Christian Ryan runs stained glass and glass painting courses at The Glass Workshop in Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan.
How does your day start?
On a usual week day we’ve all left the house by 8. Lisa and the boys head off to school and I set off to walk to the workshop, when I can, to try and get some exercise in. The first thing I do there is make a cup of tea (the first of many throughout the day). Then I either check my emails or if I’m in the middle of something in the workshop I roll straight on with it. I have a little kitchen and office in the workshop so sometimes I’ll have my breakfast in work.
One day a week I teach the final year degree students at Swansea Metropolitan in the glass department, so on these days 8 am will find me at the train station.
We have 8 year old twin boys, William and Peter. They have both done a bit of glass painting and both love drawing, writing and illustrating stories.
When does your working day end?
The finish time varies depending on what I’m doing, sometimes I have to work late but I usually try to finish before six. Often I’m out and about installing windows or looking at a new commission. Before starting to design a window I need to visit the site so I can look at the location, the size, the background to the window so I can work out how best to approach it.
What are you working on now?
This afternoon, I finished a small set of stained glass windows for a house.
The big news right now though is that I have been commissioned to design the glazing and interior artworks for Penarth Learning Community. It’ll be the biggest job I’ve worked on. It’s essentially 4 schools coming together in one new building, one comprehensive and three special educational needs schools. I like to use a lot of natural forms in my work and I want to continue this approach so that the design reflects the ideas of growth and nurture. At the minute I’m planning a series of workshops for the next couple of weeks where I’ll be going into the schools to generate some design material.
It’s going to take me until August, so about 5 months solid work. A project like this is a completely different process to working on commissions in my workshop. It involves working with the schools, the architects, builders, interior designers, so it’s very much a team effort.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I would say that most of my inspiration comes from nature. I love working in the garden and leaf and seed forms often come through in my work. Music is also a big part of my life and I play the acoustic guitar and harmonica (though not at the same time - don’t get the impression I am a one man band!) I love the way that colours go together just as musical tones and harmonies do.
Will you listen to music today as you work or do you need silence? (if yes, what music?)
I have music on a lot but there are times when I need to switch it off to get that extra level of concentration. Radio 6 music and radio 4 are favourites.
Have you ever had a student where you recognised raw talent?
The students who seem to succeed in what they want to do are the ones who are more self-reflective; who see how they are working objectively and how they can improve. In that way they are able to achieve what they want to see in their work.
What’s the daftest thing one of your students did in a workshop?
The most recent incident involves Liz, one of my students who has come a few times now and is coming back soon to do the advanced course. She made the mistake of picking up the soldering iron by the wrong end... luckily I have a good first aid kit in the workshop.
What do you do at the end of the day to relax?
Cook. I love to cook, and do find it a relaxing hobby (as well as an essential). I like making different kinds of soups and sauces but like a nice variety, always coupled with a nice glass of wine.
What is the single most important thing for craft students to learn?
That’s tricky... because there are so many different processes and stages in making stained glass, so there are lots of different skills to learn and know. For this craft, I think the most important thing is to be patient, as you’ve got to allow yourself the time to learn. It’s patience with yourself really.
How would you like to be remembered?
I’ve made it a goal to share my passion and love of stained glass. I love all the different aspects of making and designing it. It’s such a rich medium and has the potential for magical things to happen.