Michael Ruh & Natascha Wahl have their hearts in glass - an art that uses both the mind and body. Their mutual love of working with glass brought them together, led them first to travel the world and then finally to settle in London, where they now successfully run their own studio.
Before Natascha met Michael, she met his drawings. She had arrived in the town of Mechelen, Belgium, to attend a glass art summer-school programme. Michael was working from a studio in Bonn but had done some work at the school. Natascha: 'I was looking at some drawings at the school and thought, "Oh, they look just like mine." We were drawing similar shapes in a similar way.' They met in person when Michael visited to check out the programme. After a long-distance relationship, and then a period living together in Michael's Bonn studio, they threw around a few ideas about places to live permanently - and London seemed like a good place to start life as a new couple.
Natascha: 'We were both involved with glass. There were about seven glass studios in London at the time; it was a good place to start, to find a new job, to make a new life, to grow as a couple.' As a place to call home, London crept up on them. Michael: 'The first time we came back from an extended stay away from London, that's when we had this feeling of London being our home.' Buying a house also played a big part in their embracing the city. Initially they were renting, but the owner of the house told them: Either you buy or you move. After four months of nesting they were ready to fly away, for a time.
As in most artists' lives, the commercial and the creative butt heads. Michael and Natascha are often asked if outsourcing would be more viable economically. Both say it would take the fun out of it - the pleasure being in the making. In fact, their commitment to the creative has led to times when they took work wherever they could find it, including a period when Michael worked onboard a cruise ship making glass in an outdoor studio. Michael: 'On board we would narrate and work. And when I narrated, very often I would ask the audience to raise their hands and show me, "Who is happy with their work?"' A good day was when half the people put up their hands. Michael: 'At least we're happy. I think that's worth a lot.'
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Michael & Nataschas favourite places are: