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26 February 2021

Our Founders early years, life before Daedalian Glass Studios

Davia was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire on the North-East coast of England (near to the fishing port of Grimsby). Her father worked on the fishing boats as a radio operator and her mother in personnel administration for the Ross Group – owners of second largest fishing fleet in England during the 1960`s.

Her maiden name, Davia Davidson exposes her paternal Norse heritage. Harry Davidson, her Father, was of Faroese origin and the family had already spend many generations working the North Atlantic fishing grounds prior to him. The family name is actually Davidsen originally, but over time this has been Anglicised to Davidson.

Fishing Trawlers at Grimsby Fishing Docks
Grimsby Fishing Docks | Image Credit: Grimsby Telegraph

Her Mather, Patricia ‘Pat’ urged her to learn shorthand and typing as they were “good skills to earn a stable income” but Davia (like most teenagers) had no interest in her Mother’s advice. She was never likely to join her family in the fishing trade either, her passion since a young age lay with art.

Davia followed this passion and it led to her being the first in her family to attend university, studying Ba(Hons) 3D Design at Hornsey College of Art. During her time at Hornsey, the Art school’s student body also included such names as Stuart Goddard (AKA Adam Ant), Sir Anish Kapoor (sculptor), and Neville Brody (graphic designer, typographer and art director).

Hornsey College of Art
Hornsey College of Art | Image Credit: Harringay Online

During her early years at Art College, Davia’s primary interest was in ceramics. She even differed for a year during her studies to work at Alvingham Pottery so that she could learn how to perfect the art of throwing clay.

However, it was glass that stole her imagination as soon as she had the opportunity to work with it. By her final year at Hornsey, Davia has switched to almost exclusively working in glass, and only occasionally with clay – and it is this material she her devoted her life’s work to ever since.

Following on from Middlesex University, Davia attended Brierley Hill and gained a postgraduate certificate in glass technology. The next step for Davia was then to enter the glass industry and gain some hands-on experience.

After considering offers of employment from several glass studios, Davia decided to travel North, to work at the Venetian Glass Factory in Blackpool. The deciding factor was that Italian glassworkers were working at this studio and Davia wished to draw from their knowledge and experience.

Since her days in college, Davia had been creating and selling her own pieces as a means of generating extra income.  By 1983, she decided the time was right to turn this creative outlet into a full-time venture and set up a company called Sand Design, working from home. This was a precursor to Daedalian Glass Studios and focussed primarily on using the sandblasting technique to etch designs into items such as doors, cabinets, shelves, etc.

The sign from the original premises of Daedalian Glass Studios (1986 – 1993).
The sign from the original premises of Daedalian Glass Studios (1986 – 1993).

In 1986, Davia wished to expand the range of glass working techniques she offered. This new, expanded company would need a new name, so she founded Daedalian Glass Studios, and the rest is history…

Glass blowing is a wonder to watch and the team unit is so important for making well and making easier. It made me fall in love with glass… My view, influenced by glass blowing teams, was and still remains that the team ethic is a great way to work. Our studio is not just about me. The exchange and sharing of ideas and experiences is all part of building a collective skill set. Finding the right name to reflect this took a little time… but then I read the definition of Daedalian (Formed with art; displaying artistic or inventive skills; intricate; varied). It seemed just right.

(Davia Walmsley, Founder and Creative Director)