With over 15 years of teaching experience, artist Nadine Mahoney is well-versed when it comes to sharing the joy of art with others. Having been solely a painter for many years, a chance comment opened Nadine's world up to fused glass and she now works with both mediums.

Teaching fused glass workshops offered here on Obby, we took the oppotunity to chat to her all about her artistic journey and how her classes help open up a world of colour to people who wouldn't have been able to access it before.

Book with Nadine Mahoney now on Obby

(Author's Note: Nadine's responses have been edited for length and clarity)

To get started, go ahead and introduce yourself and what you do.

So, I’m Nadine. I’m an artist, I’m trained with a BA and MA specialising in painting. My transition to glass was sparked whilst I living and working in New York a few years ago. I’ve always built up my paintings in thin layers, with lots of translucent colours, and during a studio visit someone told me “Your paintings would work really well in glass!” It was a lightbulb moment, and after being pointed in the direction of a scholarship in fused glass, it completely changed the way I work! Now half my practice as a painter is in glass, I have a kiln in my home studio and work with glass and paint simultaneously.

In parallel to my artistic journey, I’ve been teaching people in some form for over 15 years, as an artist-educator for various museums and institutions. I’ve been running my workshops for 3 years now, from my studio, and it’s the longest-running thing I’ve done! It allows me to bring together those two avenues of my life. My passion for glass and colour, alongside the skills I have in simplifying and explaining a process that might look daunting at first. I allow people the creative freedom to do create what they want in my classes, and I love helping them see the possibilities glass offers. I keep the classes small so that I can offer personal guidance to each student, and out of 100s of people I’ve had in my classes, no one has ever made the exact same thing.

The whole process also offers people the chance to grab some downtime, which is something I definitely feel is needed with COVID. The glass process is challenging enough that you have to focus on what you’re doing for the 3 hours, but not complex enough that people get frustrated and want to walk away. People get lost in the craft, and I love that.

One of Nadine's glass pieces
“You’re holding pure colour when you’re working with glass”

You touched on a lot of points that I wanted to talk about later on, so we’ll circle back to those. Going back to the beginning of your story, had it always been apparent that art was the thing you were going to explore as an adult?

As a kid, I was always building stuff, or drawing, or crafting. I remember spending a day with my cousins, they wanted to watch something on TV, whilst I was the weird art kid in the corner glueing shoeboxes together for my own invention! So, I’ve always had this need to create even from an early age, as well as the inquisitive nature to use different materials and try different techniques. Art was the subject that really made so much sense to me, it was challenging but also exciting enough that it inspired me.

You touched on the transition from painting to glass in your intro, it sounds like something that clicked for you straight away?

Absolutely. After that initial conversation in my studio, I went on to do my fused glass scholarship at Urban Glass in New York, which was an amazing experience. Glass is an expensive material, but thanks to my course I was able to access glass for free! We had teaching once a week but had access to the studio any time, so we were free to create and experiment however we wanted. It took away the pressure of worrying about mistakes, the only thing that I could lose out on really was the time I invested. I made friends with the technicians there, and I constantly was asking questions and trying things that ‘broke’ the traditional rules of glass! That time of experimentation and learning was something I found really valuable in helping my love for glass grow.

Moving on from your personal journey, when did your teaching journey begin and how did it intertwine with your own artistic journey?

During my BA, I did some volunteering for an art group, and I really enjoyed the straightforwardness that teaching offered. At that time especially, the art world and the language around art could be pretty ridiculous! So to break out of that world and get to explain art in its simplest, purest form to other normal people was something I immediately fell in love with. Over the years, I’ve worked with various people with mental health struggles and disabilities, and I feel it’s really important to emphasise the benefits that art can bring people.

This was a question I was going to touch on earlier, but I think it makes more sense to ask it now - how important do you feel art is in helping people with their wellbeing and mental health?

I remember back last September, I received so many emails from people asking if I was going to be able to resume my classes again because they desperately missed the sessions. People needed that creative outlet, and it was so rewarding when I opened my sessions again and saw the tension leave people’s bodies in the 3 hours my sessions run for. Being able to give people a space where they can have peace away from the stress of everyday life is incredibly important.

I do find I have regulars who come back every month, they carve out a space in their lives for art and to take care of themselves which they find beneficial. There’s the social aspect, the workshops always have such a welcoming feeling to them, where people can chat about their pieces and share the knowledge they have. But there’s also the colour therapy aspect of them, with glass you are essentially holding pure colour when you’re creating a piece, but also being able to hold something tangible at the end of a session and say “Look, I made this!” that gives people a real sense of accomplishment.

In every session, there’s always someone making a gift, and it’s so lovely to see the generosity and caring that has come out of this time. I have one regular who hasn’t been able to see her Mum so always spends time to make something to send to her. I feel very lucky to welcome and attract those kinds of people into my classes and offer them that headspace to take care of themselves and think of others too.

“Art was the subject that really made so much sense to me”

How did end up finding us here at Obby?

I was actually recommended the Obby platform from the team at London Sculpture Workshop, I went to uni with one of the team and we’ve remained friends over the years. It was when I came back from my time in New York, and I had lots of family and friends asking if I could teach them how to create their own glass pieces, but I knew I wanted to expand beyond that. After being recommended, signed up and I’ve now been teaching workshops since 2019!

For you, what’s your favourite thing that you gain out of teaching your classes?

Hmm, there’s a few things! I love how, when people are practising how to cut glass, they get it right for the first time; you can see their eyes light up with joy, I find it so satisfying because they’re able to find confidence in themselves. I also love when people look back on what they’ve achieved in the session, you can see the pride they have in what they’ve made. People send me pictures of what they’ve made hanging up or on display in their homes. It’s really special to know that the things we make together get used and not tucked away, they become a part of people’s lives and the good memories of the session get to live on.

Finally, my last question for you is what advice would you have for other creatives who are looking to start teaching in 2022?

Keep basic activity simple! You can always add complexity for people who need it, but allow it to be basic so that everyone can come into it and have an accessible experience. Also, be aware of the language you use. While it might be normalised in your field, other people might not know what you’re talking about and feel bad to ask! It’s a balance between not being patronising but also keeping things as accessible as possible but it means everyone can enjoy what you’re teaching. And do your class yourself before others! Allow yourself the time to walk through the steps you’ve planned out, and see if what you’ve done works. You need to offer a shallow area for people to dip their toes in and get started, remove the fear so people can get started and you can teach them.

Book with Nadine Mahoney now on Obby

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