The artist whose glass is always half full

Sarah Chadwick is a painter and glassware designer, but much of her work is united by one thing '“ booze. Sarah Freeman meets the woman behind the Artist's Measure.

Sarah Chadwick's pint glass featuring the Humber bridge.
Sarah Chadwick's pint glass featuring the Humber bridge.

Sarah Chadwick likes a beer. She’s also partial to the odd whisky and, come summer, she has been known to open a few bottles of prosecco. “I know it sounds terrible,” says the East Yorkshire artist, “but I like a drink. I like real ale and I like old-fashioned pubs. I guess it’s part of what it means to be British.” A trained architect, in the last few years Sarah has returned to her first love – art and much of it has been inspired by booze. Her first project was large-scale paintings of the interior of the historic White Horse Inn in Beverley. Known locally as Nellies after a former landlady, it’s believed to be the town’s second oldest pub and Sarah captured the labyrinth of rooms which have provided a refuge for countless drinkers over the years.

“If you’ve never been to Nellies you should,” says the 43-year-old. “It’s like stepping back in time. It’s all dark wood and snug corners. Basically if you had a to draw a typical British pub it would be Nellies. Those paintings were a real labour of love. They were later chosen for a series of Christmas cards and it just got me thinking about other ideas.”

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While she says she initially wanted to call her new company the P*** Artist, Sarah, who lives in the East Yorkshire village of Holmpton, eventually settled on the less controversial the Artist’s Measure and soon had an altogether bigger project on the horizon. Using a small inheritance, left to her by a beloved grandparent, she set about designing a range of glasses that only really come to life when drink is poured in.

Artist Sarah Chadwick, with her work at Holmpton, near Withernsea, Hull.. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The head of a pint of Guinness becomes the clouds of Hull’s skyline or the waves of a particularly choppy sea; a dram of whisky fills the Lake District waters in her series of tumblers; and only when her flutes are full of fizz does her diving belle have something to leap into.

“It’s been a long process to get to here,” she says, carefully pouring a pint of the black stuff to demonstrate the range. “I had to do an awful lot of research, not just on the designs, but on the glassmaking process itself. I went to Stoke on Trent, which as well as being world famous for pottery also has a huge glass industry. I found a company who could take my designs and transfer them directly onto the glass and I am really pleased with how they have turned out.

“Each of the glasses goes through 10 processes, from being screen-printed, lithographed and then fired in kilns before being packaged by hand. Nothing is mass produced.

“It’s probably taken about two years in total and I wasn’t really prepared for just how many glasses I’d ordered. They arrived on these great big pallets and the courier said: ‘I’m sorry, love, but that’s as much as I can do’ and left them on the driveway. There were boxes and boxes of them and for a while everywhere you went you had to step over a pint glass or two.”

One of the Lakeland tumblers. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

Sarah hopes the pint glass, which features a silhouette of the Humber Bridge, will help commemorate Hull becoming UK City of Culture in 2017. That particular design was in part inspired by her five-mile swim across the estuary in aid of charity a couple of years ago and she says she couldn’t resist giving the other pint glass, which features a woman searching for her love lost at sea, the title Getting Wrecked.

However, while much of Sarah’s work is tongue in cheek, it is also the culmination of a long-held dream to pursue art full-time.

“I was really creative growing up and should probably have gone to art school, but I got pregnant when I was quite young,” she says. “By the time I was in my early 20s I had two young girls and so I had to be more practical – being an artist isn’t good for paying the bills.

“However, I was really determined that I didn’t want to leave education behind, so I started looking around for courses which might lead to a career.”

Diving belle on the prosecco glass.

Settling on an interior design course at Bishop Burton College, Sarah went onto study for a degree in architecture and has since specialised in the healthcare sector.

“Of course it’s been a rewarding career, but there are inevitably constraints. The clients want certain things, the space itself will mean only certain things are possible and then of course there is the budget.

“With the art, it’s just me and the canvas or me and the glass and that’s incredibly rewarding. When I was given the money from my late grandfather I didn’t want to buy something for the house or pay for a holiday, I wanted it to go towards something that really meant something.

“I am really pleased by how they have turned out and I’ve got lots of other designs in mind, but before I go back to the drawing board I want to really test the market and see how these sell.”

Artist Sarah Chadwick, with her work at Holmpton, near Withernsea, Hull.. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Sarah Chadwick’s glass range starts from £19. To order go to

One of the Lakeland tumblers. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
Diving belle on the prosecco glass.