National TV debut on Great British Menu

I’ve had to keep a secret for what feels like forever… My work was on Great British Menu on BBC2!

Great British Menu Fish Dish by Kate Austen on a handmade Glass Rainbow Plate

Image credit: BBC TV/Optomen Television Limited

Great British Menu Fish Dish by Kate Austen on a handmade Glass Rainbow Plate

Image credit: BBC TV/Optomen Television Limited

The BBC2 show Great British Menu puts the nation’s most talented chefs to the test. Each week the show focuses on a particular area of the UK and 3 of the top chefs from that region compete against each other.

If you’ve never watched Great British Menu, you won’t know that props are pretty important. Obviously the star of the show is the food but the chefs have to stick to the theme, which this year is the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The chefs are competing to cook at a final banquet to wish the Team GB athletes good luck for the Paris Olympics. 

Last August (2023) I had an email land in my inbox enquiring about the Rainbow bowls I make but wanting to make some changes to the size and colour. She explained that she needed 5 bowls to use for a competition she was entering and wanted to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community by championing certain athletes, namely swimmers. I responded that I could do that, no problem!

In my head I was slightly panicking because commissions always fill me with nerves – I get huge imposter syndrome and question my work and whether I can fulfil what the customer wants – this is all totally unfounded as every commission I’ve completed has always been received very well, but those brain gremlins like to come out when I’m not in my comfort zone!

Kate Austen was the chef who contacted me, representing London & the South East on Great British Menu and it’s her first time competing in the programme. She has worked at leading restaurants including Morston Hall, Marcus Wareing, Restaurant Frantzen and Restaurant AOC. Most recently she was part of Gordon Ramsay’s development team and is now a private chef in London. 

I did a bit of research on Kate, as you do, and could see straight away the passion she has for food. Her dishes look absolutely stunning and I bet they taste it too!

In a recent interview with Women in the Food Industry, something Kate said really resonated with me

“You do have to go through the rough bits to achieve the good bits. And they can last for longer than is comfortable and be extremely challenging. But everything moves, everything shifts eventually. Sometimes you cannot quite see the point in what you’re doing, especially if it is tough, but in hindsight you’ll understand that it’s some of the jigsaw pieces that put you where you are today.”

Kate Austen Chef

Chef Kate Austen

Making the Bowls

So, I had my brief from chef Kate Austen – the same bowls but a slightly larger base and in the Pride flag colours (in case you didn’t know, there is a 6-colour rainbow for Pride – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Dark Blue and Violet). I am always happy to change colourway if requested so that wasn’t a problem. The part that was more difficult was the size change. I researched what moulds I could use to keep the design of the bowl similar but with a larger base – I could find absolutely nothing! The moulds I usually use are ceramic and with care last a long time but are quite costly – and finding 5 in the size and shape I needed was not happening!

I got my thinking cap on and came up with the idea of using something called Silkemat – it is a kiln forming blanket which you can use to create re-useable forms for slumping glass into. You can mould it to any shape, and it hardens and supports the glass while firing in the kiln. I had never used it before so it was a bit of a learning curve – I made a test piece with plain clear glass first, just to see how it would work. I needed to make some changes to the form so did another test piece, all while knowing I only had a month to complete the 5 bowls in the middle of the school holidays, with other orders to make too – I certainly know how to add stress to my life haha!

The Rainbow bowl after its first firing in the kiln – this is to add the colour and fuse it all together.

Great British Menu Rainbow Plate

The rainbow bowls in the kiln for their second firing – to add the texture. This is done on a tack fuse to make the glass softer but not fully fused into the base.

Great British Menu Rainbow Plate

3rd and final kiln firing – to slump into the Silkemat mould giving it the final depth and shape.

Anyway, it all went well, and I made and completed the rainbow bowls with time to spare – phew!
I sent them on their merry way in the post and we had a bit of stress with the delivery but thankfully I’d sent them Special Delivery so we could track where they were, and Kate received and loved them!

Pride Rainbow Bowls as seen on Great British Menu

The finished bowls!

….Then came the wait.

Finally last night (06/02/2024) I sat down to watch Great British Menu on BBC2 and there they were – my rainbow bowls on national TV! I was SO proud – and also so very thankful to Kate for trusting me with the process and choosing my work to display her amazing food.

@vividluxglass My work was just on National TV!!!! I'm super proud. Life is indeed a roller-coaster and I've struggled a lot in the past but you have to experience the lows to appreciate the highs. The lows never last forever. Amazing Chef Kate Austen chose to use my work for her fish dish on the Great British Menu. You can hear my excitement when I saw it on TV!… I was trying not to wake my 6 year old up 🤣#greatbritishmenu2024 #greatbritishmenu #ontv #glassartist #glassart #singingtexttospeech #Halloween #TikTokHolidays ♬ original sound – vividluxglass

Video credit: BBC TV/Optomen Televison Ltd

It has been a tough few years for small businesses and I’ve nearly thrown it all in a few times but I’m stubborn if nothing else, and I absolutely love what I do, just not always the other stuff that comes with it – but it’s all a package so I take the rough with the smooth.

It is true that life is roller-coaster. We’re not supposed to just cost along on one level. We are supposed to have highs and lows. Sometimes the highs feel all too fleeting and the lows feel long but those lows do end, we just have to keep going, knowing there WILL be an up.

I feel validated, like my work is good enough, I am good enough – how long that feeling will last is anyone’s guess but right now I’m on cloud 9! I almost can’t even put into words how it has made me feel, and it sounds really gushy and ridiculous seeking validation at 43 years old (nearly) but it is how I am and right now I’m basking in a lovely warm glow – and that’s all thanks to Kate Austen – an amazing chef & incredible woman. Good luck to Kate for the rest of the week!

You can watch series 19 of the Great British Menu on BBC2 Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday at 8pm or catch up on iPlayer.

The origin of the Bowls

The bowls started off as something different! I had an idea in my head but it didn’t turn out how I envisioned. So I did what I usually do when that happens and just shelved them in my workshop for a year! haha.

I had some free time so I revisted them. I realised I hated the rim so I cut it off, then I wanted to add more colour and texture… It was originally a large suncatcher. Then I slumped it into a bowl… And that’s how it was born.

It was the start of my experiments with more texture.

So there we have it, my work has now been on national TV!

Origin of the rainbow bowl - it was once very different!

Origin of the rainbow bowl – it was once very different! I didn’t like the rim so I cut it off!

Origin of the rainbow bowl - it was once very different!

It was originally a large suncatcher

I added more colour and texture – but it still didn’t feel right.

Great British Menu Rainbow Plate

The final version.

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