Charles Bray

Glass Sculpture

Charles Bray

Loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather

An accomplished artist, pianist and author, Charles, once described as a quiet man with a twinkle in his eye, had a passion for reading, cricket and not to mention, Countdown.

Charles started off his career working with wood as an apprentice church furnisher and carver before joining the royal navy during World War II, serving on many ships including HMS Rodney and HMS Diomede. At the end of the war Charles trained to be a teacher specialising in music, woodwork and metal work. His talent as a musician led him to enrol in music at Goldsmiths College London but his passion for art soon took over leading him to change courses. It was on the art course at goldsmiths where his met the love of his life Margaret, they soon married and later moved to Cumbria to start a family of four sons. There he worked as an art teacher at Eden School before transferring to teach at Sunderland Teacher Training College. He soon became Head of Ceramic Art at Sunderland College of Art. He developed a passion for glass in what he described as a ‘happy accident’; going on to establish a degree course in the subject and in recognition of his work Sunderland University awarded Charles with an honorary fellowship.

As well as teaching, Charles always found time to build on his own artwork and in 1981 he took early retirement to further pursue production of personal work; exhibiting across Britain, Europe and the United States. Private collectors of his work include Margrethe II of Denmark, and ex-king Constantine II of Greece.

Through retirement he maintained his support and encouragement of glass and ceramic art as a tutor and mentor and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. A founding member and the first honorary life member of British Artists in Glass, Charles Bray has held a pioneering role in the art glass world, earning him a place in the 2006 edition of Who’s Who.

Early years

He was brought up, an only child, in a two-up-two-down terraced house, in Salford, where his father worked as a lorry driver. A strong artistic influence came through his mother, who was musical and his maternal great-grandfather, a stonemason. He failed the scholarship exam for Grammar school, but became top of his secondary school, Halton Bank School, by the age of 13. He later attended Openshaw Technical College and studied to belong to the Society of Designer Craftsmen. He began employment with a firm of church furnishers.

When he turned 18, Charles Bray joined the Royal Navy, at the start of World War II, and served on HMS Rodney and HMS Diomede. After the end of the war, he attended Freckleton Teacher training college, under the Emergency Teacher Training Scheme , set up after the implementation of the Education Act 1944.

Teaching

He taught for two years in Manchester, specialising in music, woodwork and metalwork and then entered Goldsmiths College to study painting and sculpture. Upon returning to teach at Manchester, Charles Bray then moved to Cumberland (Cumbria) in 1955, to teach art at Eden School, Carlisle. He married Margaret Ingram, a textile artist (who died in 1995). In 1962, Charles Bray worked at Sunderland Teacher Training College, and then became Head of Ceramic Art at Sunderland College of Art. Charles Bray set up courses on ceramic glazes for teachers, and established a glass degree course at SCA. In 1976, he attended the Hot Glass Conference at the Royal College of Art which proved a major watershed in the development of Studio Glass in England. Subsequently, he was instrumental in setting up British Artists in Glass (now the Contemporary Glass Society) to promote and support the work of glass artists in the UK.


Exhibitions and collections

Charles Bray has exhibited in Britain, Europe and the United States. Private collectors of his work include Margrethe II of Denmark, and ex-king Constantine II of Greece. His work is in a number of public collections some of which are:

  • Turner Museum of Glass, Sheffield.
  • Musee du Verre, Sars Poteries.
  • Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead.
  • Salford City Art Gallery, Salford.
  • Crystalex, Novy Bor, Czechoslovakia.
  • Corning Museum of Glass, New York.
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.
  • Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh.
  • Ulster Museum, Belfast.

Influence

Charles Bray has drawn influence from form and line observed from naval objects, and by the artists Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore. This is evident in his prolific paintings and drawings. Later influences from the Cumbria landscape, and rock strata, were instrumental in a change of artistic direction. His glass work demonstrates this influence. Charles Bray’s glass work can be classed in two groups. The first consists of blown bowls, etched with shapes reflecting landscape influences. Secondly, nature plays a strong influence in his glass sculpture, much of which is experimental and varied.