November 15, 2011
by Jaan Poldaas
The Canberra Glassworks, with assistance from the Thomas Foundation in Canberra, offers residencies to emerging artists nearly all year round. Upon finishing the two-year program at the Jam Factory in Adelaide, I applied to the Thomas Foundation Artist-in-Residence program and was accepted to complete a six-week residency which took place through August and September this year.
The TFair is a sweet deal. Applicants generate a budget up to $4000 based on the rental of Glassworks facilities. If accepted, the applicant puts up half the budget, the other half subsidized by the Thomas Foundation. The Glassworks also throws in accommodation at ‘The Chapel’ which is a swish apartment located 50m from the glassworks studio.
The result was a fantastic opportunity to develop new work in a spacious, top notch studio amongst amazing visual artists working in glass. It was such an ideal environment for my first professional residency.
My glass practice had mainly consisted of blown glass product development (as per the mandate of the Jam Factory glass studio) and a style of artwork which was also very vessel-oriented with an emphasis on form and proportional impact. I proposed to reside at the Glassworks so I could do some experimentation with surface and create some work that had more room for play and revision, a departure from my main body of work which is mostly realised in the hot shop and is largely determined by accuracy of shape. I wanted to make some flat ribbon-shaped murrine that could be chopped into rectangular tiles and added to sections of my forms, creating asymmetry by visually opposing the horizontally-applied ‘coil’ technique that I have been developing for the last three years. I saw the potential for contrast between the loose application of the coils and the sort of digital structure of these vertically-aligned murrine. I wanted to work on a broad range of murrine techniques in both the hot and cold shop and although these few precepts were the basis of my time in Canberra, I felt at liberty to change course fluidly and, in a way, I went both backwards and forwards through my sketchbook.
Towards the end of my residency I really found a new point of interest. I have used the coil technique for some time and it has always been a direct way of staying connected to the clear glass in the furnace and allowing the material to be naked, distorted, sparkly and so forth. Late in my time there, I started to work with just coiled glass and to make some purely sculptural forms with coils, which I pushed off centre and into sort of triangular diamond shapes. I melted them repeatedly in the hot shop until the outer surface was nearly smooth and all that was left was this shape with an undulating interior edge that I would later highlight by coldworking the entire outer surface to reveal this impossible looking interior line. The few finished objects I took away from my residency were still what I consider tests. They will sit on my desk for now and I’ll consider what’s good about them and will eventually make a new body of exhibition work based on the successes from my time in Canberra. And that new potential is as tactile a result as I could have asked for.