Sabine is a real glass act

Sabine Little who is creating a mosaic portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu from over 6,000 handmade glass beads in shades of grey which will go on the Sun Monument's plinth at Wentworth Castle and Gardens, near Barnsley, on Sunday, September 16.
Sabine Little who is creating a mosaic portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu from over 6,000 handmade glass beads in shades of grey which will go on the Sun Monument's plinth at Wentworth Castle and Gardens, near Barnsley, on Sunday, September 16.

AWARD-WINNING glass artist Sabine Little’s project, Follies for Follies will see 12 glass installations at 12 architectural ‘follies’ around the country. Half of them will form a long-term collaboration between the artist and Wentworth Castle and Gardens, near Barnsley, where following the successful “Rapunzel” installation in May, the Sun Monument will be ‘follified’ this weekend.

“We are hoping to get the visitors excited about the history behind the follies,” says Sabine who is based at Bolsterstone, the village north of Sheffield. “The Sun Monument was erected in honour of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an intrepid writer and traveller, who introduced the vaccination for smallpox to the UK. When the monument was built back in 1747, it was the first commemorating a living woman who was not a monarch, yet today, very few people know about Lady Mary.”

To re-introduce Lady Mary to the public, a portrait of her will rest on the Sun Monument’s plinth on Sunday in the form of a mosaic, created from more than 6,000 handmade glass beads in shades of grey. “I started out as a glass bead maker,” explains the German-born artist, “and am often finding myself explaining to the public how glass beads are made - individually, in the flame of a torch. Lady Mary was an opportunity to show how even a simple style of bead can be used to create a larger piece. I have been teaching glass bead making for several years now, and beginners often strive to make complex designs as quickly as possible, but there is a lot to be said for simple beads in a good design.”

The beads making up the portrait took several weeks to make, since each bead is first made by hand, then annealed in a kiln (cooled down slowly to minimise internal stress and make the glass as strong as possible), then cleaned of bead release, the silica-based, hazardous substance necessary to remove beads from the steel rods they are made on. “Mass-produced beads are often neither annealed nor cleaned, and I am keen for the public to understand the difference between an unstable, carcinogenic bauble and a well-made, well-cleaned, locally produced, hand-crafted bead,” says Sabine.

As well as showing the portrait, the artist will be on hand to explain how beads are made, and also run a bracelet make-and-take workshop, where visitors can choose handmade lampwork beads and use them to create a knotted bracelet in the currently very popular macramé style.

The workshop costs £5, and some Lady Mary-themed jewellery will also be for sale.

The event coincides with Wentworth Castle Garden’s popular craft fair.