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Economy of Scale


Cast and kiln formed glass, antique scales.

This piece was made to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Robert Recorde in Tenby.

The story of Robert Recorde, and his invention of the equals sign almost 500 years ago, caught my imagination. I wanted make a piece that embodied the concept of equality, celebrated Recorde’s life and made links with Tenby today.

I have been exploring glass as a medium for the past seven years and for this project decided to make a piece which incorporated glass from wine bottles from Tenby. Tenby has been known for importing wine from Mediaeval times right through to the reputation it has today as a venue for Hen and Stag Nights, so it seemed an appropriate medium to use.

The research for this piece lead me from Tenby Museum to The British Museum, both of whom have allowed me access to their collections and enabled me to photograph and take impressions of artefacts relating to Recorde and to the Tudor period. The coins were individually cast from bottle glass in moulds made from impressions of coins from the period when Recorde was Controller of the Bristol Mint, the apothecary balance was bought from Bulgaria on eBay and the dishes were made in my studio kiln.

The ideas behind the piece evolved in response to my research and to the practical development of the work. The title is a homage to Recorde who employed wordplay in the titling of his own work, and alludes to contemporary concern with the value of currency and the state of our economy.

In Recorde’s day, a coin’s worth was equivalent to the value of the weight of the metal from which it was made, today, incredibly, we still carry coins in our pockets, but they are tokens , divorced from their actual value as objects. The coins in this work are effectively valueless as they are one-sided, made from glass, and can not be exchanged for goods or services.

Recorde, himself was a powerful and wealthy man who died in debtors prison unable to pay a fine levied because of a dispute about money with the Earl of Pembroke. The significance of an artist (literally) making money in this time of recession has not escaped me and I think Recorde might have enjoyed the irony.

Thanks to Tenby Museum for the inspiration, and for access to their collection, the British Museum for access to their coin collection, Plantagenet Restaurant, Tenby, for the (empty) wine bottles.

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