SCIENCE meets creativity and imagination in a workshop where gifts are forged from glass. Pauline Hawkins meets Gina B Clarke, whose work sells nationwide.Pictures by Bruce Fitzgerald.
A SHIMMERING, twinkling array of coloured glass hangs delicately from the ceiling of the gallery in the Piece Hall, Halifax.
It’s like stepping into a glittering wonderland, a fascinating forest where the trees are made of fragile, opaque slivers and droplets of rainbow design. Or peeping into the imaginary bedroom of a child, bestowed with multitudious mobiles in myriad colours by doting parents.
This is Ginabglas – the longest established business in the Grade I listed Georgian building, originally designed as a marketplace for the once-thriving textile industry.
More than 200 years on, Gina Clarke epitomises the ingenuity, creativity and determination of Halifax entrepreneurs, using dexterity and design to produce items of breathtaking charm and beauty.
Gina has now traded in the Piece Hall for more than 30 years. Having studied in Halifax, she graduated from Stourbridge College with a BA (Hons) degree in glass and ceramics in 1979.
At the time, she says, the college was the epicentre of the glass industry, but Halifax beckoned her home.
“The Piece Hall was just re-opening as an arts and crafts centre,” she says. “So it was the logical place to come.”
For 27 years she traded in units on an upper floor in the quadrangular venue, which is home to a number of unusual and independent businesses – including a chocolate maker, a vintage clothing outlet and a seller of prized comic books.
In April 2007, Gina transferred her kiln and glassware to a large unit on the ground floor. It benefits from the afternoon sun, which casts its rays across the multi-coloured glass light-catchers that hang the length of her gallery.
Gina’s fused glass jewellery, stained glass creations, hand-crafted designer jewellery, mirrors, platters and tiles have become popular at a host of shows that she attends both in West Yorkshire and beyond. Her work will be on display at Holmfirth Art Week (July 3 to 9), the Great Yorkshire Show at Harrogate (Tuesday, July 12 to Thursday, July 14) and at Skipton’s annual Art in the Pen weekend from Friday, August 12 to Sunday, August 14.
Galleries as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland have stocked her wares, spreading the word that Halifax and its historic Piece Hall is a hub of creativity, skill and imagination. But Gina believes it could be so much more.
“When I was upstairs and all the shops were taken there was a constant flow of people being enticed by what was on sale – antiques, books, stamps, records,” she says. “There was a bustling atmosphere, especially with the industrial museum being here. We hope it will re-open in the near future.
“The Piece Hall needs more arts and crafts-type people – we need to entice graduates to set up new businesses here.
Visitors could come and watch people working and see how ideas come together – from the mind on to paper and into whatever medium they are using, whether it be glass, paint, silversmithing, photography, chocolate making.
“If the building was filled with these individual businesses, we could be the arts and crafts – as well as the cultural and historical – building of the North.”
Telephone: 01422 342679. Website: www.ginabglas.co.uk – her website lists outlets which stock her wares.