Antarctic Expedition by James Maskrey

In June 1911, battling through ice and snow in temperatures far below freezing, three brave explorers set out on the most treacherous egg hunt in history. Their goal? To collect the eggs of emperor penguins from Cape Crozier, Antarctica.

The three men were Edward Wilson, Henry Robertson ‘Birdie’ Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard, members of Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition team. Famously known as the race to the South Pole, the expedition also had scientific objectives: it was hoped that the penguin’s embryos might shed light on the evolutionary link between reptiles and birds. The mission was later described by Cherry-Garrard as the ‘worst journey in the world’, when blizzards, lack of food and loss of equipment threatened their safe return.

Antarctic Expedition, James Maskrey, 2013, England. Museum no. 106-2013. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

'Antarctic Expedition' is a response to these polar adventures by contemporary glass artist James Maskrey. The captivating glass bottle, 'Winter Journey', contains remnants of diary entries written by Wilson and Bowers at the start of their perilous trip to the penguin colony in 1911. Both men died on their return from the South Pole. Their notes are preserved here as messages frozen in time, the authors long-lost to the unforgiving polar landscape.

The cup and saucer, named 'Cape Evans' after Terra Nova’s base camp, echo the tableware used during the expedition. The glass cup contains a photograph of the adventurers - looking inside, the weary faces of the explorers stare back at you as they take a moment to eat and drink together. Maskrey has transformed these simple objects into vessels that will forever contain the tragic memory of those who used them.

Cape Evans, James Maskrey, 2013, England. Museum no. 106-2013. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

James Maskrey is a highly skilled British artist who has been working with hot glass for over 20 years. His mastery of the material and techniques allows the glass to take on the visual qualities of porcelain, liquid and even printed photographs and text. To create 'Antarctic Expedition', Maskrey has used ‘decals’ or transfers, printing the image and text onto a transfer medium which is applied to a rigid, curved sheet of glass. With the image transferred to the glass surface, Maskrey creates the paper-like effect by ‘grozing’ or trimming the edges of the glass with a special grozing iron or metal plyers. He then re-heats the individual pieces so they can be picked up on the blowpipe and fired. Multiple layers of colourless glass are gathered over the printed glass sheet, encasing it in a thick layer of smooth glass, as if submerged in liquid.

Maskrey completed his BA (Hons) degree in Three Dimensional Design in Glass at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design in 2000, before graduating with an MA in Glass from the University of Sunderland in 2004. His work has been exhibited widely around the world, and he now teaches and works with artists at the University of Sunderland.