Sculptor Cara Wassenberg describes the inspiration and craft process that led to the creation of her new copper and cast glass series ‘Places to swim’ currently on show at the Pyramid Gallery, York.

Japanese Dreams and Places to Swim.  1.10.2021

Sculptor Cara Wassenberg finds it hard to be in the vicinity of a stretch of water without starting to imagine how it would feel to be immersed and what the landscape would look like from an amphibious point of view.

After some easing of lockdown restrictions last summer she  hired a camper van and was soon on her way to the northern most point of Scotland to seek out as many lochs , streams and coastal bays as she could  and slide into. For Cara there is something visceral and intoxicating about earth and water, how they meet each other and what each looks like from the others point of view.

A British artist working from a converted cow shed at the foot of the Southdown Hills in west Sussex, Cara’s existing creative practice (sculptures forged from steel and copper) took an unexpected turn when she began a master’s degree at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham 2015. With the remit of bringing more light and translucency into her work she started to explore techniques using cast glass alongside the copper and steel. Early experimental pieces during her degree gave her the chance to push the boundaries of these materials. Winning the Amanda Moriarty prize (awarded by the Contemporary Glass Society) in 2019 meant that she could deepen her glass casting knowledge with the British glass artist Colin Reid.  She feels that within her current pieces and particularly in her latest series ‘Places to Swim’ she is finding resolution and continuity within her work practice. Her workshop now contains a small kiln which will cast glass to temperatures over 850 degrees.

“I do have a slight obsession with process “she admits and that is lucky because the lost wax process she uses is multi layered and lengthy. The copper part always comes first and inspired by the landscapes she has sketched and photographed. By using forged and welded steel tools she has built up a textural repertoire which is imprinted on the copper prior to forging as a nod to the extraordinary geology and the begins the transformation of  the copper from a flat shiny sheet. She achieves complex curves and convex shapes using her much loved stakes, hammers and mandrels and a combination of techniques that she has acquired from East German blacksmiths in Berlin and the French Coppersmith Christoph Delvallées. (Techniques such as sinking and raising forms, free forming channels and textures over stakes with specific hammers and welding large copper sections together with simply a slice of copper and oxy-acetylene gas ).Once the copper part is complete the cast glass element always begins its life as a clay model that may contain earth and stones. This gives Cara some idea of the pieces final composition. The clay is then converted to a wax form which is added to with castings taken off stone or bark or (in the case of her latest trip to Wales) even barnacle covered rocks to build up textures within the glass. Once Cara is happy with the form she makes a plaster mould of the wax form and the wax is then steamed out and clay removed. Finally the mould is ready to be filled with glass and fired in her kiln.

“Sometimes I think the atmosphere in my workshop is one of an alchemist and each part of the process has its own very distinct set of smells”

Each cast is normally in the kiln for at least 5 days because it must cool very slowly so the glass doesn’t crack. Then the plaster can be gently removed and the glass released. The copper and glass meet each other again and need to be married back together with gentle easing and adjustment using a small Dremel tool.

“I never quite know what will emerge and the anticipation is thrilling “.

Cara is always trying to deepen and improve skills. She was recently shortlisted for a coveted Qest scholarship .An application to go to Japan and work with the Factory Gyokusendo. She hopes to realise this in 2022 when travel may be more accessible .In the meantime she has the second half of her residency with Glass artist Colin Reid to complete after it was cut short by lockdown and of course she will continue her search for places to swim…

The places to swim series is  currently on show at  the Pyramid Gallery, York.

and her other work can be seen at