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Eloise McCullough of Fools Glass: A modern spin on the traditional art of leadlighting

Portrait of Eloise Mccullough standing in the sunlight
Eloise McCullough, founder of Fools Glass and graduate of Melbourne Polytechnic’s Certificate III in Glass and Glazing (Designed Glazing) MSF30422 in her Kensington studio.

Melbourne Polytechnic’s Certificate III in Glass and Glazing MSF30422 (Designed Glazing) is the only course in the world to offer a trade qualification in designed glazing - this means the qualification can help achieve employment in the sector and maintain a professional level of construction and compliance in the work produced.

Designed glazing is an unusual qualification because it straddles construction (focusing on practicality and compliance) and art and design, which is important to make sure the beautiful works produced also meet safety requirements.

We caught up with Eloise McCullough, who studied at Melbourne Polytechnic in 2020-2021 and recently founded her own glass design business Fools Glass.

Read on to learn more about Eloise’s experience in the Certificate III in Glass and Glazing MSF30422 (Designed Glazing) course, and where the skills she learned can take her in the future!

What led you to your craft in the first place, and why did you decide to take the plunge to study in the field of glass design and glazing?

While working from home during lockdown, I was restless (as many creatives can relate to, I’m sure) and became curious about courses that could feed my creativity.

Through this curiosity I discovered a glass course and it was a video on the course page of a young female artist, Nadine Keegan, that reeled me in and resonated with me. The video showed Nadine working in her studio in Melbourne, working with stained glass in a way I’d never seen before. I could relate to her and I could see there was a huge opportunity in the field. It broke down my preconceived ideas of stained glass being reserved for churches.

I enrolled, got in, and it all went from there. I did the course part-time over roughly 2 years. My background in design has certainly been useful, however, I had no experience in glass - it all happened quite organically and I haven’t looked back.

Stained glass work with flowers.

What is one thing that was most surprising to you about studying at Melbourne Polytechnic? Do you have any tips for someone who is thinking about enrolling and breaking into the glass design field?

I was surprised by how supportive the teachers were. They all work in the industry and go above and beyond in sharing their skills and lessons. There’s so much to learn and the learning goes both ways, from the old generation of glass artists passing on their skills, to the emerging artists sharing their unique approach and breathing new life into the industry.

My biggest tip is: take the leap! It doesn’t matter what background you come from, or whether you have experience in the area (I had absolutely ZERO experience in glass). In fact, coming from diverse and unrelated backgrounds can help as it allows you to approach the glass world with a fresh perspective and putting your own unique spin on it.

The artworks you make include creative elements but they also require very specific practical skills to produce the final works. Which do you enjoy most – the practical process of making the glass work, or the creative concept phase for the design?

It’s a tough one. Leadlighting caters to both my creative and analytical brain but if I had to pick, I’d say the creative part of the process is the most enjoyable.

Sourcing glass is my favourite part of the process. Glass selection is influenced by many factors, for example if I’m working on a window, I need to consider the position of the piece and how much or little light will penetrate - I choose colours, transparent / opaque glass accordingly.

Stained glass artist in a studio looking at glass samples.

I enjoy working with people, and glass work is collaborative. My favorite pieces aren’t so much influenced by the end result but rather the experience I have with the people I work with.

What was the biggest learning curve for you during the course?

I’m the type of person who likes to be good at things right away. It takes time to hone skills in glass, so leaving perfection at the door was a learning curve for me. I’d recommend experimenting, exploring and utilising your teachers as much as you can while you’re studying so that you can apply those skills when working with clients. Put your own unique spin on the craft and express your individuality.

What was the most exciting or enjoyable thing for you during the course?

Building connections and friendships with the teachers and students. The support doesn’t end when you finish the course either. Donna (the Glass and Glazing course Program Leader) and the volunteer team at Glaas Inc. which is the Australian Centre for Glass Design located at Melbourne Polytechnic, offers opportunities to exhibit your work and provide studio space after hours. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for the generosity of Glaas Inc. alongside the skills I learnt through the Melbourne Polytechnic course.

Where to next – what kind of projects would you like to work on or dream clients you hope to collaborate with in the next year?

There’s so much to explore in glass, the opportunities are endless and I’m just at the tip of the iceberg. I’m keen to collaborate with furniture designers, interior designers and artists who work with other mediums.

I’d also like to work on large scale installations in collaboration with interior designers and architects, to invigorate and create impact in residential homes, developments and hospitality venues.

Stained glass artist at work bench applying leadlight to glass.

Melbourne Polytechnic’s Glass and Glazing Design Certificates teach the skills and techniques required to become a qualified professional glazier with a strong emphasis on designed glazing. Traditional glazing skills are combined with innovative contemporary techniques to allow for multiple employment pathways.

To learn more, book a 30 minute interview to meet one on one with Donna Kennedy, Director of Glaas Inc, and the Melbourne Polytechnic Glass and Glazing course Program Leader.

In your interview you will tour the excellent studio facilities available at the Prahran campus and have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the courses, as well as the glass and glazing sector.