The art of glass
There is a gallery in New York that tells the story of a single material: glass.
Jahday Ford is still surprised his art found a way inside.
Breathe, a piece he created with Joseph Hillary, a London-based digital programmer and furniture designer, is now on display at the Corning Museum of Glass.
It was selected after an open call for New Glass Now, an exhibit of “100 new contemporary glass art objects, installations, videos, and performances by artists of 31 nationalities”. Nearly 1,500 artists submitted close to 4,000 works for consideration.
“I’m still quite shocked,” said Mr Ford, who did not get a response when he contacted Corning about showing his work only a year earlier.
“I’m sort of over the moon. It was an open call, an international call out for new work. I entered it and, all of a sudden, I had word back to submit. It was a big wow moment and one of my biggest achievements thus far.”
He completed the piece over a four-month period while he worked towards his university degree.
“Breathe stands at 29 centimetres high holding a combination of circulated hollow and solid formations to capture multiple effects of digital glassmaking,” the Bermudian artist said.
“It effectively captures my glassblowing technique and sound waves, unfolding an extension of the creation process. Transferring this into glass allowed me to express artistic methods not possible by hand, therefore manifesting an alternate reality of craft making.”
The Corning Museum draws just under half a million people each year. Its collection of more than 50,000 ancient and contemporary works are of huge appeal, along with its live demonstrations and innovation centre where people can “meet the innovators who have changed our world using glass”.
Despite the huge achievement of showing his work there, Mr Ford says he still has a long way to go.
“It’s tough to get started and not procrastinate and become a bit stagnant in what you know you love,” said the 25-year-old, who earned a degree in three-dimensional design from Manchester School of Art in 2017.
“A lot of times it can be demotivating not having funds and the amazing facilities [you have in university].
“It’s a matter of equipping yourself, of finding resources and financial backing; getting a career going and getting your portfolio a bit more extensive.”
He feels fortunate he is able to draw on Marketplace Studio, an initiative to help graduates get their businesses going.
“You have transport, work, travel and cover hire costs within a month and costs can reach £500. A lot of time can pass before you break even. It’s tough to consistently do work without a grant, funding or commissions.
“I pay rent [for a studio] every month, but I get access to Manchester University facilities — which is great. I have to pay for my own materials, my own delivery of work and hires; I have to tip toe around students ... but I have access.”
His reputation as an artist is growing thanks to “amazing exhibitions” such as Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters at Harewood House in Leeds, and Talente, at the Internationale Handwerksmesse in Munich.
“This year, especially, has been a massive sort of pinnacle of my work,” he said.
“It was very surprising to be able to push my work to such a level within the two-year span since finishing university.
“I’m constantly pushing and looking to work with different people and different societies within contemporary design.
“A lot of people shy away from working with something if it doesn’t involve money or isn’t lucrative. It’s a huge issue with artists today and can really stem the way you develop — you don’t know what windows might open, what it might lead you to.”
Ultimately, he would love to work “in youth programmes” and hopes to one day be able to collaborate with artists here.
“That’s definitely on my to-do list,” said Mr Ford, who has lived in Manchester since 2011.
“Especially with the facilities in Dockyard. It would be amazing to come back and work with ceramic artists, with wood artists. When I’m able to build the financial ground for me to travel [to Bermuda], I would definitely be interested in working in Bermuda on occasion.
“[At the moment, I’m trying] to build a livelihood and a career, so I’m not sure I would be able to have the opportunities there that I have in Europe, but working in Bermuda [for a time] is close to my heart.”
He is thrilled, however, to be able to offer his work locally through &Partners, the contemporary design shop run by Peter Lapsley, the executive director of the Bermuda National Gallery, and his wife, Andrea Sundt.
“It’s great to get my work out there and hopefully it can inspire others as well,” Mr Ford said.
• Breathe, Jahday Ford’s collaboration with British artist Joseph Hillary, is on exhibit at New York’s Corning Museum of Glass until January 5. Visit cmog.org and jahdayfordglass.co.uk