Monday, June 29, 2015

Penland dreams turned reality

Penland! Never have I been to a place that is so lush and green! It was truly stunning, an amazing place to learn. As soon as I got there, I was like;
"This isn't real".
But it was!! I was fortunate enough to receive a full scholarship to attend Amber Cowan's flame working class. This meant full tuition, board and meals all covered. All I had to do was pay for the flight. It was mindblowingly generous. Without this generosity I would not have been able to attend.

The thing I really liked about Penland was that it was a whole bunch of different mediums thrown in together. So not just glass. As an Aussie glass traveller it is nice to branch out of your own medium. There was also people of all ages there. I made friends with a cute lil blue haired teen and a rockin lady named Joy in her 70's! Penland is in North Carolina kinda atop the mountains. I have never seen weather change so quickly. One minute it will be hot with the sun beating down the next the clouds will roll in, cracks of thunder and a torrential rain shower, then back to steamy sun. Nuts.

So I wanted to go because I was desperate to take a class with Amber Cowan. This chick is the business. She is balls to the wall awesome. She pretty much invented her way of working, figuring out how to flamework recycled glass and turn it into these gorgeous creations. And now she is willing to share all her secrets with you! I just found that phenomenal and to me it spoke of what a true artist is. She figured out how to manipulate the glass in a new way and instead of keeping it all to herself she wants to share it with you. She is so passionate about glass as a material and this shows in everything she does.

So for a glassblower I had a pretty steep learning curve. Everything I had learnt so far I had to pretty much not do! No flashing! No reheats! Madness! We worked hard. I was on that torch from 9am till 11pm. (I was usually done by 10:30, that was my peak so I pretty much just spun on my chair waiting for Arlie to finish...)

I went because i wanted to figure out how to lamp work furnace glass to incorporate into my hot shop made pieces. I think I made a good starting point. One of the other dudes teaching the goblet class, Granite Calimpong, teamed up with me to make a colab piece which we entilltled "turnip da beet".

Pretty funny right. So I then thought, how about if you blow me a bottle and I flamework the stopper. This way I could use boro and make it super detailed. I still haven't figured out all the joins properly but I still think it turned out pretty sweet. (It also helps that Granite is a fucking gun.)

I met some awesome people too. One of those is Arlie Towbridge. Man I had some fun with this chick. She is a super talented babe and I learnt so much from her. Her, me and Amber got on like a house on fire and a couple a nights we got to tear it up. I want both of them to come visit me! (Are you reading this you two??)

We got to hang out for a day in Ashville which was rad (when my hangover finally cleared, man it was a close call...) where we got to go "thrift" shopping and visit some studios. Gave me some mega inspiration for what I want in a studio. 

I also got to have some great conversations with Lisa and Boyd, two phenomenal glassblowers from seattle. I guess really it's just nice to step outside of your comfort zone. Switch off your brain to the everyday and submerge yourself in your craft. Such a special gift. I feel especially blessed as I was awarded a full scholarship to attend. Penland is a total gift and I can't speak highly enough of it. Everyone should apply! I was the only Aussie there that session which was a strange feeling too.

And OWLS!! I got to meet owls!! They brought them in for the life drawing class. Man did I leg it down there!! They were so amazing, they don't even look real, they look like puppets.

I feel incredibly lucky to have gone to Penland and I hope again to go back someday. I also feel excited as I just purchased my very own torch!! YEEEEEEWWW!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

My (Unsuccessful) Austco Application

(So this is a post I wrote whilst in the air travelling enroute to Penland to take an aweinspiring class with the fantastic Amber Cowan. I'm working on my wrap up but I thought I would still post this as I think it's a good one. I't also quite sassy about the budget cuts to arts funding but I think on the ground and not read 17 million feet up in the air it still stands.) (And yes I'm still pissed I didn't receive the much needed funding I applied to.)

Here we go again.
Travelling a billion miles across the ocean to learn some more about glass. You would be surprised how many of us do it. I think this winter there will be a mass exodus from the Adelaide glass community alone. Seems like everybody is taking a class.

I am travelling all the way to North Carolina. Yeehaw! I have been awarded a full scholarship to attend Amber Cowan’s flame working class. Now that I’m actually on the plane I can start to get excited. Was a mad rush to get here, but I did it so no more worrying about stuff you didn’t do or have to do when you get home.

I live an extrodinairy life. Well I reckon I do anyways. Being on the plane makes me think of all the fantastic trips I have taken and so many of them for glass.  I’m pretty good at beating myself up about things,  not doing enough, should be doing more, blah, blah, blah, man is that both tiring and boring. So let’s forget about that and think about all the good shit. Yeah.

I’ve been to Pilchuck in Seattle, I’ve been all the way to the pointy end of nowhere, Lybster, Scotland to do a residency, I’ve done a research residency in Japan and now I’m going to Penland in North Carolina. Seriously? That shit is awesome! I’ll tell you what’s not awesome though is the major funding cuts to the arts that have just been announced. Not awesome. I’d actually say brutally fucked up.

I just wrote and submitted (the day before I flew out) my strongest proposal for funding yet. It was to create works for my solo exhibition in 2016 at JamFactory. I had letters of support, I had the venue confirmed but most importantly I had the killer idea. Now I have just learnt that they won’t be taking submissions for that round. All my time and efforts wasted. The budget cuts for Australia council, the major funding body for artists is so severe. Austco grants were already as rare as hens teeth to get now I fear they will have gone the way of the unicorn….

This is not the first time I have had beef with Austco. I’ve had my voice heard don’t you worry about that, but now it seems more than one person has to speak up. I want to know how I (we) can let the fat cats above know that this is not cool. It’s fucking hard enough to make a living as an artist and by taking away opportunities such as these I feel like we are being told our contributions are not valid. My work is not important. I am replaceable. Well that’s just not true.

A life without art is not life.

I’m going to band together with my brothers and sisters and I want our voices to be heard. I know all about following the hard road and I won’t be stopped now. Even though I wrote a grant application that will never even see the light of day, it helped me to produce a clear and well thought out plan to be executed. It got me excited about making. So not all is lost, and I’m going to share it with you now to see what you think….

(It is an Austco application so it’s a little long winded. I won’t hold it against you if you speed read it…)

I Dream A Greenhouse”

I have been given the outstanding opportunity to exhibit works for a solo exhibition at JamFactory in gallery two, in Adelaide in 2016. This is a monumental event for me in my career as a glass artist. It was here that I completed my training as an associate designer in glass in 2009 and now seven years later to return for a solo exhibition is an excellent marker of my achievements. This is my first solo show in six years.

This show will be an accumulation of three years worth of work. During this time I have researched, travelled for classes and workshops and completed overseas residencies to develop this work. I now have the perfect venue to display these new works. My work to date has always revolved around the natural world. Plant life is a huge inspiration and a constant theme in my works. I am now looking to combine all my findings into an installation of works in glass for my 2016 solo show that revolves around ‘the garden’.

The proposed exhibition explores the idea of “the greenhouse”.  An intimate indoor space providing a fertile background for me to work with glass to cultivate, cross-pollinate and present exciting new works in a captivating environment. I have an affinity with plants; working with selected species, ideas of the real and the unreal – interests which manifest themselves aesthetically and conceptually my practice.

I propose to create an entire installation - a domestic garden environment with gardening equipment and props, creating a wonderland for viewers to interact with and discover the artworks nestled within. This installation and its attendant props (some found and some made) are an integral part of the exhibition – creating an immersive, engaging scene for audiences to explore, enabling the discovery of delightful vignettes of work.

Growing within this warm, greenhouse installation will be new works, ripe for harvest. Nestled in a wooden crates are luminous glass vegetables, quietly glowing with surreal, otherworldly beauty. Hanging baskets spill with long leafy foliage, on closer inspection revealing themselves to be finely lamp worked tendrils of leaves. Sprouting out of seedling pots is a series of golden blossoming dahlias.

Humans need nature to survive. We ourselves cannot grow and thrive without it.  It sustains us on so many levels be they practical, spiritual or psychological. It has been doing this for eons. I personally get great satisfaction from my own tiny corner of garden space. It gives me room to think, clean air to breath and a sense that I am growing and creating a tangible, living space for others to enjoy too. It helps me to find my place in a world that is expanding at a rapid rate and technology is eclipsing itself by the minute, the garden is where I find my solace. The notion of tending your garden is what I am hoping to achieve with this show.

I want to create works, which appeal to everyone. I think plant life is something we can all relate to. For me each plant evokes a memory. A giant stag fern will always remind me of my grand father. A nastersion leaf will bring to mind my nanna’s pool and its surroundings and now my first home. I like thinking about these tiny connections and I hope other viewers will start to think about their own experiences when they view the works. I am looking to create a garden themed installation in glass works that relate to plant life reconstructed from my own memory.

I envision creation an all-encompassing installation that will amaze and delight viewers regardless of age. I’m hoping these works will gently coerce people to reconnect with plants and celebrate the diversity and beauty of the plant world. I also want these works to conjure up memories of the past to make connections with plant life. I am looking to create the majority of the works in sculpted hot glass and combine these with found objects and ones from my own personal collection to form the installation. Gallery two in the JamFactory is what I believe, the perfect space for me to create my vision.

Gallery two is an intimate space where an installation can have maximum impact. It is an enclosed “U” space that will give the viewer the feeling of being surrounded by the works.

To bring this installation of works to fruition I will create works both in my own studio in Brunswick and travel to Adelaide to hire the hot studio at JamFactory. I will travel to Adelaide on 6 separate occasions to create the works in weeklong blocks. This will give me adequate time to develop the works. I am aiming to create new hot sculpted works in glass. I am not aiming to create identical representations in glass; I am aiming to create works, which evoke thoughts, memories and feelings towards the plant. For example to recreate a jacaranda tree I may just focus on the instantly recognisable purple flower. This is where memory comes into play and each viewer may interpret it differently. It may evoke a hidden memory to the viewer, which has been stirred by reflection and imagination.

To create these works, sessions will be spent in the hot shop experimenting with colour and texture. My initial sketches will guide me to make the works in glass. This is where my technical skills as a glass blower will be further developed as I prototype these works. I am excited to make my most detailed works yet. I intend to make hot sculpted works and to do this require to travel to and hire the hot shop facilities of JamFactory in Adelaide. I am also looking to invest in a smaller hot torch for flame working that I will be able to use in my own studio. This will allow me to create more detailed works that will be incorporated into the larger works.

I am giving myself ten months to create these works, as I want the work to be well thought out and executed to the highest detail. Over this time I will be able to create enough pieces to contribute to an installation. I will also use this time to source props that will be equally as valuable to this show, contributing to the feel of the greenhouse.  I will issue a callout to the public to contribute their own special garden related props to  use in the show and it is my hopes that together we will create a show of our shared memories.

As an artist I am very conscious of the era and world we live in. I believe now more than ever it is important to celebrate the small, appreciate the beauty in the everyday, to make the most of our surroundings and the materials we have. Small is precious, we need to create our own oases, our places of wonder, our own greenhouses.