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Sunderland smashes glass barrier

The UK's largest ever piece of kiln-formed glass has been created by an artist at the University of Sunderland.

Weighing in at a staggering 300kilos and measuring 1.8m by 1.4m, Alena Matejkova's Magic Carpet surpasses anything produced in the UK before.

The piece, which now dominates the entrance to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, was unveiled this week (Tuesday February 3rd) during the prestigious Jerwood exhibition.

The impressive design was formed in the countries largest kiln, at the universities glass and ceramic department at the National Glass Centre.
Alena has spent the past three weeks on tenterhooks unsure whether the huge design would come out in one piece.

Technicians, who looked after the kiln, have received a lot of the credit for its success, after monitoring it daily.

Czech artist Alena came to the university especially to work on pieces of this size. She has won awards in Italy, Denmark and the Czech Republic.

She was influenced in creating Magic Carpets by some of the UK's ancient stones and gravestones.

Alena says: "I was also influenced by the Normans. I wanted to in someway connect the middle ages with modern technologies now in use in Britain. I think it has worked well."

Alena has produced smaller versions of Magic Carpets which will be kept by the university, while the major piece will be exhibited around the world. It will eventually be shown at Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan.

Sylva Petrova, professor in glass at the university, was instrumental in bringing such a kiln and Alena to Sunderland.

She says: "A kiln if this size - the biggest in the West - has never been used in the UK before. This is a unique experience for UK artists".

It is also great for modern architecture, which has been crying out for designs like Alena's. Any kiln-formed glass of this size in modern British architecture has come from abroad. Now the university can supply modern architects in the UK with what they want.

The university was very brave in taking on this type of process, but its rewards are there for all to see - Alena's design is fantastic and will raise more than a few eyebrows in the UK.

The kiln will be of great benefit to glass students at Sunderland., as well as professional artists.

Alena's design in the National Glass Centre (NGC) coincides with the Jerwood Exhibition, and will be on show for at least the next month.

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