Posts Tagged ‘Iona House Gallery’

In Remembrance of Things Past: Mike Hall and Pete Gilbert

May 16, 2021

Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”― Marcel Proust

Mike Hall and Pete Gilbert’s paintings share three essential elements: the importance of light, a deep sense of place and an emotional response to memory. Their artwork transports us to a setting that we long to return to, even if we’ve never actually been there or allows us to anticipate finding it for ourselves in the future. Their compositions record and distil an expression of a particular moment in time; ‘bottling it’ for us all to enjoy over and over again every time we step into it with them and view it through their eyes.

Mike Hall’s airy landscapes are full of light; dappled through leaves, strongly contrasted between deep shadow and bright sunlight or scintillating off water. His paintings take us back to family holidays and hot summer days or show us a window on a world; somewhere we may have never been, yet seem to know.

Comparison of artwork by Mike Hall and Pete Gilbert at Iona House Gallery during the Spring Exhibition 2021

Mike spends much of the year in France, sketching and painting the landscape and culture that he loves in clear layers of acrylic on board which gives a vibrant freshness to his palette. Mike trained at the Manchester College of Art and the Royal College of Arts in London. His work is full of local atmosphere; caught at a specific moment in time and often framed by a window. The viewer is placed in an interior setting or seated at a table, looking out on hot sunshine or a rural square lined with cafes and shaded by trees. 

Cafe scene by Mike Hall at Iona House Gallery

The pleasure of experiencing his artwork is like the anticipation of the first sip of wine or of resting under a shady umbrella after a long walk on dusty roads. There is a deep sense of relaxation which appeals to a deep need to sit and look at the sky; for time spent in the sunshine watching the world go by or the shifting patterns of light on a green lawn is never wasted. Hanging a Mike Hall painting on your wall not only evokes happy memories of warm days in the garden or by the sea but also encourages you to unwind and slip into the composition. 

Mike Hall view of sunlit garden at Iona House Gallery

The moving sun-shapes on the spray,
The sparkles where the brook was flowing,
Pink faces, plightings, moonlit May,
These were the things we wished would stay;
But they were going‘- Thomas Hardy

By contrast, Pete Gilbert’s work, inspired by his home in the New Forest, invites us to walk in cool dells, shady bluebell woods and under softly layered foliage. Pete’s style is impressionistic, organic and authentic and he was voted one of the Top 50 UK artists in the ‘National 50 over 50 Exhibition’.  He captures the essence of ancient woodland; the unchanging wildness and natural beauty of a timeless landscape. His mark making is quick and energetic and full of his passion for the subject matter and the movement of water and leaves in the breeze. If Mike’s paintings evoke the smell of lavender and fresh bread, then Pete’s suggest the tang of wild garlic and aroma of damp soil underfoot.

Dappled light  on a path through bluebells by Pete Gilbert at Iona House Gallery

Pete uses handmade, textured papers which give a subtle life and movement to his compositions. Light is filtered through branches and dappled across pathways which lead the eye into the work and invite the viewer to take a walk in the wild.

Pathway through a dell in the New Forest by Pete Gilbert at Iona House Gallery

There is a feeling of freedom and connection in Pete’s work. The freedom of nature, left to her own devices and a connection with the rhythms of the seasons and our relationship to the natural world. The creative process allows us to see their unique and individual interpretations of a particular place and what it means to them and to experience it with them through their artwork.

Gentle study of a river flowing in the New Forest by Pete Gilbert at Iona House Gallery

Both artists have also produced books which provide further context for their collections. Mike’s book ‘Choosing the Light’ illustrates the evolution of his style and subject matter and includes many examples of his work – not only of French scenes but also Dorset, Cornwall and Scotland. He also talks about the influence of painters like Bonnard, Vuillard and Matisse on his approach to creating dream-like compositions with soft light and interest in pattern and creating a narrative. The viewer feels that someone may have just left the composition for a moment and that there is a story behind the scene.

Mike Hall book 'Choosing the Light' at Iona House Gallery
Pete Gilbert and Hugh Lohan 'On the Test' book at Iona House Gallery

Pete’s book ‘On the River Test’, which is co-authored with Hugh Lohan, takes the reader on a journey along the river Test in Hampshire and provides a visual journal of his experiences of the waterway and surrounding landscape which is full of the life and movement of water and the landscape he observes along the way. Both collections are available to browse online at and feature in our current Spring Exhibition at the gallery which continues until Sunday, 30 May 2021.


Bob Crooks: Master Glassmaker

January 30, 2021

Bob Crooks: Master Glassmaker

 ‘Bob Crooks draws inspiration from the process itself.  He enjoys striving for perfection and the only way of achieving this is by repetitive making whilst trying for a better result each time.  There is always room for just that little bit of something extra, more expression, more fluidity, more colour control.  Every artist looks for inspiration.  Bob Crooks finds it in shifting imagery and distortion.’ Dan Klein

Fruits de Verre glass form by Bob Crooks for sale to buy at Iona House Gallery in store or online

Bob Crooks ‘Fruits de Verre’ glass H28cm W84cm D47cm – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

Bob Crooks is one of our most collected and well-loved glass makers, having exhibited with Iona House Gallery for many years. We are delighted to be showcasing a collection of Bob’s stunning one-off and limited production forms in our new Winter Exhibition as well as a variety of his production pieces. 

After studying at Humberside College of Higher Education and West Surrey College of Art, Bob spent a year assisting Ronnie Wilkinson, former Master Glassmaker at the Whitefriars Glassworks based at the Glasshouse, Covent Garden.

Bob then moved to Glassworks (London) Ltd as the Workshop Manager where he honed his craft further, working with Simon Moore, Catherine Hough and Steven Newell.

In 1990 he set up First Glass in Newent, Gloucestershire and subsequently First Glass, London in 1994 before relocating to Devon.

Lineweaver series glass forms by Bob Crooks for sale at Iona House Gallery

Bob Crooks ‘Lineweaver Trio: The Blueberry Shuffle’ glass length 55cm – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

Bob is highly innovative; constantly designing dynamic new pieces which drive him to overcome technical challenges and express his creativity and eye for detail in an array of gloriously rich colours and intricate patterns which ‘speak’ to each other as they are viewed from different angles.

Pi Spectrum Vase by Bob Crooks available to buy at Iona House Gallery in store or online

Bob Crooks ‘π Bowl Spectrum’ glass H29cm x W37cm x D8cm – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

Drawing his inspiration from architecture, geometry and the intrinsic qualities of the medium itself, Bob designs, creates and hand-finishes every piece ensuring a unique three-dimensional form and is increasingly working at larger scale to achieve stunning one-off showpieces.

His work features in many prestigious collections including the V&A, LondonThe Fitzwilliam Collection, Cambridge and the Ruskin Glass Centre, Stourbridge and he has exhibited internationally in many countries including Italy, China, Scandinavia, the USA and Australia.

Arran Ryder recently interviewed Bob for Iona House Gallery to find out more about his work and inspirations:

– How long have you been a glassmaker and how did you start your career?

I started the business then known as First Glass 30 years ago. My first experience of glass was on my Foundation course, where I was lucky enough to experience building a basic furnace and blow a basic form: “I was hooked!”

Glass Jester Vase by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

Iona House Gallery – Bob Crooks ‘Jester vase’

– Where do you start when creating a piece of glass?

Sometimes I start an idea on paper then translate this into glass ‘sketches’ – experiments that lead me to the end result I am looking for. Over the years I have mastered many techniques and am able to harness them, metamorphosing several of them into a hybrid to create something completely different and the result I am looking for. The challenge is stretching the material and my ability each time I create a new piece.

Large Venetian glass jugs by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

Bob Crooks ‘Large Round Venetian Jug’ glass H21cm x L26cm x W 18cm – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

– What are the artistic hurdles you face when creating your glass art?

For a skilled glassmaker it can often be the limitations of the facilities themselves that might create the hurdles, to find ways to create objects and pieces that are potentially complex and skilled in technique but also the scale and form that you desire. Creating ‘Glass Art’ is often a journey as there are so many elements that can be challenging, some you have control over, others you do not.

Glass Voyage bowl by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

Voyage – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

– You’ve been described as a colourist through the medium of glass? How do you respond to this, and how do you use colour in your work?

This I believe is part of a quote by well respected glass critic Dan Klein. I think this is absolutely true. Colour has always been central to my work, the techniques I use are multiple and cross the spectrum of both colour and technique, playing with transparency and opacity, line and pattern created using both traditional techniques such as threading, Murini and cane work to cutting and polishing exploiting the refractive qualities of the glass.

Hula Scent bottles by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

hula – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

– In creating your Pi bowls you use Pythagorus theorem; did you discover this when experimenting with glass? 

These pieces are called Pi as they are inspired by the natural spirals we find in nature. I use cane work in many aspects of my one-off works but wanted the simplicity of the two perfect spirals with the way the colours create secondary colours that are not really there, to be the focus that one is drawn to.

Pi Vase by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

Bob Crooks ‘π Bowl’ glass H29cm x W37cm x D8cm – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

– What effect did you hope to create when designing your one-off lineweaver series? Tell us more about these 3D pieces and techniques you have utilised.

The Lineweaver Series came about as I wanted to create a series of thought-provoking still life groups; addressing the use of colour and form, looking at the relationship that could exist between multiple forms. I am particularly interested in form, pattern and colour and by developing groups, I hope to bring all of these elements together harmoniously. Lineweavers are made in sections, the axis of the glass is changed several times before the threaded trails of hot glass are added. The subsequent forms suggest a ‘conversation’ and a still-life group is created.

Lineweaver peach melba glass by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

Bob Crooks ‘Lineweaver Pair: Peach Melba’ glass – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

– You constantly push the boundaries of glass making; what pieces were the most difficult to create and what have you been most proud of to date?

I often get asked the question ‘how long does it take you to make this one-off piece’ – actual time varies depending on the piece, but the short answer is 30 years, and however long I’ve been sat in the bench this morning.

All of my one-off pieces are complex to make. All of them encompass more than one technique, and often they are very different to each other.

The Flower pieces in comparison to the Lineweavers or the Pi Bowls to the large scale pieces you have today vary greatly in technique, scale and use of colour within a form to create the overall piece. I enjoy all of the pieces I have made but as with most masters or artists you always see where you can develop further, push yourself and the material in a variety of directions, so the journey continues and with it you continue to learn.

Bob Crooks purple flower bowl at Iona House Gallery

Purple Flower Bowl – Available to order

– Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you see yourself within the glassmakers world?

Both the natural and man-made worlds around us; from cityscapes to the landscape around me today in Devon; from music genres to fashion. I also draw inspiration greatly from the techniques themselves and as I combine them, the overall effects that I can achieve. Mark making and colour are centre stage in every piece.

Glass Energy bowl by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

Iona House Gallery – Bob Crooks ‘Energy Bowl’

– Who are the people in the public eye who have collected your work?

I am fortunate to have been collected by many famous collections around the world in the last thirty years in both public and private collections. By having your work in a public collection you know the longevity of its presence is there for all future generations to be inspired by, enjoy and discuss.  No matter what their background, it’s for all. However, it is also due to loyal collectors and individuals purchasing the work over the years that creates an opportunity to continue and to have reached the position we are in as artists today, and for that I am appreciative. The support an artist gets from the sale of their work enables them to continue pushing the boundaries and create future ranges or creations.

Showpiece glass object by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

Bob Crooks ‘Confiserie du Verre’ glass H105cm x D28cm – Art and Artists – Iona House Gallery

 Can your work be scaled up? What are the most ambitious pieces you have made?

Some of the pieces I create can be scaled up or down but often some pieces do not necessarily work in the same way, They can lose an intensity or quality. Sometimes something completely different happens; not better or worse just different. Some of the most ambitious projects would be a large series of wall installations to work as individuals as well as one collective; similarly with lighting.

Turquoise glass chandelier by Bob Crooks at Iona House Gallery

Turquoise chandelier – commissions available

Many thanks to Bob Crooks for his time in sharing insights into his processes and inspirations with the team at Iona House Gallery

Glass candlesticks by Bob Crooks for sale at Iona House Gallery