maker space

A glass-maker in our lab: Parallel Practice

Shelley James, a brilliant glass maker ( has been resident in our lab last year, within the Parallel Practice programme of the Crafts Council and the Cultural Institute in King's. Together we investigating making and problem-solving through glass techniques and experimentation to broaden learning and confidence.

This was an unusual project for me, and I was wondering how we would have combined our "practices" as they say in the craft world, mixing physics and the art of glass making. After our first discussions we realised we had a common language of light and matter, and have dived into fascinating speculations on light, crystals, colours, lasers.

In her words: This was an intense and wonderful experience and has sown the seeds for a rich network of relationships and ideas that I look forward to cultivating in the months and years to come. It’s also been the catalyst for me to develop a new technique for casting in glass - and to begin my first experiments in colour since my MA thesis, over 25 years ago!

If you want to know more just follow this link for a short film by Mike Paterson about the Parallel Practice experience


A new lab to encourage creativity

Creativity is often neglected in academic curricula, mainly because nobody really knows how to teach it. I believe in the “messy play” approach.

I often try to retrace the steps that led to conceiving our scientific experiments and I usually reach the conclusion that it happened when thinking about something else, during periods of intellectual stimulation, often triggered by busy research activity.
As an experimentalist I believe that you need to be making and doing, fiddle in the lab, ask yourself simple questions and link concepts together before you can have that great idea. Creativity escapes traditional frontal teaching (and teacher-centred teaching), instead it requires dirty hands and individual (student-centred) effort.

With this idea in mind Matthew Howard and I have founded the Wheatstone Innovation Lab, a space for students to experiment, research unsupervised and train their creativity. Named after Charles Wheatstone, the legendary scientist working in King’s College London (in the same lab!) it is designed to promote disruptive thinking. Think about it as the garage where Steve Job and Steve Wozniak invented the first Mac or the shed where Marie Curie discovered radioactivity.

We have been fortunate to be supported by the faculty of natural and mathematical sciences of King’s College London and in particular by Mike and Rosie who strongly believed in this idea, and now we are preparing the first activities: makehatons, researchatons, hackatons!

If you are in King’s check it out here!