Juliet Forrest: “I eventually just fell in love with glass”
Juliet Forrest is a stained and fused glass artist specialising in detailed hand-painted, kiln-fired works made from her studio in Walkley. Earlier this year Juliet was awarded first prize by the Glazier’s Company – one of the ancient Livery Companies of the City of London – in the coveted Stevens Competition, which saw up-and-coming glass artists from across the country submitting designs for a commissioned architectural glass screen.
It serves as a cherished landmark in what Juliet admits has been something of a random career path to becoming a glass artist. From studying zoology at university to starting up her own handmade greeting card company post-graduation, followed by a stint in occupational therapy and later delivering courses for mental health charity Sheffield Mind, it’s fair to say it hasn’t been the most linear path into the art business.
“Around the time I was working with Sheffield Mind I started doing a lot of painting,” Juliet tells us. “I’ve always made bits and bobs throughout my life, so I eventually started putting things in exhibitions – and to my amazement, people were starting to buy things. It was my friend’s mum who lent me a book on glass painting; I’ve always enjoyed playing about with materials and it sounded like it’d be a fun hobby.”
However, after being enamoured by the versatility of the material and the working processes involved, it didn’t take long for Juliet to swap canvas for glass as her main artistic output. “I just completely fell in love with it,” she says. “I started off by having a bit of a play, then it just sort of took off from there. I got my own kiln so I could start doing the traditional painting techniques… I eventually just fell in love with glass. All my painting after that was done on glass.”
Head to Juliet’s Etsy page and you’ll find examples of the versatile creations that sparked her passion: sparkling 3D fused glass light catchers and exquisite stained glass panels made using techniques passed down through the centuries. Over on the website (which she explains is due an update) and social media pages you’ll see examples of more large-scale commission pieces, everything from celestial door panels to display panels picturing teeming coral environments.
“When I was painting on canvas, I’d always go through a stage where there was a huge amount of angst and I’d basically hate what I’d made so far. But with glass it’s different. You know what you need to do to get to the endpoint, so it’s kind of planned and you have the steps to work through: cutting, grinding, painting, putting it together. It’s therapeutic and I like how every day is different.”