After Carrie Paxton finished a number of apprenticeships in graphic design and earned a degree in Architectural Glass at the Edinburgh College of Art, she ached to begin a career of her own.
“I left Art College in 2000, and it took a year or two before I could afford to buy my first kiln,” Paxton explains via email from her home in Orkney. “As soon as I had my own middle-sized kiln, I started my creative work.”
Getting the kiln wasn’t her only challenge; with a young family, responsibilities were many.
“I had to shelve things for a while, as I had two children to raise and simply could not manage without a regular income. I worked part time for another employer until I felt I make a go of it on my own.”
Paxton’s employment ended up being a boon for her own career, however, as it gave her a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the marketplace.
“I worked for people who owned a gallery and two gift shops. This was helpful, as I could see what was popular and how much folks were willing to spend for items. I developed some ranges of smaller-sized glass pieces that I could sell in their shops. Later, I begin attending trade shows, where I would make multiples of the same designs for other shops and galleries. I am extremely grateful for this period, as it helped me to survive financially, and it gave me the time to practice my craft and to gauge where I wanted it to develop.”
It wasn’t long before Paxton began expanding her unique style of glassware.
“These days, there are many glass makers working in Scotland. However, the majority of these people work with coloured glass and fuse their glasswork. I work with clear glass and add colour by firing frits (coloured ground glass), before applying detail with fired-on enamels. Each piece takes three to four separate firings.
“I like to use clear glass as a painter would use plain paper or canvas…”
“I draw freehand onto the surface, firing each stage to produce a depth of colour and detail. No two pieces will be exactly the same, and therefore, each is an original work of art. I like to think that my style is distinctive and is a culmination of my previous work experience, my training, and my personal taste in design.”
Today, Paxton runs her business in the Orkney Isles – a stunning archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland that often inspires her wares.
“My company is very small – it is just me. I do everything: the books, publicity, graphics, marketing, ordering, post office runs, all the way down to sweeping the floor and the making the coffee. I am happy keeping the making process to myself, but it would be great to delegate other chores. Bookkeeping, marketing, and publicity are full-time jobs, and I have so very little time for these activities.”
She does collaborate with other artisans to get her work into the hands of collectors and aficionados.
“I have a local craftsman that I collaborate with. This is a fairly new venture, and I love it. He makes the wooden bases for my lighting and stands, or box frames for my glass installations. I also have a weekend Christmas show, and two friends who run their own gallery business come up to Orkney and manage that on my behalf. Their professionalism helps make the event fun, and an occasion not to be missed!”
Like many small business owners, Paxton has noted the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had upon the economy.
“Presently, the situation is particularly difficult, as all my outlets are closed due to the lockdown. I expect people will be reluctant to travel abroad for a while and will holiday in the U.K. – Orkney has a huge tourist industry, and it is a very appealing holiday destination.”
For the time being, she is happy to stay close to her kiln at home.
“I am a very positive person by nature, and I have no doubt that 2021 will be a bumper year.”