three hundred years of collectable glass in one day

The Cambridge Glass Fair


An Interview with
tolly nason

Tolly Nason is a supremely gifted glass artist who works with cast glass and pate de verre at her studio just outside Cambridge. She produces exquisitely beautiful sculptural and decorative pieces which are influenced and informed by her interest in the natural world.

She is also a talented photographer and has employed both these skills in the design for the 15th Cambridge Glass Fair postcard.

In 1997 she worked as an assistant to Bertil Vallien in Sweden and she then spent time in the U.S studying under Daniel Clayman at the Rhode Island School of Design and with Rick Mills at the Pilchuck Glass School.

If you would like to speak to Tolly at the fair, or have a link to her website, please click here for further information.

Tolly Nason
Tolly Nason

When and how did you become interested in making glass ?

I had always collected bits and pieces of Scandinavian glass as a teenager. About 14 years ago I had a fantastic experience as personal assistant to Bertil Vallien at Orrefors in Sweden for three weeks. I lampworked and painted little inclusions for his boats and heads and got involved with sandcasting. I found the material so exciting – especially the ability to make solid, cast shapes and I found his personal set-up very inspirational.


What sort of glass do you collect personally, if any?

As a family we used to collect millefiori. I personally have some nice Kosta Boda and Toikka pieces and the odd piece by my namesakes- the ‘Nasons’ of Murano.

Do you have collections of anything other than glass?

As a photographer as well as a glass caster I barely have room for other work! But I do have a lot of natural things that I have collected over the years that I use for inspiration.

Are there any particular styles, periods or designers that inspire you more than any other?

Historically, I love pieces made right at the beginning of the story of glass, especially the wonderful uneven and whimsical qualities of Roman and Egyptian pate-de-verre. Cast glass in particular is my passion and there are many modern artists that produce work I love. Most consistently, I would say Steffen Dam and Steven Weinberg. I am in awe of a lot of other glass – but they are not all pieces I could live with.

Which are the best and worst aspects of being a maker and exhibitor?

The best aspects are experimenting and discovering new techniques and ways of working. When you initially pull a mould apart and there is a piece that has worked out inside, it compares to breaking open a rock to find a perfect fossil.

Equally, the worst part is when a piece has been in the kiln for weeks after weeks of work and you open the kiln to find it has all gone wrong and you have to start again.

What is the most special/interesting piece that you own or have made?

The collection of fourteen Galapagos Finch Beaks cast 20 x life size to commemorate 150 th Anniversary of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’. This was an enormous feat for me to achieve in a small amount of time, alongside the logistics of making such big pieces. I am very proud of this and it is due to tour various museums globally this year.

What was the best piece of advice that you were given when you started making glass?

Wear a mask!

What advice would you give anyone just starting to make glass?

If you would like to make cast glass it would be ‘Be patient’ and ‘Be prepared to take out a loan!’


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