Having an eye for detail and a passion for collecting, a Ribble Valley hotelier has brought the unique work of a South African glass blower to the Forest of Bowland

Having his work exhibited in galleries and private collections around the world, glass blower David Reade has also created stunning focal points in a country hotel here in the Ribble Valley.

Inspired by the deserts and mountains of South Africa where David has lived since 1984, his glass features predominantly in the beautiful orangery at the Gibbon Bridge Hotel in the Forest of Bowland.

Independently owned by Janet Simpson, the hotel created the orangery in 2010 and installed more than 20 pieces of David’s work, which are illuminated in a feature wall designed specifically for the individual pieces of glass.

Janet first discovered David’s work by chance in a gallery during one of her many visits to South Africa, as she explains: “We measured up and the gallery sent the pieces over. I had a really clear vision as to how it was going to look.”

Wanting to put a name to a face, Janet was keen to meet David and returned to South Africa to visit his studio at his home in converted stables and a farmhouse, originally built in the late 1700s.

She went on to commission magnificent glass chandeliers from David, which were installed the day before the orangery opened at the hotel.

“It was tight timing and difficult to watch as they balanced on top of a ladder to fix the glass chandeliers to the ceiling, but we did it!” recalls Janet.

During his time spent last year as a guest at the Gibbon Bridge, and seeing his work magnificently installed in the orangery, David said: “I am amazed – just blown away by how effective it looks. Janet has a vision in terms of shape, colour and display. She has an incredible eye for detail.

“It is also great to see the pieces in-situ as I feel I am seeing a little piece of history as to how my style of work has changed slightly over the years,” adds David, who has continued to make individual unique pieces for the hotel.

“I have developed as the years have gone by and my style is very simplistic.”

Born in the UK, David began working with glass in 1977 under master glass blower Michael Harris at Isle of Wight Studio Glass. His apprenticeship last seven years during which time he worked in Ireland and the Isle of Wight learning glass blowing and design skills.

However a holiday in 1984 to South Africa was to change his life: “I never came back to England apart from a three-week period to pack up some things. I just loved South Africa so much, it is so beautiful and it felt like home.”

He went on to work with Kea Verwey in Worcester, South Africa, and in small studios in Scandinavia where he learnt from some of the best master glass blowers in Sweden before returning to South Africa in 1988.

Developing his style over the years, David sources is own raw materials using sand from Athlone on the Cape Flats, mixing it with soda ash and lime, as well as other compounds and heating it to 1320 degrees Centigrade, leaving it for 24 hours, before bringing the molten glass down to a workable temperature of 1080 degrees.

He then uses a stainless steel tube, a blowing iron, to free blow the glass into beautifully smooth and often brightly coloured vessels, bowls, decanters, screens and lighting. He overlays colour on to clear glass, a technique called wrapping, to create an end result that is ultimately fluid in both shape and colour.

Working with architects, David made huge glass screens for a triple storey apartment block in Sandy Bay, South Africa, with the screens crafted and illuminated to represent the ripples of the nearby ocean.

Janet, who collects art from her travels all over the world, concludes: “To have David’s work here at the Gibbon Bridge is lovely.

“It is not just a focal point in the interior of the hotel, but it is a talking point too. Having met David it’s lovely to be able to tell our guests about the artist and the origins of his work.”

“The unusual items I have collected and David’s glass all enhance the interior and exterior giving our guests a better experience of the Gibbon Bridge.”

Gibbon Bridge
Green Lane
Chipping, Preston PR3 2TQ
01995 61456



Tedd Walmsley

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