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Posted 13.04.17

Talking process & history with international glass artist Steffen Dam at RAMM

By Sarah Packer

Looking to gain insight into the commissioning process within a museum and art institute, students and staff from our crafts department visited RAMM in Exeter for a dedicated talk from glass artist Steffen Dam.

A mix of BA (Hons), Masters and Erasmus+ craft students went on the inspiring trip to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & art gallery (RAMM) in Exeter, the largest of it’s kind in the city. It holds significant and diverse collections in areas such as zoology, anthropology, fine art, local and overseas archaeology, and geology.

“It was a thoughtful, honest appraisal of ideas, processes and opportunities...a great initiative to explore and create from the collection.” — Glenn Carter, Lecturer in Glass.

Following a talk from Holly Morgenroth, RAMM Collections Officer, about the museum and an introduction to the commissioning process between the museum and the artist, students and staff were introduced to Steffen Dam, the artist behind RAMM’s upcoming major exhibition ‘Sea Life: Glimpses of the Wonderful.’

Steffen Dam discussed his process and inspirations with our students, offering an insight into the life of an international glass artist.

The museum has commissioned Steffen Dam, internationally acclaimed glass artist, to create his signature ‘marine life’ jars containing plausible but fictitious organisms for the exhibition.

Dam spoke to the students about his work process and inspirations followed by a Q&A session. Students were intrigued about his process, with some stating that from a technical perspective, it's very difficult to imagine how he makes his work.

Many of our students saw his work at the Crafts Council’s contemporary design fair Collect earlier in the year and were mesmerised by it.

“His [Steffen's] comments on the value of galleries and your representatives was very illuminating." — John Stannard, student

Dam’s sculptures can be seen in public institutions across the globe including five UK museums: RAMM, V&A, National Museum Wales, National Museum Scotland and D’Arcy Thompson in Dundee.

The trip was an exciting 'professional practice' learning opportunity for our students and a chance to meet and quiz a renowned and skilled artist about his incredible glass-making techniques and his approach to making commissioned work in response to a collection.

RAMM was awarded Museum of the Year 2012 and has won numerous awards including a RIBA.

Alongside this, the students also explored RAMM’s significant natural history collections and imagined how an artist like Dam might interpret the specimens and objects.

“I found the talks very interesting and informative. I was particularly impressed with Steffen Dam's humility and how he was prepared to discuss his methods and materials with us. I look forward to seeing the Sea Life exhibition.” — Wendy Bradberry, Year 3 BA (Hons) Ceramics & Glass student.

“An interesting insight into the funding and commissioning process of the museum and an inspiring artist who proves how the importance of experimentation can lead to new discoveries." — Lawrence West, Glass Workshop Co-ordinator

“I very much enjoyed the outing to Exeter, seeing the exhibits and talking to Steffen. I found Steffen's talk interesting in that he had used imperfections in glass-making to produce his effects, I liked the way he chose to display them connecting back to memories of his childhood while not being what they appeared to be.

“I have already decided I want to go back to see his commissioned work, when I spoke to him he was seeing the exhibits in the museum for the first time and hadn't really decided what he would use as his inspiration, it would be wonderful to go again as a group for a private viewing and discover how he interpreted his impressions.” — Janet Schreyer, Year 1 BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts student.

cabinet of curiosities © Steffen Dam

“This was one of the most interesting talks I have been to. The background talk from the museum set the scene and raised the interest. Steffen then gave a great honest talk answering questions fluently.

“His comments on the value of galleries and your representatives was very illuminating. I can't wait to go back to take a longer look at the museum and I look forward to seeing Steffen's finished piece.” — John Stannard, Year 1 BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts student.

“An interesting insight into the funding and commissioning process of the museum and an inspiring artist who proves how the importance of experimentation can lead to new discoveries. I could have spent the whole day just looking around the museum, there were so many interesting exhibits.” — Lawrence West, Glass Workshop Co-ordinator and hot glass specialist.