Artist Biography - Peter Layton
Peter Layton is probably one of the most well-known names in British Studio Glass Artistry. He has influenced, encouraged and nurtured several of this country’s leading glassmakers and has inspired many more internationally.
He is a founder member and past chair of both British Artists in Glass and the Contemporary Glass Society and is a Freeman of the City of London. Hi...s work is collected worldwide. Major exhibitions include shows in Paris, Chicago and San Francisco and public collections include the V & A, the Fitzwilliam and the National Museum of Scotland. He has received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Bradford.
Such is Peter's contribution to glass art that it is difficult to know where to start; but perhaps it is best to start with a potted history...
Born in Prague and brought up in England, Peter Layton studied at Bradford College of Art and the Central School of Art and Design, London. During the mid 60's, while teaching ceramics at the University of Iowa, he chanced upon glassblowing - meeting a pioneering glass artist named Harvey Littleton.
He became obsessed with the medium, working tirelessly to improve his skills of glass artistry. Recalling his initial days, “What I loved best about being a potter was opening the kiln and finding out what had happened,” he explains. “Glass has that same sense of surprise and more: it’s alchemy. You take a mix of sand, chalk and wood ash and transform it into a solid that touches all our lives every day – think of windows, light bulbs, communications, optics… The possibilities of glass are extraordinary – it can be fused, bent and moulded in a kiln; when it’s cold, it can be etched, engraved and polished; forms and images can be suspended in it. It is an incredibly seductive medium.”
After an initial explosion and a badly burnt hand, Peter nearly gave up glass blowing for good. Thankfully, he persevered and on his return to England he set up a small glassblowing studio at his pottery in Scotland; a glassblowing department at Hornsey College of Art and in 1976 he established his London Glassblowing workshop in Rotherhithe. London Glass Blowing now holds a reputation as one of the foremost glassmaking centres in the world.
Peter's innovative and experimental approach in producing unique pieces of contemporary freeblown glass in sculptural and functional forms appeals to a wide audience. He says "everyone from Elton John to the Duchess of Kent has bought my work. It is designed to be lived with and enjoyed as the light changes, not just viewed in a museum.”
Indeed, such is Peter’s commitment to the craft that he’s dedicated almost as much time to nurturing others – developing the skills of the next generation by providing a truly unique environment for them to flourish. In the last 40 years scores of talented glassmakers have worked under his tutelage, producing successful collaborative projects and individual works of glass art.
Peter has collaborated with major art institutions including the Royal Academy (2012) to produce the Arrival of Spring collection to mark David Hockney’s exhibition The Bigger Picture. In 2015 he worked with the National Gallery on a series called Monet and most recently (2017) he created a Pollock-themed collection for the Royal Academy’s Abstract Expressionism show.
These pieces speak eloquently of the artists who provided the inspiration – the Monet collection, for example, is full of the dappled sunlight and watery reflections of the artist’s garden at Giverny – but Layton is not attempting to replicate. “I do want to capture the spirit of each painter,” he says, “but I also want the medium to speak for itself.”
At the age of 81, Peter remains extremely active saying "I have so much I still want to do… there are always new ideas, techniques and other challenges to master." Layton’s colourful pieces are unique and express the seductive fluid qualities of this versatile medium. A must for anyone interested in fine glass art.