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5 Questions for Alison Kinnaird

Alison Kinnaird - The Unknown

Alison Kinnaird is one of the world's leading glass  engravers, with work in public, royal and private collections throughout  Europe, America and the Far East.

Her work ranges from small intimate pieces, to large scale architectural installations such as the Donor Window in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  As a musician she is also  one of the foremost exponents of Scottish  harp music, playing both gut and wire-strung Scottish harps. In 1997 she  was presented with an M.B.E. for services to art and music.

Luminesce, her largest solo show to date, runs until 3 February at Linlithgow Burgh Halls.

Your latest exhibition  in Linlithgow features a work called Unknown (an army of more than 40  glass soldiers, each nearly half a metre tall, created in response to  the political situation throughout the world). Do you feel that artists  have an obligation to reflect political and social issues in their work  and what, if any, responsibilities does this bring?

Glass seemed the perfect medium with which to depict the fragility of  human life in war. The message is fairly transparent!  In the end you  create art for yourself, though of course all artists hope that it  intrigues or interests other people as well. Since you react to your own  experiences, it's bound to relate to the world around you. But in my  own work, I don't want to be didactic. I'm trying to express emotions  that you can't put into words, and perhaps that emotion will communicate  to others. People can make up their own minds if they see a message in  it. So I don't think artists have an obligation to do anything - just to  make their art as well and as honestly as they can.

Where’s your creative place? Either your workspace, or another place that sparks your imagination.

My creative place is the landing at the top of the stairs in our  house - a converted church. It's about 2 metres square, with my  workbench in front of a tall Victorian Gothic window, and it's where I  have worked for nearly 40 years.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Get on with the work that is important to you, and try not to take notice of what other people say.

Who is your “one to watch” for the future or someone overlooked from the past that you feel should be better known?

In my other life as a musician, I know a number of people who have inexplicably never got the recognition that they deserve. Christine Primrose,  one of the great voices of Gaelic Scotland, is well respected in her  field, but with her beautifully sensitive singing and flawless  traditional style, she should have been universally recognised as a  national treasure.

Ann Heymann,  is an American who single-handedly revived the wire-strung harp of the  Gaels. Her astonishing technical mastery of the instrument, combined  with the application of an original mind (and an off-the-wall sense of  humour) make her a virtuoso - but one who is only known to a specialist  coterie, and should have a wide international audience.

Who or what was your most formative inspiration, the one that set you on your path?  (Question submitted by Simon Thacker)

My most formative inspiration, without doubt, is my husband, Robin  Morton. I can always trust him to tell me the truth about my work,  whether it's art or music. He  has a good eye and a good ear, and makes  lots of great suggestions - even if I don't always take them up! He  started as an academic, went on the road playing music, began a record  company, and has been involved in many different aspects of music. He is  a very creative person, both visually and musically, but better at  promoting other people than himself.

Best thing I ever ignored? My father's advice: "You can't marry an itinerant Irish drummer!"

This article was published on 12 Mar 2014