In July, I underwent a second replacement hip operation. To help recover, I've been out every day walking the hills around my home... the first few days, just half a mile, then a mile, and I'm now up to 3.5 miles. Here are some of the lovely views around the Rede Valley. Soon, I should be able to drive again and go a bit further afield, to enjoy even more stunning Northumberland scenery. Walking is a wonderful pleasure that I've had to miss out on for years.... but no more! On my travels, I hope to find inspiration for new artwork from this beautiful countryside and its flora and fauna.
With just weeks remaining until the Degree Show, my fellow Glass & Ceramics students and I have been busy - frantic, even - trying to perfect our final projects, to demonstrate the extent of what we've learned over the last three years. My own project is called ‘Journey’, and it relates a tale of plucky Edwardian spirit, bravery, stoicism, life in strange lands and two world wars. For inspiration, I have drawn on the story of my Great Aunt Ethel who journeyed alone to Australia just before the outbreak of WW1. Later, in WW2, she was interned in a German POW Camp.
In 1913, Britain’s so-called ‘excess females’ were encouraged to emigrate to Australia for new opportunities, even marriage. Ethel’s diaries record how she set off alone, aged 27, on a 12-hour train journey to London, before embarking on the SS Beltana for Adelaide, where she secured work in domestic service. A year into her new life, the world found itself at war. Restless, and perhaps to lessen the guilt of being away from home at this critical time, she took herself off on a trek into the Outback. En route, her train derailed in the desert, but she eventually reached the tiny township of Oodnadatta and its outlying sheep stations, where she stayed for some time. Returning to the UK in 1918, she married, raised a family and moved to Jersey. But this settled period was not long lived: in 1939, World War Two broke out. Undefendable, the Channel Islands were abandoned to their fate and in 1940 the Nazis invaded. Ethel (now widowed) and her children, all mainland-born, were regarded as ‘aliens’ and in 1942 were deported, by boat, then train, to Northern Germany. Her son Eric documented their ordeal. Ethel and her family spent the next 2½ years as prisoners-of-war. Repatriated in 1945, Ethel finally returned safely to Jersey where she lived quietly until her death in 1966.
Using photographs, journals and postcards from the family archive, key periods of Ethel’s life are depicted in a series of large panels, framed in a large wooden Edwardian-style room divider. I have used screen-printing techniques, fusing, flame-working and glass collage to create an architectural sculpture, that also references the Edwardian pastime of decorating room screens with embossed ‘scraps’ (a form of decoupage).
The Degree Show previews to an invited audience at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland, on Friday 6th June and is open to the public for two weeks, from 7th to 15th June. Admission is free.
It’s hard to believe, but I’ll soon be reaching the end of my journey at the University of Sunderland. In 2011, I began studying for a BA (Hons) in Glass & Ceramics. Last year, my year group contacted friends, family and associates for support with our 2nd Year exhibition at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead. We had a wonderful response from many kind donors, helping us put on an event that coincided with the gallery’s hosting of the prestigious 2012 Jerwoood Makers Open prize. It was an incredible opportunity to show our work alongside that of ground-breaking international artists. One year on, and we’re now planning our final degree show. It opens on Friday 6th June, at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland. Later that month, we'll be taking our work to New Designers at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London.
We are currently trying to raise funds to help us mount both shows. We need posters, invitations, catalogues, photographs; to buy wine, refreshments, exhibition materials; make plinths; arrange gallery staff; transport; and so on. It’s a costly process and, in all, we require about £4,000. We’ve made a start, but have a mountain to climb and time is of the essence.
£100 or more from a corporate sponsor would be truly amazing but, equally, £50, £20 or just £10 from individuals would go a long way in enabling us to meet our target. We know some may be keen to help, but perhaps not in a position to offer financial support at this time. In that case, any ‘in kind’ donation would be most welcome (for example, print or PR services); or a special gift we could raffle or auction - chocolates, wine, jewellery, craft, fine art, objet d’art, food hamper, weekend break, round of golf, meal for two, tickets to events and so on. Is there anything you could donate?
Patrons will receive tickets to an exclusive VIP Private Viewing at the National Glass Centre on June 6th and be offered recognition in our printed publicity and PR (which will include local TV and radio nearer the time). Naturally, we fully understand not everyone will be in a position to help, but if you think you can (or perhaps know someone else who might), please let us know. Rest assured, every contribution will be warmly appreciated and put to good use. As we set out on our creative paths, a successful, professional end-of-degree show, here and in London, could be the perfect way to showcase our glass and ceramics talent.
Please email, text or call me for details of how to donate. And accept my sincere thanks, in anticipation!
In June, I attended a brilliant workshop at North Lands Creative Glass, a glass studio in Lybster (near Wick, North East Scotland). My partner Richard came with me and whilst he was out and about every day enjoying a wonderful walking holiday in the sunshine all over Caithness and Orkney, I was slogging away indoors, doing my glass thing. Can't complain though... I had a fantastic tutor in Jeff Zimmer, plus help and inspiration from six fellow students who were great fun to be with. I learned simply LOADS of new painting and layering techniques to develop my work. Altogether, an amazing time!
Based in the North East, Eileen Leatherland is an architectural glass artist who recently completed a PhD project about her investigations into surface coated window glass. In her talk on 1st May, she explained how she had identified the creative potential of this functional material partly by accident back in 2000, when a piece of surface-coated Pilkington K glass was fired in the completion of some studio artwork, revealing an unexpected pink/purple iridescence. The glass surface displayed an unusual ‘interferential’ colouration (due to the tin oxide in the coating). This colouration was not in the body of the glass, but caused by refraction of light rays on the surface, where different wavelengths of light gave off different colours. Low emissivity Pilkington K is a surface-coated glass which helps to control thermal insulation. As a glazing material, it has many fast growing applications, largely concerning energy conservation. What Eileen decided to do, as an artist in studio practice, was to research, identify, understand, control and manipulate this effect. This led to her PhD thesis: “Possibilities for the use of Low Emissivity Glass by Surface Coating Manipulation within a Creative Context”.
Her methodology involved the manipulation of the surface-coating of low emissivity glass by sandblasting and its fusion with surface manipulated traditional float glass at elevated temperatures. Through rigorous scientific testing, she observed the Pilkington K glass in four ways: for its colour; iridescence; reflectivity; and bubble formation. The glass was test fired from 600 degrees to 900 degrees, with an optimum firing temperature of 775 degrees. Under microscopic observation, she noticed that where the surface had a linear formation, which refracted light, it had a shiny look; but where the structure was chaotic, the resulting surface was dull. Colours ranged from gold to pink to blue. Gold had a bubbled surface, purple had no bubbles, just ripples and pink combined the two.
Prior her research, there had been no documented information regarding the creative use of functional surface-coated flat glass. As a result of her investigations, Eileen had effectively developed new methods of creating a colour palette, by exploiting the aesthetic qualities of the Pilkington K glass under certain conditions. She developed new techniques that can be applied to several areas of creative glass, providing the glass artist with an alternative palette of effects.
Variable Intersections - Emerald
Maret Sarapu, like Stine Bidstrup, is another AA2A resident based at the University of Sunderland this year, via the institute for International Research in Glass (IIRG).
An independent artist from Talinn in Estonia, Maret focuses on issues, problems and phenomena that represent her personal experiences and ideas. Her inspiration derives from elements of local Northern European nature, traditions, native ornaments, motifs and objects of daily life that she attaches meaning to. Her father comes from a rural forested region of Estonia, whilst her mother is from Kivilaane, a slightly larger village area near to Talinn. This justaposition of cultures and backgrounds finds its way into her work.
Her work documents her past, recording moods of happiness or sadness, but pieces are essentially made for pleasure. In her artist talk of 24th April, she explained that: “Instead of intentionally saying something with my work, I prefer my work to say something to me. I enjoy the unintentional and surprising outcomes.”
Her preferred medium is pate-de-verre, thinly applied to produce a sugary, delicate structure. In a piece called ‘Variable Intersections’, she examines the differences and similarities between Turkey and Estonia. The work is a series of six different panels and colour schemes, contrasting vivid and complex Arabic designs with calmer, cooler images from the Baltic States. ‘Tryptych’ is a favourite view from a bedroom window. ‘Mulgi Mountains’ considers nature, traditional costumes and native motifs. ‘Glass Quilts’ celebrates the folk-art of America, using the ‘caring and sparing’ tradition of using up scraps and working in the company of friends
Maret has exhibited in solo shows and in large galleries. Her work is increasingly recognised and appreciated, and she has recently been included in the Corning Museum of Glass’s ‘New Glass Review 34’.
Visit Maret's website at: http://www.maretsarapu.eu
Anna Vesele is currently a Research Associate at the University of Sunderland’s Glass & Ceramics centre. In her talk, on 24th April, Anna explained that she was originally from Latvia in the Baltic States, then came to England in 2005, after her BA in glass art from Art Academy of Latvia. She became engaged in completing an MA and practice-based PhD studies, and her thesis was entitled “Baltic Glass: the creation of new artworks based on historical and contemporary contextualization”.
Anna’s works are about relationships between generations - feelings and memories, folk-art, as well as significant episodes in her life. Her pieces specifically incorporate Russian glass, using recurrent geometric rhythmic patterns and are based on similar methods used by other Baltic artists. Her artworks are expressions of recurring moments in life: events that overlap in the same way as her glass pieces, into three-dimensional objects. Collected fragments simultaneously reveal their internal and external lives, serving to create, support and develop a common story. The interplay of the fragility and power of glass runs through her work, and repetition, reflection, refraction and shadows inform her ideas.
A piece called ‘Archive, 2003’, uses pieces of flat Russian glass, joined with metal screws but by 2006, ‘Interaction’ was using only glued glass. Other works, like ‘Homeland, 2007’, ‘Basket, 2007’, ‘Crater, 2007’ and ‘Never Ending Story, 2007’ draw on her family life, heritage and traditions. Later works, like ‘Urbanization, 2009’ and ‘River, 2009’, perhaps show the influence of the North East and the River Wear on her ideas?
Anna has exhibited extensively in Latvia as well as Lithuania, Germany and the UK, and has participated in several glass symposiums and exhibitions throughout Europe since 2001.
Visit Anna’s website at: www.annavesele.com
Let Your Eyes Be The Invention II, 2012
Glass artist Stine Bidstrup was born in Denmark in 1982. In a relatively short time, she has created a vast body of work and become a respected glass and video artist with an international reputation. She achieved a BA in Glass and Ceramics from the School of Design in Bornholm, Denmark in 2004. An MA (Post Baccalaureate) was gained in 2006 from the Rhode Island School of Design, USA (Division of Fine Arts) and via the Danish Design School. Since 2006, Stine has enjoyed a series of artist residencies in Norway, India, Sweden, Denmark, and in New Jersey, USA. She also had a number of spells at Pilchuck, in 2004, 2006 and 2011. She is currently attached as artist-in-residence to the University of Sunderland’s Glass & Ceramics department. For the past five years, Stine has run a studio in Copenhagen, taught in the glass and ceramics department at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art and exhibited her works internationally. Her work features in public and private collections in both the USA and Denmark, including at the renowned Ebeltoft Glass Museum. She has many more shows lined up, some solo, some with emerging and established glass artists, like our own Erin Dickson and Jeffrey Sarmiento. Last year she had an artist residency to India, developing ways of fusing traditionally crafted glass bangles into chaotic shapes; and also in Norway, with S12 Studio and Gallery, reviving historical and architectural glass mythologies and fantasies in her work. Stine’s latest achievement has been inclusion in the Corning Museum of Glass’s annual international review of contemporary glass, ‘New Glass Review 34’, published this May.
“My curiosity in my work is concerned with ‘visuality’… the blind spot we all have when looking at something.” This observation is borne out in works such as ‘Sites and Sights (2005-2009)’; ‘Lenses’; ‘Black Mirror Landscapes’; ‘Double Visions’; ’Sky Voyeurs’; and ‘Let Your Eyes Be The Invention’, amongst others. Much of her work looks at patterns, refractions, dissolution of light and the optical qualities of glass. “We always have a blind spot, where the optical nerve is connected to the retina, which makes the eye blind on that very spot. In this same way, every observation assumes a blind spot that we are not even aware of, because the eye always compensates. We do not see that we do not see, and the highest degree of vision is also the highest lack of vision. All one can do in this kind of situation, is to try to move these blind spots, in an effort to catch a glimpse of what has been invisible.”
After an interesting and inspiring artist talk on 24th April, Stine followed up with a demonstration of her free-blown methods in the university’s Glass Hot Shop.
Megan Randall completed her BA in 2009 at the University of Sunderland and is now undertaking her PhD with a thesis concerning “Extended Clay: Beyond Vernacular Materiality”. In her talk to us on 17th April, Megan described herself as a contemporary installation artist, whose work explores site-specific ceramics, often in unusual, abandoned spaces. She uses porcelain alongside other less traditional materials and found objects. The repetitive process of working on the wheel imbues her work with rhythm and flow and her vessels make reference to the preconceived social notions of the form but, through interaction with the public and by written and visual documentation, they are given a very different application that teeters on the edge of what is acceptable and what is potentially dangerous. During her the final year of her degree, Megan created installations in empty factories in Sheffield, her home city: a place which influences her work concerning urban culture and urban decay. An over-arching theme is ‘Entropy' - a state which is often related to the notion of order and disorder: the higher the entropy, the higher the disorder. Megan says that her work is ‘voyeuristic’ and she is interested in how people and nature have reactions to specific places. To this end, she places fine art objects into abstract and alien settings: thrown porcelain bowls, lined up in rows on the floor of a derelict factory, for example. The bowls are small and functionless, and are used to fill up the space to convey the notion of abandonment. Her aim is take photographs of the piece in situ, then document and question the actions and reactions that result, not recording the people who may view or interact with her work, but the impact that the work leaves behind. Given the locations of her installations, those people often include the homeless, drug addicts, even criminals. She says: “In the process of my work I relinquish control, instead of having a predetermined outcome of how the work will be received.” She doesn’t mind if the work is re-arranged, stolen, washed away or deliberately destroyed by her accidental audience, “just as long as it is treated with the same passion used to create it” she adds.
In 2010 and 2011, after her degree, she completed a number of artist residencies in India and Peru. She travelled to Ahmadabad, the largest city in the state of Gujurat, India, then on to Delhi, Jaipur and Pondicherry. As a resident artist, she worked first with a master block maker, later with a company supporting abused woman, then a pottery. Her ceramic residency proved interesting when she found herself in a place with no kiln…and no clay! After experiencing the highs (she was invited to a Royal Wedding in Delhi) and the lows (she contracted Dengue Fever, a virulent tropical disease and was hospitalised for three weeks), she eventually came home to resume her creative work and studies.
Megan likes the idea of her work being ‘on the edge' - questioning the differences between what may be socially acceptable and outright criminal. Recent works have concerned subjects such as ‘Identity’, which used a variety of personal numbers and data that related to her life (passport, PINs, bar codes and so on); another work involved mailing people with cameras and instructions to take images and return them to her. Of those returned, 20% contacted nude photographs and 40% were of pets. Other works in this genre include: ‘Tradition? 2012-13’, using stencilled porcelain slip overlaid onto graffiti found in Sunderland and Hartlepool; and ‘Hell Yeah 2012’, a response to a graffiti covered wall, using water-jet cut Delft plates.
Megan has exhibited in the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, at the first British Ceramic Biennale and, this year, in Washington DC. Opportunity beckons and although her creative work may indeed be ‘on the edge’, her artistic future, post-PhD, looks much more secure!
Around Easter, the University of Sunderland enjoyed a number of excellent Artists’ Talks - but I confess I have been too busy to commit them to my blog posts until now. However, these artists were so interesting, that it’s a case of better late than never! For more information on the artist below, who presented on 28th February, go to: www.karendonnellan.com
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” So said Albert Einstein. For Karen Donnellan, an exciting young Irish artist, the 'mysterious' plays a pivotal part in her creative work.
Karen studied for a BA at Dublin’s National College of Art & Design. From here, she took part in an international exchange to Illinois and gained some experience at the Seattle Glass Blowing Studio. She completed her final year back in Dublin and, after her degree, was offered an MA place at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), New York, which she gained in 2011. During her degree, she began to develop a body of work called 'Synapse', based on the brain’s response to colour. Karen is very interested in colour therapy, chakras and the potential for healing through the manipulation of energy. Her mother is an energy healer and Karen herself practices as a Reiki healer, which informs her work. It’s natural, therefore, that she is quite a spiritual, meditative person, in line with her belief system. She likes to work intuitively, intrinsically involved in the process, evident in works like ‘Cone & Vortex’ (about energy and how it relates to human consciousness) and ‘At-onement’. Linked to Reiki and her philosophy, she becomes focused, in the zone, at one with the process. There’s an influence here too of the Japanese aesthetic, Ikebana, a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Her ‘Enso’ series (Enso 1, 2011) are large, circular pieces (about 1m diameter) that dwell on the unity of the circle form. 'Present Moment Reminder 2012', revisits 'Present Moment Reminder 2010', using pate-de-verre and capturing time in amethyst, one of her favourite crystals.
Influenced by the sculptural performance pieces of Matthew Barney, Michigan, at the Sloss Student Iron Conference, Birmingham, Alabama, she became interested in performance art and the ‘sound’ that glass makes. In her piece ‘Dissolve, Compose: Release’, from 2011, she explores the choreographic and narrative possibilities of glass working. A hot glass demonstration is presented on film as an abstract narrative, with musical accompaniment. This led her to produce ‘Sound/Glass Performance 2013', where she investigates ‘Solfeggio’ sound wave patterns. ‘Solfeggio’ is a ancient and sacred set of tones, nine in sequence, used in chanting and the healing process.
2012 was a busy year: she graduated from RIT, completed an artist exchange at Bullseye, held a solo exhibition in Buffalo, New York and had a spell as a teaching assistant at Pilchuck under John de Wit and Lance Freeman. Her work as a teaching and studio assistant has taken her round the world, to the UK, Ireland, France and USA. She has also been a student rep to the board of directors of the Glass Art Society. She followed this up in 2012/13, with an artist residency at Edinburgh College of Art. In 2011, Karen won the Langley Kenzie Endowment Award and was shortlisted for the World Craft Council Film Festival in 2012. She has exhibited widely, at venues such as the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Craft Gallery (Ireland), Prague Castle (Czech Republic) and the World Craft Council Prize for Applied Arts Exhibition (Belgium). Her philosophical and meditative approach, evident throughout her work, made for an interesting and thought provoking talk.
Terri H Harper