In Focus: The copyright lawyer who turned his hand to a 3,000-year-old artform

Jane Wheatley meets Nigel Calvert to discover how glassblowing fulfils him in a way that poring over hundreds of pages of legal fineprint could not.

Glassblowing began with the Phoenicians 3,000 years ago and, according to Nigel Calvert, the process remains essentially the same. ‘It is still hot, physical, risky and painful: scoop up a bit of clear molten glass, melt some green, flow it down over the clear, pick up some white like a pencil you can draw lines with. It’s a fluid medium you can spin and swing, heat and cool, but you have to work reasonably fast; glass has a memory and, after a while, it becomes like a rebellious dog and won’t do what you want.’

We are talking at his home on a high ridge above Stroud, Gloucestershire, looking down over the parkland planting of Nether Lypiatt Manor. Sunlight illuminates a display of his work: heavy glass pieces, sinuously curved, shot through with intense colours: peacock blue, spring-grass green, blood red. There is a jug the exact colour of gazpacho. I want it to serve the iced soup in, but, I note sadly, it would be too heavy to lift.

‘That’s probably true,’ he shrugs. ‘But still I like to make vessels. I always want to create something that has form and prompts desire — “Oh, I want to put something in that”.’

One of Nigel Calvert’s vessels. Picture: Philip Sowels for Country Life.

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A copyright lawyer by trade, Mr Calvert began glassmaking 25 years ago. ‘Each piece is months in the planning,’ he reveals. ‘I work in chalk on the floor of my studio until the day comes when it’s time to go to the foundry.’

Currently, he is thinking about using basalt pebbles gathered from the foreshore of the River Severn not far away. ‘I like to abstract the form of the natural world into glass,’ he observes.

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