The LSA Gio tumbler. Image courtesy of LSA International. Portrait of Cornelia Parker by Jim Spencer

Object Lesson: Cornelia Parker on the LSA Gio tumbler

The English sculptor and installation artist contemplates her devotion to a design classic, and her fascination with glass 

‘I have a long relationship with this tumbler. I drink lots of water at the studio and at home, and this is my glass of choice. It is a beautifully designed and simple thing; it has an economy to it. But these tumblers are very fragile, and I am a clumsy person, so it is a bit perverse that I am attached to such a nice, thin piece of glass. 

‘I like their delicacy, the fact that they can crack even when you push them against the ice-dispenser. I keep buying them because I keep breaking them.

‘I do find glass extraordinary, the fact that it is made out of sand — an opaque material that suddenly becomes transparent. That is what I like to do in my sculpture: transform things through extreme forces. 

‘I am fascinated by fulgurites, pieces of natural glass that occur when lightning strikes the desert and vitrifies the sand. They are long and spiny, which makes them look like a cast of a shaft of lightning. They are beautiful objects, and so too is obsidian, black glass formed in volcanoes. Natural glass tends to be opaque; it is mankind that has made glass transparent.

‘We are all going to die in the end, just as glass is always going to get broken at some point in the future’ — Cornelia Parker

‘In 2014 I made a glass drum and drumsticks at a foundry in Murano, Venice. It had black sides and milky ends, like a facsimile of a marching drum. The point was that you couldn’t play it without smashing it — a percussion of a different kind. 

‘My present exhibition is called One Day This Glass Will Break. I have put various glass objects on photogravure plates and made compositions with them. The images are a sort of cross between a photogram and a traditional etching — I think I have discovered a new hybrid process. The objects look like they are suspended, as if they are defying gravity. 

‘The title of the exhibition gives a hint that this is about mortality, about the fact that we are all going to die in the end, just as glass is always going to get broken at some point in the future — usually not on its own, but as a result of human intervention. In the exhibition there is a photogravure of a smashed theatre light bulb, which I have called A Premeditated Act of Violence.

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‘The fact that I am breaking my water glasses all the time probably informs this work. For me, glass has become synonymous with our own fragility. Glass is just phenomenal. Imagine how dark the world would be without it.’

One Day This Glass Will Break is on show at the Gerald Moore Gallery, Eltham, until 16 February, and at the South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, 23 February to 12 May