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Introducing Jenny Ayrton

Introducing Art & Energy’s director, glass artist Jenny Ayrton

Hi, I’m Jenny. I’m an artist working predominantly with glass. I live near Plymouth, Devon, with my husband, two young daughters, and two dogs. I graduated from Plymouth College of Art in 2012, and participated in the Crafts Council Hothouse scheme in 2014; until I got involved with Art and Energy most of my work was very product orientated; creating beautiful desirable objects which sold through galleries. I also run workshops in wirework, sand- casting and etching glass. more details at www.jennyayrton.co.uk

how did you get involved with the art and energy collective?

Art and Energy’s founders, Chloe and Naomi, came along to a glass etching workshop in my Plymouth studio. I remember seeing the booking pop-up in my inbox, and being intrigued by Chloe’s email address, chloe@artandenergy.org. I looked up their website and a metaphorical light bulb lit up… I’d never come across a project like theirs, and it sounded really exciting!

We got on well during the etching workshop, discovering shared interests in creativity, the environment, and cake! A few weeks later I attended one of their workshops at Plymouth College of Art Fablab which they ran in conjunction with Plymouth Energy Community. I enjoyed a fab creative afternoon where we learnt about other projects around the world which combined art and energy. We were then encouraged to imagine an artwork for Plymouth.

Chloe and Naomi invited me to deliver a workshop for six 7-11 year olds. I helped them to etch their own designs onto glass, and then in subsequent sessions they built a solar panel onto the back. The moment when they plugged a phone in and it went ping to show that it was charging… utter magic! Find out more about the Blue Peter Project here.

In February 2019 I officially joined as a director of Art and Energy. Since then I’ve been involved in running workshops and demonstrations, and am currently working on a series of ‘crazy inventor’ style artworks which will be solar powered.

as an artist how do you now feel about energy?

Before joining Art and Energy I mostly felt guilty…

  • I was creating artworks using molten glass, an energy-demanding process using imported materials.
  • Renewable energy options such as solar panels were outside of our household budget.
  • I often listen to BBC radio 4, and they have a lot of programmes dedicated to environmental issues… leaving me feel informed but frustrated not knowing what I could do to help.
  • As the mother to two young daughters the feeling of ‘eco-guilt’ was overwhelming. How could I possibly feed them a healthy diet when everything comes wrapped in plastic… and plastic is evil!

Since working with Art & Energy I feel empowered. I certainly don’t feel like I have the answers to the global problem, but every time that I show someone what goes into a solar panel – that there’s no black magic or rocket science involved in making a solar panel – well it feels like light bulbs light up in my and their heads!

what would my dream art & energy project be?

I have so, so, so many ideas… but at the moment number one would be to go into schools to demonstrate to the next generation that if I can make a solar panel then so can they… and what’s really exciting is that I will be doing this in 2020!

The Crafts Council have selected me as one of their ‘Make your Future’ craftsmen. In the summer term I’ll be going into two Cornish secondary schools and working with some of their KS3 pupils. In each school we’ll create two solar-panel artworks, which will power an energy landscape artwork for display in an exhibition at Falmouth University. After the exhibition the solar-panel artworks will return to the schools, where they can be used to charge USB devices and stimulate further conversation in the wider school community.

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Find out more about Crafts Council ‘Make Your Future’ here.