Studio Visit

The Melbourne Designer Bringing New Energy To The Art Of Stained Glass

It seems the ancient art of stained glass is ready for a resurgence. Melbourne creative Eloise McCullough of Fools Glass is among those who are bringing a new energy to the lost craft, having picked up the practice just a few years ago.

After looking for a course that could feed her creativity during the pandemic, Eloise came across one for designing glass, and was immediately ‘sucked’ into the enchanting world of glass art.

Now, Eloise creates eclectic and nostalgic lead-light works (and homewares too!) that challenge the traditional conventions of stained glass. We recently visited her studio!

Christina Karras

Fools Glass makes custom, framed glass artworks! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Eloise McCullough (A.K.A. Fools Glass). Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Inside Eloise’s studio, at Nabe Studios! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

In addition to her custom pieces, Eloise also creates made-to-order coasters! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Eloise says leadlight requires a specific set of tools including; diamond cut glass cutters, pliers, and hammers, to name a few! ‘I also use electric grinders, PPE and putty. It’s not all glamorous,’ she says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘Glass is a dangerous sport,’ says Eloise. ‘I’m constantly covered in cuts on my fingers and burns from the soldering iron. I rarely finish a piece without injuring myself in some way.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

After Eloise has settled on the design and made her glass selection, she cuts the glass and removes the jagged edges with a grinder. Once she’s assembled the pieces of glass, she joins them together using a soldering iron and lead. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

To finish, she applies the putty. ‘It’s sticky, gritty stuff that gives the piece strength,’ she says. ‘This is the messy part.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘Glass sucks you in, once you enter the glass world it’s hard to switch off. I didn’t quite imagine this is what I’d be doing but here I am,’ she says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Christina Karras
27th of February 2023

With a background in graphic design and experience in the architecture and interior design industry, ‘design’ has always been a part of Eloise McCullough’s life. Even still, she never quite imagined having a career in stained glass.

‘My dream has always been to build a brand and work for myself, and in lockdown I started up a business called FIGR with my friend and business partner Eloise O’Sullivan,’ Eloise says. It was a much-needed outlet, but she still felt ‘restless’ and became curious about courses that might ‘feed’ her creativity.

‘I discovered a course [at Melbourne Polytechnic in Designed Glass and Glazing] and it was a video on the course page of a young female artist, Nadine Keegan, that reeled me in and resonated with me.’

‘The video showed Nadine working in her Melbourne inner north studio, working with stained glass in a way I’d never seen before. It broke down my preconceived ideas of stained glass being reserved for churches.’

It resonated with Eloise so much that she decided to enrol. Once she started learning the crafts of leadlight, stained-glass painting and copper foiling, she found it hard to switch off – and ‘never looked back’.

Now with her own practice, Fools Glass, Eloise been working on contemporary, custom lead-light windows for homes and framed pieces, in addition to a made-to-order range of kiln-fused glass coasters! ‘It was important to me to offer an item that was accessible, so that people can inject some personality in their home and have tangible handcrafted glass without the hefty price tag,’ she explains.

While the work is ‘not all glamorous’ and full of ‘inevitable’ mistakes, breakages and injuries from cutting glass and soldering, Eloise is excited to be part of the emerging artists and makers who are reimagining the painstaking practice for a modern audience.

‘I gain inspiration from my glass peers such as Poppy Templeton and Jodie Mae – we each have our own unique aesthetic and approach glass with design sensibility,’ she notes. ‘Through sharing our works and process on social media we’re cultivating a renewed appreciation for the traditional craft. It’s clear that over the last few years there’s been a shift from mass production to an appreciation for quality craftsmanship.’

And we’ve got no doubts that Eloise’s beautiful work will be part of the next-generation’s legacy of glass art, ensuring it continues to evolve for another thousand years!

Find out more about Fools Glass and enquire about a commission here.

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