A fire destroyed my work and supplies so I relocated to Cork

Glass artist Sophie Longwill talks about moving to the Rebel city, her close family bond and Cork Craft Month
A fire destroyed my work and supplies so I relocated to Cork
Sophie Longwill

Tell us about yourself;

I’m a glass artist — I completed a double BA (Hons) degree in Glass and History of Art & Design in 2016 at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin.

I moved to Cork just over a year ago. There was a fire in the room above my studio in Dublin and the roof caved in, destroying a lot of my work and supplies. It was disheartening and I struggled to find a suitable new place to work, so I figured it was as good a time as any for a fresh start. It helped that my mum and brother had already moved down here and kept telling me how great it is!

I have always been very creative and love making things. I enjoy learning new things and experimenting with different materials and processes, but I have to say there is something particularly magical about glass. It’s such an amazing material full of constant surprises so it’s really exciting to work with.

I especially love the process of pâte-de-verre (glass-paste), which is a technique of delicately placing very fine glass powders in a mould. It’s painstaking but I love the result; the glass is so delicate and has a crystalline appearance.

A necklace by Sophie Longwill.
A necklace by Sophie Longwill.

I’ve also been working on creating a jewellery collection and bowls with my drawings of animals on, which I recently began selling in the lovely Cork Craft and Design shop in Douglas.

I like to challenge myself all the time to make new and different things, so every day is diverse and fun. It is financially hard to survive as an artist and definitely not for the faint-hearted, but I have so much passion for art that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Where were you born?

In Nottingham, and I spent my first few years in a little village called Long Clawson in Leicestershire, home to the best Stilton cheese, which is still one of my favourite foods.

We moved to Ireland when I was four, my dad had been offered a job over here and brought us on a great holiday touring around the country so we all fell in love with Ireland and wanted to move here — we didn’t realise until years later that the holiday was an elaborate ploy!

Where do you live?

In Blackpool, in a house with a backyard that seems massive after living in apartments for years! I love how close it is to the city centre, especially as I don’t drive, although my mum very kindly chauffeurs me and my giant hairy dog Yana around the place for lovely days out, exploring the many gorgeous beaches around Cork.

Family?

I’m really lucky to be very close to my family. My mum, my brother, his girlfriend and my nephew are all in Cork with my sister, her husband and my niece just a relatively quick hop across the water in Manchester.

My dad sadly passed away very suddenly when I was 20 and we still miss him terribly. His death did bring us even closer together as a family and gave me the drive to succeed at what I do, enjoy every day and make him proud.

Best friend?

I would have to say my boyfriend Stan — I even have him saved in my phone as Best Friend! So cheesy I know. We met in a Wing Tsun kung fu class in Dublin five years ago — he was the only one who would spar with me so he kind of got stuck with me!

I’m not sure if it’s because the others didn’t want to face hitting a girl or if I put them off by looking like an arty weirdo, as I was usually coming straight from college and covered in plaster or paint. Anyway, it worked out well, he makes me laugh so much and is so kind and supportive.

Earliest childhood memory?

My earliest memories are just blurs of light and colour — I have terrible eyesight and didn’t realise until I got glasses at age five. I do vividly remember being very excited when I got them that I could not only see the daffodils at the end of the garden but being able to see INSIDE them! Mind. Blown.

Person you most admire?

I admire a lot of the badass women in my life. My mum is probably the strongest person I know, I hope I am as fabulous as her when I’m older.

My friend Annemarie Reinhold is the most insanely talented silversmith and I aspire to make things as beautifully as she does.

I admire my friend Chupi for being an incredible creator and businesswoman, she inspires me a lot at the moment as I try to build my own company.

Earrings designed by Sophie Longwill
Earrings designed by Sophie Longwill

Where was your most memorable holiday?

We used to always holiday to England to visit family so the first time I got to go somewhere different was so exciting.

I travelled to Mallorca aged 15 with my cousins, aunt and uncle and it felt like my first time to experience real heat. My favourite memory from that trip is plucking fresh figs from a tree, eating one each ourselves and feeding one to the cute donkey shading himself under the tree.

Favourite TV programme?

I really enjoyed Killing Eve, I just finished season one and it was brilliant, I highly recommend it. I also love RuPaul’s Drag Race for how creative they are with the amazing looks they come up with, plus I love a bit of drama and fun.

Favourite radio show?

Do podcasts count? I listen to them while I’m working or walking the dog, my favourites are true crime ones like My Favourite Murder and West Cork. I just finished The Teacher’s Pet which follows an insane case in Australia. Another favourite for when I need a change from crazy murder cases is an Irish one called Up To 90 which is hilarious.

Your signature dish if cooking?

Oreo cheesecake, it has gotten me job offers, marriage offers and I’m pretty sure it helped secure my spot in Grennan Mill Craft school when I casually mentioned it during the interview. I studied there for two years and we found an excuse for me to make it on an almost weekly basis.

Favourite restaurant?

So, my sister and I have this ability we like to call the ‘Pie-dar’ which is an uncanny ability to find really good food wherever we go. The greatest meal I have had in my entire life was when we were holidaying with our mum in Rome and stumbled across this tiny place in a back alley that didn’t look like much but the pie-dars were internally blaring. Cantina Lucifero i.e. heaven. We were lucky enough that we had found it right before the dinner rush and subsequent queue around the block to get in. We got one of each dessert on the menu because we couldn’t decide, with full approval from my mum, who is diabetic, because the food was so delicious that she didn’t care if she went into a diabetic coma, it would be worth it.

Last book you read?

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks, it’s a bit silly in parts but enjoyable and the magic system is based on colour, which is quite interesting. Also, Life Honestly: Strong Opinions From Smart Women which was brilliant. I like to have short stories or a graphic novel to dip into when I’m also in the middle of reading a lengthy fantasy or sci-fi series.

Best book you read?

All of Roald Dahl’s books, I love his short story collections of adult fiction like Skin and The Great Automatic Grammatizator. He was so brilliant at immersing you in a story with a brilliant twist in the tail.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Wasteland Baby! By Hozier, he has such a gorgeous voice and is an amazing songwriting.

One person you would like to see in concert?

Unfortunately impossible, but I wish I could see Janis Joplin, another one of my favourites to blare on the stereo and sing along to badly.

A piece by Sophie Longwill
A piece by Sophie Longwill

Do you have a pet?

I have two — a tiny and very mischievous dwarf rabbit named Pooka and my dog Yana, an Alaskan Malamute we got from Cork D.A.W.G. They are both insanely adorable, especially when they play together. Sometimes, when I’m walking Yana and so many people are commenting as they go past how amazing and beautiful she is, I like to pretend they’re talking about me. I swish my hair and thank them.

Your proudest moment?

It happened recently! I was awarded an incredible two-month glass art residency in Berlin and Scotland. I was so proud of myself for even applying because I’m always a bit afraid to put myself out there, and to find out I actually got it, well, I thought I might actually explode I was so excited and proud of myself!

I’ve been increasingly pushing myself lately to be less afraid of everything and to go for what I really want, it’s slightly terrifying but moments like last week are showing me it’s really worth it.

Spendthrift or saver?

Definitely a saver, I have to be really careful with money because working as an artist is so unpredictable. I never know when my next sale will be and often things like partaking in exhibitions, while being great opportunities, can end up costing a lot with making, framing and shipping work. It’s worrying when it comes to thinking about the future; I’m at the age where my friends are beginning to talk about things like weddings, mortgages, maybe even pensions, and they don’t seem very feasible personally. I will probably never be able to retire but I’m really happy right now and who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

More bins, there’s quite a lot of litter, especially in the parks behind us, and I often end up having to carry a dog poo bag around for ages before I can find one, which is a bit unpleasant.

What makes you happy?

So many things, my morning coffee, a sunny walk, a chat with a friend. I’ve struggled with depression over the years and I’ve found that one of the best ways to help myself out of it is to think of all the things at the end of the day that made me smile.

Even on my darkest days I can usually think of at least one, even if it’s something small and silly like seeing a cute dog! I think finding joy in little everyday things has made me happier overall.

How would you like to be remembered?

Well, it would be nice to be remembered as a good artist, even if just by my friends who can’t help but be reminded of me by all the piles of random ‘Sophie Originals’ I’ve made them over the years, with promises that one day I’ll be famous and they can sell them for millions. I really do hope it happens, I’ve been promising my mum a villa in Italy since I was about 10.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I’m featuring in several exhibitions — We are Cork in City Hall in August, Showcase in Fota House in August and Sculpture in Context in the National Botanic Gardens and a show in the States in September.

I’ve also started prepping some retail stock for, I feel bad saying it, Christmas because I’ll be away on the art residency in autumn. It’s hectic but I love it!

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