Mattson's Fine Art

Peter Layton

Peter Layton is one of the world’s most widely respected glass artists and he has done more to promote glassmaking as an art form than anyone else in Europe. He has influenced, encouraged and nurtured several of this country’s leading glassmakers and has inspired many more internationally. At the age of 75, Peter remains extremely active and is regarded as the ‘grand old man of glass’.

Peter runs the London Glassblowing Studio in Bermondsey like a collective at which glassblowers are free to use the kilns to create their own work and develop their skills as well as work on pieces that help to pay the vast energy bills. Peter has always put creativity before the need to be commercial which is why the Gallery is an Aladdin's cave of unique and surprisingly affordable works of glass art. Much of the richly coloured glass art is his own work, which can also be found in museums, galleries and exhibitions across the UK, Europe and America.

‘Glass is extraordinarily seductive,’ explains Peter. ‘Every piece is an adventure and you never know exactly what you have created until you open the kiln and see how a piece has turned out. I love that moment of surprise.’ Ever since Peter returned to Britain, he has been continuously at the forefront of promoting glassblowing as an art. In 1969 he helped Sam Herman build the first furnace at the Glasshouse in Covent Garden and he subsequently established his own small glass studio at Morar in the Highlands of Scotland, a Glass Department at Hornsey College of Art (Middlesex University) and, in 1976, the London Glassblowing Workshop in an old towage works on the Thames at Rotherhithe. In 2009 Peter’s London Glassblowing Studio and Gallery moved to a much larger premises in Bermondsey.

Some glassmakers create technically brilliant pieces and follow a precise pattern, others prefer to create more abstract works of art that are looser and evolve during the creative process. Layton’s work falls firmly into the latter category and he is known for his strong use of colour, the use of organic forms and the sculptural quality of his larger pieces.

Peter is inspired by whatever is around him. For example, the heavy snow of last winter turned his long commute by train into an intriguing black and white world in which texture was particularly important – all factors that shaped a new Glacier range. He regularly creates conceptual pieces, which reflect his specific concerns over issues such as ecology and religion.

Peter has three children, Bart a film maker, by his first wife Tessa Schneideman, and Sophie a printmaker and Ben who is still at university, with his second wife Ann. Peter’s brother, George Layton, the well-known actor, is one of the many serious collectors of Peter’s work. ‘My pieces appeal to a wide audience and everyone from Elton John to the Duchess of Kent have bought my work. It is designed to be lived with and enjoyed as the light changes, not just viewed in a museum.’

At the age of 75, Layton says, ‘I have so much that I still want to do. You can never create the perfect piece of glass and there are always new ideas, techniques and other challenges to master. Glass is such an underrated medium – there is a fluidity and uncertainty which I choose to embrace rather than overcome.’

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