Glass artist Rhian Goodhand has not followed the typical path into the market. A punk in her younger years, squatting in London and sporting a colourful mohican, Rhian has come a long way. She now owns and operates her own business, Goodhand Glass Studio, creating bespoke glass art for customers across the UK. Tucked away in the south Wales valleys of Ystradgynlais, Rhian is just putting the finishing touches to a bathroom splashback for a customer in Cornwall.
Her studio is full of unique hand-made pieces of art and decoration. In one corner sits a wonderfully coloured panel for a stained glass window, a tranquil swirl of blues, greens and turquoise. In another corner a chandelier has taken residence, each piece of hanging glass a perfect example of individually, wonderfully crafted art. The passion of Rhian is evident, every single piece that she creates seems to speak to you, relaying the love and kindness that was present during its birth.
As I wait for the opportunity to speak with Rhian, my eyes are drawn to a hanging piece of glass on the wall nearest to me. Roughly twice the length of an iphone, and around the same width, the glass shows two drooping flowers under a wash of blue sky. The clean white petals look delicate to the touch, a tribute to the level of craftsmanship.
Rhian arrived late on the scene in the world of art, after her anarcho-punk days in England’s capital, she calmed a little, looked to settle, and began a family, living for a time in Bristol before moving back to South Wales. Despite working a secure job with a good wage Rhian said that her life was “grey”. At the tender age of 46 she took the plunge, quitting her job and establishing her own art studio.
Rhian says that her transformation from IT manager to glass artist came about because of an “epiphany”. After her 9-5 “grey” office hours she would return home and paint in her garage. Fuelled by her enthusiasm, and helped along by an ipod and a bottle of port, she describes the experience as “having a party with [herself] being the only party goer”. This love of creating art led her to enrol in night classes, and as luck would have it, her application got mixed up with the full time applicants. From the moment she was invited to an interview, and given a tour of the glass department, she knew that she had found her calling. “The decision was made, this is it. In all my life time and career I have always planned the next stage, but at that moment it changed. I was going to study glass and I didn’t have a clue how it was going to happen, but that was irrelevant”.
Since that moment Rhian has not looked back, going from strength to strength. She graduated with a 2:1, bought her own studio and established a company, and her pieces have been featured in galleries in Swansea and in Cornwall. The future is also looking bright as requests for commissioned pieces are increasing, the new website is close to launch, and in August of this year she is hosting her first solo exhibition.
As we sit and talk, the rain begins to fall on the roof of the studio. There are very few dry days in Wales, and upon seeing the mass of clouds in the sky as I headed out this morning, I was not expecting this to be one of them. Perhaps this is another reason why Rhian’s pieces are so vibrant and colourful. Not only was she working a “grey” job, but the weather and climate of the Welsh valleys was providing a greyness of its own. The deep blues, the striking reds and oranges, and the vivid yellows provide welcome relief and distraction.
Each customer receives a perfectly unique, hand-made product, and when enquiries become projects, the customer becomes a partner. Rhian says: “In this partnership it is my role to get an understanding of the client’s requirements i.e. personal taste, colour schemes, likes and dislikes, the location of the commission piece and if they have a specific idea of what they want? ” At times Rhian has gone to a customers home to make sketches and immerse herself in the atmosphere, or invited the customer to her studio to see what style of art they are most attracted to. It is essential for Rhian that her art has a connection with the person it is being made for, she believes that “all art should have a story”.
As I pack up to leave the studio, Rhian walks across and hands me a gift. Wrapped in an expired newspaper and some bubble wrap is the piece of glass I was distracted by earlier. I thank her, wish her all the best for the future, we hug and I leave. Ten minutes later, driving back along the M4, over the grey tarmac, under the grey sky, and passing the grey towers in the distance, the blue sheen of the glass stares up at me as it sits on the front passenger seat.
You can find Rhian’s work at www.rhiangoodhand.co.uk
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