spreadsheet. Time limits are critical and are given to ensure that all the required information arrives with the exhibition committee, venue and exhibitors in good time. An accurate catalogue of exhibits is one of the last pieces of paperwork to be created and is vital to the success of the event.
It is surprising how many people are required to assist when setting up and dismantling an exhibition. All the exhibits arrive in either boxes or complex custom packaging, which has to be carefully unpacked and the glass checked for any damage and then cleaned. It is always important to have paperwork within the packaging listing each exhibit so that the condition of the exhibit can be recorded, who unpacked and examined it and whether it has been selected for display.
Even though pre-selection of glass is done before the exhibition set up date, occasionally when positioning glass in cabinets, you may find that some exhibits cannot be lit correctly or there is a lack of available space, in which case they will not be displayed.
Placing the exhibits in a gallery always takes time, positioning each piece to ensure the lighting shows the engraving to its advantage is of paramount importance. Engraved glass is notoriously difficult to display as the lighting must show the engraving.
Of course while all of that is going on, publicity for the exhibition and arranging a Preview has to be undertaken to ensure that the public know about the exhibition. Flyers, posters and preview invites need to be designed, printed and dispersed.
Numbering each exhibit and creating a catalogue are the final tasks to be completed. It is always prudent to check the numbering with the actual exhibit and the catalogue. When happy, step back and look at the final display and enjoy it. Be prepared for the unexpected.
Separate activities that are beneficial to an exhibition of engraved glass and its promotion are, to hold demonstrations to make the public aware of the medium. Have a Go sessions (24th September & 22nd October – see related events) allow the public to actually try engraving and they are usually surprised that it is not as easy as they thought. It is important to leave some form of legacy from an exhibition, e.g. links to engraved glass web-sites (see below), local Guild of Glass Engraver Branch, future exhibitions, seminars or courses.
Organising an exhibition is a lot of work, but seeing the completed exhibition and hearing the wonderful comments from guests at the Preview makes it all worth while. A close working relationship with those at the venue is essential if an exhibition is to take off. In the case of The Bowes Museum, the exhibition team tasked with producing Echoes of Light are talented, inventive, co-operative, flexible and great fun to work with.
Some web links for engraved glass information:
By Sandra Snaddon, Glass Engraver