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Sheila Labatt

PhD Work

Glass as Ink: Seeking Spontaneity from the Casting Process


My research addresses internal form in cast glass.  That is, ‘ink’ imagery, which is wholly contained within clear, colourless glass.  For the purposes of this project, ‘ink’ refers to liquid ink as is used in Chinese brush painting and calligraphy rather than to ink applications such as those used in print media.  The aim is not to use ink itself.  Rather, it is to emulate ink, rendered inside glass, while exploring the material similarities between the two media, including their liquid properties and their ability to be worked opaque or translucent. 


The project explores the interface between control and chance; where the artistic process ends and the unique properties of glass take over and are governed by heat, time and gravity.  It also addresses the transformation of two-dimensional line drawing and ink wash into the third dimension.  My research question is how the kiln and furnace casting processes can best be exploited to render the fluid, gestural and expressionistic immediacy of brush and ink painting, three-dimensionally, in solid glass. 


Following fourteen years of studying and making art in Korea and China, I have developed an affinity for brush and ink painting and, more specifically, for both traditional and contemporary Chinese landscape and calligraphy.  This project is an exploration of various methods of capturing apparent spontaneity in cast glass, in the form of ‘ink’ abstractions that evoke these styles of Chinese painting.


My methodology includes identifying and isolating the elements that characterize Chinese brushwork in landscape and in calligraphy, which are intimately linked art forms in China.  Studio tests include manipulating different types of glass to create a dynamic, rhythmic, assured and graceful ink aesthetic, interpreted in the third dimension.  I use flameworked inclusions to explore ‘ink’ line and experiment with glass powders to evoke depth through different intensities of ‘ink wash’.  All tests are recorded in detail and are used to anticipate and loosely control glass movement.  My research into Chinese brushwork characteristics is used to identify a framework within which the studio work sits. 


The variety, order and combination of techniques used to create the work constitutes original knowledge in the field of cast glass, as does reinterpreting the characteristics of Chinese calligraphy and landscape, including line quality, ink wash, composition and balance, embedded within the framework of solid, cast glass. 


  • Sheila Labatt
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Ceramics & Glass, 2012–2018

  • After practicing law for 10 years in Canada and Australia, I decided to follow my heart and make a major career change by attending Art College.  I began as a sculpture student at the Royal College of Art in Toronto and completed my BA at Hong-ik University in Seoul, studying metal art and design.  Glass became my passion, however, while I was living in Shanghai, where I completed and MA in Glass at Shanghai University in 2010.  I remain the only foreigner to hold a degree in glass from a Chinese university.

    I continue to maintain studio space in Shanghai but am mostly based in London, exploring methods of imbuing the glass casting process with an expressive, gestural aesthetic through my investigation off ‘Glass as Ink’.

  • Degrees

  • PhD Candidate, Royal College of Art, London (Glass), Expected completion 2018; 2010 MA, Shanghai University, Shanghai, China (Glass); 2001 BFA, Hong-ik University, Seoul, Korea (Metal Art and Design); 1997 Foundation Year, Ontario College of Art and Design; 1986 D. Juris, Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, Ontario; 1983 BA (Hons.), Queens University, Kingston, Ontario (Russian Language and Literature)
  • Experience

  • Pilchuk Glass School, Professional artist in residence, 2010; Barrister and Solicitor, Province of Ontario, 1988–1998
  • Exhibitions

  • Contemporary Glass Society Online Exhibition, 'Strike a Balance', 2015; Contemporary Glass Society Online Exhibition, 'On Stormy Ground: Forces of Nature', 2014; Glass Art Society, International Student Online Exhibition, 2013; Citizen Art Shanghai, Renaissance Shanghai Yu Yuan Garden, 2013; Art Shanghai, New Glass Art Pavillion, New Town Central Park, Shanghai, 2013; New Glass Art Exhibition, Shanghai Moller Villa, 2013; Foundation Winter Show, Two Cities Gallery, Shanghai, 2013; Art Shanghai Exhibition, Hongqiao New Town Central Park, 2012; Irish Wave 'Elements' Exhibition, Shengling Gallery, Shanghai, 2012; Fragmented Space: Exploring Contemporary Glass and Interiors, Contemporary Glass Society Online Exhibition, 2011; McKinsey & Co. Summer Art Exhibition, London, 2011; Institution School Glass Art, 1933 Art Pavilion, Shanghai, 2010; Entering the Workshop, Fifth Chinese Academy Exhibition of Modern Arts and Crafts, Shandong University of Art and Design, Jinan City, Shandong Province, China, 2009; Casting 2009: Studio Glass Art Exhibition, Fine Arts College of Shanghai University, 99 Creative Centre, Moganshan Road, Shanghai, 2009; Fine Workmanship, Fourth Chinese Academy Exhibition of Modern Arts and Crafts, Xian Arts Institute, Shaanxi Province, China, 2009; Transparent Attitude: Joint Exhibition of 3 Glass Studios, Fine Arts Museum, China Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China, 2008; International Creative Industries Exhibition, Shanghai International Exhibition Centre, 2008; True to Conventional Artistic Production, Third Chinese Academy Exhibition of Modern Arts and Crafts, Shanghai, 2008; Refraction: China's Contemporary Glass, Two Cities Gallery, Moganshan Road, Shanghai, 2008; Shanghai Glass Arts Exhibition, Shanghai Cultural Development Foundation funded project, Shanghai Art Museum, 2007; Contemporary Arts and Crafts Exhibition, Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum, January 2007; Tradition and Fashion, Second Chinese Academy Exhibition of Modern Arts and Crafts, Nanjing Arts Institute, Jiangsu Province, China, 2006; 18th Sino-Japanese Art Exchange Show, Fine Art College of Osaka, Japan, 2006; Academy-Style Glass Art – Works of Zhuang Xiaowei and His Students, Xuhui Library, Shanghai, 2006; New Wave Studio Glass Exhibition, Two Cities Gallery, 50 Moganshan Road, Shanghai, 2006; Inheritance and Innovation, First Chinese Academy Exhibition of Modern Arts and Crafts, Fine Arts College of Tsinghua University, Beijing, 2005
  • Awards

  • 'Academy' Award (Best in Show), Third Chinese Academy Exhibition of Modern Arts and Crafts, Shanghai, 2008; Award of Excellence, Second Chinese Academy Exhibition of Modern Arts and Crafts, Nanjing Arts Institute, 2007; Special Work Award, China International Creative Industries Exhibition, Shanghai, 2006; Award of Merit, Korea Design Centre, Seoul, 1999
  • Publications

  • Corning Museum of Glass, New Glass Review 35, 2014; Bryan, Colleen, Hot Glass Studio Profile - Sheila Labatt, Glass Art Magazine, January/February 2013 edition, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp.48-52; Chen, Yao Ming, Harmony and Difference: Professor-endorsed Art and Design Student Portfolio, August 2012, Shanghai University Press (in Chinese); ArtShanghai 2012 Catalogue, May 2012, p. 206,; Lee Taub, Vanessa and Nina Hourdin, Shanghai Museum of Glass Opens, Gallerie Vee Newsletter, May 2011,; Hourdin, Nina, L'art verrier contemporain en Chine, Masters Thesis, Art History, Universite de Paris IV-Sorbonne, September 2010, pp. 95, 96, 101, 110; Catalogue of Artists pp.174-181; Text Illustration numbers 39, 62 and 63, page 32; Bibliography pp. 124; Labatt, Sheila, Reflected Landscapes, NEW VISION ART Magazine, 2009.5, ISSN 1673-9914, pages 94-95; Labatt, Sheila, Impact of Dangerous Architecture on my Work, IDEA & DESIGN Magazine, 2009 Volume 4, ISSN 1674-5159, pages 60-63; Entering the Workshop, Collection of the works on The Fifth Chinese Academy Exhibition of Modern Arts and Crafts, Shandong Fine Art Publishing House 2009.12 ISBN 978-7-5330-3112-1, Da Shan Shui, page 44; Art of Design, Journal of Shandong University of Art and Design, 2009.06, ISSN 1674-2281, Da Shan Shui, page 54; Metropolitan Art – Public Art Centre, A Record of the Fine Arts Institute [50 Year Retrospective of the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University], 2009.5, Shanghai Peoples Art Press, 2009.5, ISBN 978-7-5322-6238-0, Shan Shui, p.34; Miao Mix II, Bird Flu, NU WAS TREASURES – GLASS, edited by Wang Jin Chongqing Press, 2008.1 ISBN 978-7-5366-9272-5 pp. 13, 179; Introduction of Modern Artiquity, SHANGHAI ART & CRAFTS, 2008 No.1, ISSN 1005-071-X, New Shanghai #2, p. 34; INSTITUTION SCHOOL GLASS ART, Shanghai Book Store Publishing House, 2007 ISBN 978-7-80678-748-9, Untitled (Nun), H5N1, Miao Mix #2, Miao Mix #3, Great Wall #3, New Shanghai #2, Caution: Dangerous Cereal Bowl #2, p. 22-37; Miao Mix, SHANGHAI ART & CRAFTS, 2007 No. 4, ISSN 1005-071-X, p. 12; Zhuang Xiaowei, CASTING LIGHT ON THE LYRICAL - RESEARCH INTO THE METHODOLOGY OF GLASS ART", Shanghai Book Store Publishing House, 2008 ISBN 978-7-80678-800-4, New Shanghai #2 (detail), New Shanghai (detail), pp. 176, 186