Watch incredible Norwich glass artist at work

Paul Chamberlain with the sign he made for Curiosities Tattoo Studio in Ipswich

Paul Chamberlain with the sign he made for Curiosities Tattoo Studio in Ipswich - Credit: Paul Chamberlain

Rekindling old hobbies and pastimes has been a familiar theme over the past year when all of us have spent more time indoors.

But a Poringland man has gone a step further by setting up a YouTube channel, The Happy Gilder,  to showcase his love of skills that really are a dying trade.

Paul Chamberlain, 42, describes himself as an ornamental glass artist, an art form which borrows heavily on techniques that were developed in the Victorian age.

He's bringing the hobby right up-to-date by sharing the well-guarded secrets of this art in the hope that people take it up as a lockdown hobby or even a career, by releasing a new online video each week.

Paul got into glass art almost by accident six years ago.

He said: "It was 2015 and my father-in-law brought a sand-blaster round and I started using it and got some nice results just pottering around. I started going into charity shops and finding old mirrors with a nice frame and I'd upcycle it.

Many of the techniques Paul uses date back to Victorian times

Many of the techniques Paul uses date back to Victorian times - Credit: Paul Chamberlain


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"I then did a one-day course to learn the basics of gilding and acid etching, which are skills that would be taught as part of a course that would cost up to £5,000 to complete.

"All the other techniques I do are self-taught. I've learnt a lot so far - the techniques I cover are considered critically endangered crafts -  there was only one actual expert in the country which is the guy I did the course with and a few serious amateurs, which is something I consider myself as."

Paul Chamberlain at work on the hobby which has developed into a YouTube channel

Paul Chamberlain at work on the hobby which has developed into a YouTube channel - Credit: Paul Chamberlain

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Paul said his interest in learning these skills has been helped by a revived fascination in Victoriana. 

"Gentrification is coming back, and I've ended up doing a couple of commissions for signs in a barbers and a tattoo parlour.

"Many of the techniques are pretty much the same as the Victorian age, such as acid etching which was pioneered in the 1800s. Some digital technology has come into play which helps, though.

"The YouTube channel started as I was looking for more information on the subject and outside of the course I couldn't really find anything.

"People would ask how I created my art and I would tell them, but I thought I might as well just put it out there.

"The feedback has been amazing with thousands of views and every single comment has been positive. I try and reply to them all although I am not really into social media.

"I prefer YouTube to other forms because people are clicking on things they are genuinely interested in. I never thought something as niche as this would take off like it has so it's completely unexpected."

Paul, who works for Neilsen Brandbank in Norwich managing a team of CGI workers and has a background in photography, says he has contemplated going full time, but doesn't want the hobby he loves to become something he has to rely on to make money.

An upcycled mirror after Paul has worked his magic on it

An upcycled mirror after Paul has worked his magic on it - Credit: Paul Chamberlain

"I'm not really looking for commissions," he said. "I have thought about it as a future business venture but I am worried it would take the fun out of it and to have commissions all the time would be too much pressure. I have always enjoyed being employed and having a hobby rather than mixing both.

"They can be quite expensive things to make so, for example, if they were for a birthday present, you can't really make them at a gift rate - the silver leaf is 12ct white gold and the gold leaf is 23ct gold so it can be expensive.

"Some people have told me they have invested in the equipment needed so a few do seem to have taken it up as a hobby."

For now Paul is happy to continue sharing his work online and gets real satisfaction in the feedback from both his videos and his beautiful finished art.

He said: "The community of people who are doing it are awesome and I am always eager to help. The global community on Instagram are wonderful.

"The biggest thrill for me is finishing a piece and seeing people's reactions. People always seem surprised when they are finished - in a pleasant way."
 

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