Sunderland’s glass shipbulding heritage inspires new exhibition at Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens

A North East sculpture garden reopens this week, with a new installation which celebrates glass shipbuilding in Sunderland.

Monday, 13th May 2019, 4:10 pm
A piece inspired by glass shipbuilding

Cheeseburn, in Stamfordham, Northumberland, welcomes art lovers back to its Sculpture Gardens on Saturday, May 18 for its first open weekend of the year, with a new installation by award-winning glass artist and researcher Dr. Ayako Tani.

Situated in Cheeseburn’s 19th century chapel, Tani’s installation features 150 glass ships in bottles placed along the pews. Glass shipbuilding was a popular trade in Sunderland from 1970 onwards, and from 1990 more than 12,000 glass ships in bottles were created in Sunderland each month, before being exported all over the world.

Ayako Tani

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Production ceased in the UK in around 2005, but Tani is working to ensure that this important part of North East history and the skills of the glassworkers are not forgotten.

Most of the pieces on display have been taken from Tani’s solo show Vessels of Memory: Glass Ships in Bottles, held at the National Glass Centre in 2018. The highlight is Reassembled Mayflower Glass Ships in Bottles, which was created by using reclaimed parts and utilising the lampworking technique, where a torch or lamp is primarily used to melt the glass. Once in a molten state, the glass is formed by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements.

“I am excited to bring my installation to Cheeseburn and to share the history of the North East’s glass shipbuilding industry with Cheeseburn’s visitors,” said Ayako Tani.

With more than 60 sculptures in the gardens this year, 25% of which are brand new, there is a lot to discover at Cheeseburn in May, including artist Erin Dickson’s glass chandelier which is exhibited in The Stables gallery, and local business Handmade Tyneside who return to Cheeseburn’s Design Arch, selling their hand-crafted homewares made from locally reclaimed wood.

Cheeseburn. Credit and Copyright ©: Colin Davison

•Cheesburn is open this weekend from 11am to 4pm and on selected weekends until September. There is a recommended donation of £5 per adult upon entry. Free car parking on site.

For the list of open weekends visit