From education to employment

Arts University Plymouth student interns with Wave Murano Glass in Venice

Michele Azzopardi blowing glass

Arts University Plymouth(@artsuniplym) BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices student Michele Azzopardi has been accepted to take part in a six-week summer internship at the world-renowned Wave Murano Glass in Venice, as part of the Turing Scheme.

Michele, a mature student who joined Arts University Plymouth in September 2022 on the arts university’s four-year Extended BA (Hons) pathway, approached the internationally acclaimed glass factory in the hope of learning from the acclaimed masters of hot glass and advancing his professional development between the first and second years of his BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices degree.

Michele said:

“I could not be more excited about this opportunity to learn from one of the most prestigious hot glass studios in the world. I’ve been following Wave Murano on Instagram and expect it to be an incredibly busy commercial glass environment, working long days in the public eye. The Venice Biennale will be opening while I’m there, with opportunities to experience new work by some of the world’s most influential artists. And alongside the chance to learn from experts at Wave Murano, there’ll be scope for me to create personal work in the evenings, which I’m sure will help me to advance my personal practice at an accelerated pace.”

“Learning in such a prestigious environment is going to be an incredible opportunity. I’d been following the Wave Murano Glass Instagram account for a while and they were following me, and at Christmas last year I messaged them to basically say that ‘this is what I want to do with my life, can I learn from you over the summer?’ That led to an online interview and I was thrilled when they extended an invitation. I’m determined to make a good impression on them and open the door for future collaborations.”

Gayle Matthias, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practice at Arts University Plymouth, said:

“As one of the few remaining universities in the UK where glassblowing techniques can be studied, Arts University Plymouth has strong ties with an international community of glass studios and leading glass artists. We began working with Wave Murano Glass in 2021 and have helped to secure internships for a number of our graduates since then. Michele has certainly earned this opportunity and I can’t wait to see what new skills he has acquired on his return to  Arts University Plymouth in the autumn.”

Speaking of his decision to join Arts University Plymouth as a mature student, Michele said:

“As soon as I got to Arts University Plymouth, it felt like home. The University has given me the freedom to explore my artistic vision without trying to pigeonhole me into any one medium. I’ve become an artist organically and now that’s how I describe myself, as an artist. If you’d told me five years ago that this was the life I’d have now, I would never have believed it.”

Artist, glassblower and Arts University Plymouth graduate Benjamin Lintell also currently works at Wave Murano in Venice, having trained and collaborated with a number of notable glass artists in the UK, USA, Paris and Italy since graduating from the arts university in 2017. Glass artists in Venice live-streamed hot glass demonstrations into Arts University Plymouth as part of ‘Melting Pot: Hot Glass Gathering’, which also featured demonstrations within the university by Elliot Walker, the UK-based winner of the Netflix series ‘Blown Away’. Other BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices students from Arts University Plymouth to complete internships at Wave Murano include Alexandra Phoenix Holmes and Elizabeth Simms.

Funding for the Wave Murano internship comes from the Turing Scheme, the UK’s programme for supporting students to take advantage of the personal and professional development opportunities offered by studying, working and living abroad.

Michele grew up in Gloucestershire and joined the army at the age of 16, moving to London as part of the Household Cavalry. During his time in the Armed Forces, Michele was initially posted in Hyde Park barracks and occupied positions including working as a Physical Training Instructor and later a Military Tailor.

After leaving the forces in 2002 Michele spent time in numerous professions, including achieving a childhood dream of freelancing as a commissioned artist for Games Workshop, painting miniatures, working on box art for Warhammer products and creating illustrations for White Dwarf Magazine.

Speaking of the funding for his trip to Venice, Michele said: “I hadn’t heard of the Turing Scheme before receiving an email about briefings for funded international trips. I went along to find out what was available and learned that I could apply for funding that could cover the cost of my flights and a monthly stipend towards living costs. That really takes the pressure off. I don’t think there’s any way that I could afford to live and study in Venice for six weeks without financial support from the Turing Scheme.”

Arts University Plymouth’s spacious Materials Lab includes specialist facilities for ceramics, glass, metal and wood, encouraging BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices students to explore traditional making alongside the rapid digital prototyping facilities in Fab Lab Plymouth. Together, this broad range of resources and facilities allows students to reinvent their craft for the 21st century.

Last year Arts University Plymouth replaced its previous gas furnace for hot glass with a new electrical furnace, the first of its kind in an educational institution in the UK, reducing the university’s annual energy consumption and carbon footprint significantly. The leading arts university recently issued a call for papers for Making Futures 2024, titled ‘Beyond Objects // Materiality at the Edge of making’, the research platform exploring contemporary craft and maker movements as ‘change agents’ in 21st-century society.

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