Drill Engraver - Tracey Sheppard

President of the Guild of Glass Engravers



 A pair of doors for All Saints, Croxley Green engraved to mark the sacrifices, hardships and bravery of those left at home during the first world war.______Image by Nick Carter

Why glass as a medium?

I didn't seek out this medium. Glass and I met by accident - a sort of blind date but without the red roses and awkward conversations!

What made you take up glass engraving and drill in particular?

Whilst studying for a combined degree in English Literature and Fine Art my drawing tutor suggested that I join an evening class at the local Adult Ed College. He mentioned glass engraving about which I knew absolutely nothing. Not one to argue I trotted along and signed up for the Tuesday evening class where Josephine Harris held sway. I had arrived in a magical, captivating, mysterious, challenging utterly beguiling universe.

Josephine had studied drill engraving under Peter Dreiser's careful, brilliant tutelage. She patiently passed the skills she had learnt on to her class. Arming me with a Seco pendant motor, a pink abrasive stone and an old glass panel from the front of a kitchen cabinet she let me loose. What a revelation - and a confusion.....Not the dark marks of graphite, lead or charcoal on dense paper or canvas but the bright shimmering lines and textures on lively, light changeable, transparent glass. I fell for my date hook, line and sinker!

Where did you learn the techniques you practise?

I spent two years studying with Josephine and the Tuesday Class. They were a hugely enthusiastic bunch and very generous in sharing their accumulated knowledge and skills with their newest recruit. Then it was time to go it alone. Experimenting, exploring, making mistakes and often learning as much through them as I did by getting it right.

When I began teaching a little later, the students in my classes taught their tutor by challenging her and asking- Why? How? Wouldn’t it work just as well if...? More questions than answers keeping me on my toes and making me strive.


 Small optical crystal cube engraved for an exhibition to commemorate and celebrate the life and work of Stephen Gottlieb Lute maker and Past Master of the Art Workers Guild. It was inspired by his beautiful lutes and by the very appropriate advertising wording on a packet of lute strings....Absolute Perfection.


 A section of the River of Life Screen engraved for Jack’s Place, the young adults hospice at Sutton Scotney. ____Picture by Nick Carter.

What excites you about the medium?

There is no such thing as normal or routine about this medium. It is unceasingly surprising. It can be generous and give far more than expected through reflections, distortions and magnifications. And, it can be immensely frustrating because of reflections, distortions and magnifications!

I love the fact that no two pieces of glass respond in precisely the same way and that the tools can create an endless variety of textures and illusions. The medium is totally absorbing to work with and on.

Who are your heroes in glass?

Any one who explores this medium is a hero, and in that I include all Guild members and engravers beyond our organisation and the numerous students on courses in Adult Ed centres and Art Colleges. Engraving glass takes tenacity and patience, dedication and humour and to each and everyone who navigates engraving to whatever level I doff my cap.

There are particular heroes from whose work I took inspiration and to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. They include Peter Dreiser, David Peace, Laurence Whistler, Hilary Virgo, Madeleine Dinkel and of course Josephine Harris.


 Large presentation bowl. Glass blown by Neil Wilkin. Bowl commissioned by The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers to present to their retiring Keeper, Sir George White, Bt, F.S.A. . Photograph by Sir George White.


 Coleton Fishacre _______Dartington Pebble Bowl

Which artists from other media inspire you?

Golly, there's quite a list. Utterly impossible to keep it short but if pushed I would say: Leonardo Da Vinci's exquisite draughtsmanship. The wonderful renditions of the English landscape by Paul Nash. The work of numerous wood Engravers particularly, Gertrude Hermes and Claire Leighton. Anything by Edward Bawden or Eric Ravilious and as for Stanley Spencer......

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently the bench is occupied by a heavy bowl upon which I am engraving a 'walk'. It was commissioned by a lovely client who grew up in Winchester and wanted a reminder of her childhood walks from the Cathedral to St Cross through the water meadows. So, the bowl features both of the ancient buildings and a variety of flora and fauna brought together with a view of St Catherine's Hill. The detail is tiny and the bowl is bottom heavy so it keeps trying to tip itself back onto the cushion. It's really, really tricky and I am loving the challenge!


 Hydes Angels_______Image by Joe Low


 Aconitum_____Glass by Dartington

What are your thoughts on the future of glass engraving?

The future is impossible to predict and so many things in life are subject now to trends and fashions. With the extraordinary growth of social media it appears that almost anything can be found on the Web... except eye to eye contact, the subtleties of the use of our hands, and the interaction of close friendships. These are all things that I have found in the Guild.

I really hope that it will continue to be a resource and support to anyone who is interested in the medium.