Blown up in style

Catherine Hough makes glass bottles - but don't worry about filling them; they are a triumph of art over function. Claire Gervat considers the ultimate Mother's Day present

There is a good chance that many of this weekend's most harried shoppers will be those searching for the perfect Mother's Day present, and high on their list will be that perennial favourite, perfume.

But for the more imaginative giver, and lucky recipient, there is an exclusive alternative. For, no matter how much time the designers at Dior, Chanel et al dedicate to creating the perfect container for their product, there is nothing to beat the luxury of a custom-made perfume bottle.

Whether any of Catherine Hough's customers at her south London studio would really commission one of her sensuous hand-made glass bottles for keeping scent in is a moot point, however. After all, they cost more than their contents are likely to - around pounds 200 or so for an individual design - though she has a standard range that retails for about pounds 75 in such places as the Crafts Council shop in north London.

Catherine herself believes that "when somebody commissions a bottle, they're usually looking beyond the function of it, towards having something that is a true one-off, a special piece. I suspect they're not used very often, though I take great pains to make sure the stopper fits perfectly. More often than not they are ornaments. There are, after all, lots of people who collect bottles."

Commissioning an individual piece is not a speedy process. "A special design takes quite a bit of time. There are the meetings with the client to work out what they want, then you have to do a prototype. That's what raises the cost."

Although some customers have strong ideas as to what they want, anyone who is less than certain need not feel daunted. To provide inspiration, there are plenty of examples of Catherine's bottles, with their sinuous stoppers, textured surfaces and jewel-bright bubbles of colour, on display in the office at her shared studio.

Catherine's love of glass dates from an early age. But at the time she left school, in 1967, it was difficult for creative glassblowers to find somewhere to train and work, so she went into teaching.

"It's only really in the past 20 or 25 years that studios with small furnaces have existed," she points out. The first one was The Glasshouse in Covent Garden, and having attended one of their evening classes she decided to go back to college to do a specialist glass course. Three years later she left Stourbridge College of Art with a degree and a job at the crystal specialists Royal Brierley, making ornate, one-off pieces.

Her reputation for making exquisite perfume bottles started to develop after she left Royal Brierley. She was offered a place at The Glasshouse's workshop, where she was able to rethink and simplify her style.

"That's when I started using natural objects as sources for my designs: pebbles, rock strata, ripples in the sand. The perfume bottles were just something I enjoyed making. It was an interesting challenge to relate the bottle and stopper into one shape. And having started making them, I've made more. It was something I became known for."

Since then, Catherine's work has featured widely in shows, and there are examples in permanent collections in Sweden, the US and Germany, as well as in Britain.

One of the identifying marks of her style is the large amount of work that is done after the basic shape has been created. But first a tiny amount of coloured glass is wrapped in clear glass over the end of a rod, to be blown out as the colour lines the inside of the bubble.

"I don't blow it out very thin, so you can always see the shape of the bubble suspended in the clear glass," Catherine remarks. After that, the bottle is polished, textured and decorated in the cold workshop.

What this means is that Catherine needs only one or two days a week at the furnace. Yet furnaces have to be kept running constantly, gobbling up fuel and money, so it's often not viable for glass makers to work on their own. Catherine has always shared studios with other craftspeople. Since early last year, she has had a large space in a workshop in Clapham, south London, owned by Simon Moore. It suits her perfectly, she says.

And should you find that one of her perfume bottles would suit you perfectly, too, clear a space on the dressing-table and leave this page in a prominent position. Your family may well be grateful for the inspiration.

Catherine Hough Glass is at Unit Two, Union Court, Union Road, London SW4 6JH (0171-498 6453; fax 0171-720 1046; e-mail houghglass@aol.com).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environment
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher -Full Time - ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital