Free blown and sculpted hot glass, Cook’s Collection, 2010, by James Maskrey, acquired by Perth Museum and Art Gallery in 2012 with an NFA grant of £765.
In March 2011 the Scottish Glass Society and Perth & Kinross Council presented Trove, a contemporary glass exhibition showcasing the work of 25 emerging and established glass artists who were invited to create new artworks that revealed the hidden treasure in Perth Museum and Art Gallery’s reserve collection.
Following some research and a subsequent installation at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby I wanted to further research Cook’s voyages and was overjoyed to discover a first edition of Cook’s Journals in the Perth collection. Through further investigation and my continued relationship with the Captain Cook Memorial Museum I discovered that Cook developed quite an original approach to diet and as a result his crew rarely suffered from the effects of malnutrition, namely scurvy, the debilitating disease that was the curse of seafarers. He utilised locally sourced and seasonal foodstuffs on his travels as well as vitamin rich ‘anti-scorbutic’ concoctions he brought from home. Interestingly, he was also the first known person to brew beer in New Zealand.
‘Cook’s Collection’, Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Photograph by Paul Adair, Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council
Cook’s Dietary Curiosities is a celebration of this, a menagerie of factual and imagined curiosities collected by Cook before and during his voyages. All the work was made using traditional methods of glass blowing from the furnace. Jars, lids and contents were all free-blown and sculpted by hand using hot glass techniques. The labels were designed, printed and distressed, some sourcing original drawings by Joseph Banks, the botanist onboard Cook’s first voyage and utilising similar typeface of the period. Such is my love of the creative process that every part of the procedure was completed personally.
Detail of Spruce Beer label. Photograph by David Williams
Subsequent pieces have concentrated on the factual with the odd red herring, the joy being that the viewer may find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. On closer scrutiny, however, they would discover that it is nearly all fact. Cook’s Collection now extends to nearly 20 individual pieces.
Part of ‘Cook’s Collection’. Photograph by David Williams
This body of work has since found a completely new direction. Through further research I learned that Cook was the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle, discovering the South Sandwich Islands and mapping South Georgia. This gave rise to speculation about the existence of a ‘Great Southern continent’ (Antarctica). Subsequent work over the past three years has evolved into a narrative of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. All these works (from Cook to Antarctica) aim to celebrate, capture and preserve. They have been shown widely in the UK, Europe, China and the USA and pieces from the series have since been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Crafts Council.
I feel privileged to have been selected for Trove and I’m indebted to the Scottish Glass Society and Perth Museum and Art Gallery for the opportunity. Much of the development and subsequent success of the work has been down to the original subject matter and research conducted for the exhibition and in the collection at Perth Museum and Art Gallery.
‘The Worst Jouney in the World’ (Craft Council Collection) Photographs by David Williams
Left to Right: ‘Furthest South’; ‘South Polar Regions’; ‘The Cairn’. Photograph by David Williams
Technical Demonstrator/Artist Facilitator
University of Sunderland