How long have you been working with the medium of glass? I have been working with the medium of glass for about 35 years. I started off making stained glass windows and then in 1987 I enrolled at the (then) Canberra School of Art Glass Department, headed by Klaus Moje. I finished my 4 year degree in 1990 majoring in Glass and sub majoring in Painting. I received the ANU EASS award when I graduated, and since then I have run a full time arts practice.
Throughout my career I have had studios in Fyshwick and ANCA (Australian National Capital Artists). Since 2008 I have been working from Canberra Glassworks where I also teach, mentor, take tours and work with and for other artists.
What draws you to the medium of glass? I am still often surprised by the different qualities of glass. It can be shiny or dull, transparent or opaque, smooth or textured, or all of these qualities within one object. It holds the light and different thickness of colours can really make an object come to life.
The kiln casting I do leaves a satin finish to the piece. For me that represents a mystery. I usually polish little parts and these sections are like windows into the material itself.
My chosen technique is lost wax kiln casting. This involves modelling or collecting found objects as a basis, then making a rubber mould and a copy wax from that rubber mould. A refractory mould is made from the wax and then after steaming out the wax the empty cavity can be filled with glass to fire and reproduce the original object in glass. My moulds sometimes need to be in the kiln for two weeks, slowly cooling back down to room temperature. After firing the object needs coldworking, usually grinding and polishing.
I tend to either model animals or abstracted figures or take moulds of toys or natural objects like seedpods and twigs. Anything really that takes my fancy and fits into the story I like to tell at the time.
What is your studio practice like? I work fulltime as an artist, either at home or at the Canberra Glassworks where I am one of the studio artists. At home I do sketching, modelling or carve and finish waxes. At the Canberra Glassworks I make the moulds and waxes and use the kilns for firing and equipment for coldworking. Canberra Glassworks is an unbelievable state of the art facility – the only one in the southern hemisphere. We are very lucky to have it here in Canberra.
I see my practice encompassing more than just making work. It also incorporates teaching and mentoring and helping other artists to make their work. My practice incorporates both production pieces for retail and more detailed exhibition pieces with a concept and narrative behind them.
All artists have to change and grow their practice over time – can you tell us about a really significant moment in your career? I suppose one of the most significant and difficult times in my career was when my partner died. This left such a large black hole in my life, but as is often the case, things happen that fill the void. I was given a studio space at ANCA in Mitchell where I made an enormous amount of work over the next seven years. I also had two solo exhibitions during that time. It was wonderful to be amongst other artists who were all working in different mediums.
During that time I also started working with Jock Puautjimi, a Tiwi artist. We worked on different projects over ten years or so. Our exhibition Mamana Mamanta travelled to five different galleries in Australia through 2009 and 2010. Some pieces of our collaboration – the Glass Pukamani (burial) Poles – now live at the National Gallery of Australia. Some will also be installed at the new wing of the University of Wollongong later in the year. I am very grateful for the funding that was given for these projects by Arts ACT and Vision Australia, as well as the help of the then CraftACT staff lead by Barb McConchie and Jason Hugonnet.
What is another artists work at Gather that you love and why? Really there are so many great works in Gather, I don’t like to single out just one artist.
But a few I’d like to mention – Harriet Schwarzrock for her beautiful interactive poetic heart forms, filled with neon and plasma gases which change upon touch. And Mark Elliot, for his extreme skill in reproducing natural forms through flame working like flannel flowers, wattle branches or seahorses.