Back in Scotland

I have been in a whirlwind lately! Since September I have taken up a position as Artist in Residence with the Jewellery and Silversmithing department at the Glasgow School of Art. This has meant packing up and renting out our house in Australia, moving to Scotland and setting up here. We had a little bit of a delay in getting into the studios at GSA as the Reid building sits right alongside the Mackintosh building that was once again devastated in a fire earlier this year.

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Looking out from the Reid Building at the main entrance that is out of commission due to the extreme mass of scaffolding holding up the Mack building.

I have a bench and access to all of the jewellery and silversmithing equipment and I am slowly getting organised and finding where I can set up for making glass. I am dearly missing my studio and my glass machines that I couldn’t bring with me, like my glass crusher, kiln and lapidary wheel. I have set up my lampworking torch and have just started to get going on making beads and some small test pieces for an idea that is brewing. I am curious to see what will unfold this year with my work and how I might go without the equipment I am used to. I have to admit to this being a little frustrating as I have been exploring ways of working with recycled glass and pâte de verre that has been producing some great results. It seems that this might have to go on hold for a little while.

leaf brooches recycled glass michelle stewart

Recycled Glass Brooches 2018

I have been out seeing some of the gorgeous Scottish wilds while I have had the chance. This has been invigorating, calming and inspiring all in perfect measure. From standing stones and burial cairns, to rock carvings and hillfort ruins, incredible views, grand castles and little white cottages in the valley as well as lots and lots of walking, I have been reminded with force why I love it here.  A few pics from out and about…in a random assortment of some kind of order.

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Oh Canada!

Recently I was lucky enough to take part in an amazing Artist residency in Canada. It was a botanical research arts residency with Ayatana and was held in Québec, Canada. Getting together with a small group of artists who all share a passion for plants, gardens and all things botanical was so great. We all got to geek out over the shape of leaves and walk through beautiful forests without being hurried! Led by the fabulous Alyssa Ellis, we visited some special places and got to meet incredible people who are extremely knowledgeable about their passions. Whether it was lichen identification and preservation of plant specimens, tree detective work, DNA sampling, seed saving, herbal medicine and wild foraging, moss gardens and energy botany through to bio-dynamic vineyards, native species gardens, poison plants and botanical illustration, each day was filled with visits relating to plantlife.  More about these experts can be found here.

Not only did we forge a great circle of friendship that will most definitely carry through in each of our lives, we were nurtured and fed so well that we all felt very blessed to be a part of such a great experience.

 

St Peter’s Memorial Church

Recently I was invited to collaborate on a project at one of the local churches here in Kinglake. I was included in the gang with Peter Toyne and Gary Cornelius due to interest in the way I have been working with recycled glass. They had a particular idea that they thought I would fit perfectly.

St Peter’s Memorial Church was first built in 1922 to commemorate first world war soldiers and has a long history in the area. Just before it was due to be heritage listed, the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires came through and consumed the little wooden church. The church community has collected and salvaged many parts of the church, including milling wood from an old blackwood tree that stood by the church.

church outside

Artist, Peter Toyne has been leading the charge with the artistic input into the rebuilding of the church and he has been appointed to construct many of the features.  My part of the project concerned the beautiful amber glass that had been collected from the original windows.  You can see them below as they were in the old church.

interior L

We began with some very formal designs that were exploring biblical references and through the design process came to a focus of Mary. Ideas surrounding the importance of Mary her significance within the bible began to fuel the design direction. We got together to look at the blackwood slabs to select some pieces that might be suitable to work with and we found a piece that had a lot to say. Peter and Gary worked on refining the images of Mary and Gabriel, complete with wings, already present in the wood while I collected specimens from the surrounds of the church to cast. All of the plant species I chose are native and growing right there next to the church. I have included Tree Fern, Kangaroo Apple, Hazel Pomaderris, Mountain Grey Gum, Musk-Daisy Bush, Round-leaf Pomaderris and of course, Blackwood. When the light catches the glass pieces they reflect a gentle amber glow.

The new St Peter’s has been constructed and added to over the last 9 years and it has an amazing view all the way out across to Melbourne which the new church fully captures. There are still more elements to be added to the church such as a memorial garden for those lost in the Black Saturday Bushfires. There is more replacing, repairing and reinstating elements that were salvaged from the old church. It is an honour to be a part of something so special and that will continue to carry on a meaningful message into the future of this historic little church.

church viewIMG20180608153318frontplaque detailmary detail

 

http://www.historyvictoria.org.au/shop/shrine-on-the-mountain-the-story-of-st-peters-memorial-church-kinglake-by-jillian-durance  A book detailing the history of this little church with a big story.

http://www.petertoyne.com Explore his folio section for other works that are installed in St Peter’s.

A special commission

In 2017 my graduation work from my BA of Fine Art was solely concentrated on using horse hair as my material. It was a deliberate step away from using glass as my main material in an attempt to push myself out of my comfort zone a little. My work was seen by a lady who had something very special in mind that I could utilise my making skills on.

She wanted me to make a vessel for her but she wanted to provide me with the material. This had been waiting, she said, for something wonderful. It was a long pony-tail from her late husband. They had cut the hair off prior to his chemotherapy treatment. Four years ago he lost his battle with Cancer.

So I began with great honour to be asked to make something with such a precious part of her life. There were some days that I found it difficult to work on the piece. The hair was much finer and more challenging to work with than I was used to and there was no way that I wanted to add any kind of product to make the hair conform. I have not added any other thread to the piece, the only material used in the form is the hair I was given. There were also days where I became too emotional to work on the piece. Aside from being quite anxious about this material that I was working with from the aspect that I just couldn’t mess it up, this is a quiet contemplative technique that allows a lot of time for thoughts.

I recently delivered the work along with a Mountain Ash canister for it to store in and she was very happy with the result. There were tears and hugs and I must say I am relieved that it is complete and so incredibly humbled that she chose me and trusted me wholeheartedly to create such a special piece for her.

human hair vessel and mountain ash canister michelle stewart

Walk With Me

In March/April this year I presented my first solo show titled ‘Walk With Me’ at the Warburton Arts Centre.

recycled glass brooches x3 michelle stewart

fossil brooches

fern brooches x5 recycled glass michelle stewart

fern brooches

leaf brooches recycled glass michelle stewart

leaf broochesrecycled glass objects leadbeaters possum helmeted honeyeater michelle stewart

State Faunal Emblems – objects

 

recycled glass fine silver small plaques michelle stewart

fossil plaques

images- Andrew Barcham

 

Here are some shots from set up with the Curator Jade Bitar and lovely assistant Ali Griffin.

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The show completed.

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Venice – Arte Laguna Art Prize

IMG20180318042553IMG20180318043912IMG20180318041201arte laguna prize awardARS of Glass Venice

So this is what I did last week… I flew to Venice to accept my award! It was my first time to Venice which in itself was great. It was pretty chilly and it even snowed one morning while  there. Such a beautiful city. I am so thrilled to be a part of the Arte Laguna Art Prize and have my glasswork exhibited in Venice. This is such an amazing show with some incredible works featured. I feel very special to be part of such an immense show  and to be able to visit the show and be there to accept my award was an experience I won’t forget. Of course I visited Murano and saw some amazing galleries there, Carlo Moretti Gallery was lovely and my favourite by far was Marina e Susanna Sent. The work in here is totally divine! I drank spritz and bellini’s, ate pizza and lasagne and walked (and walked) around the many (many) laneways and bridges in Venice and thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip.

Frankie award

I am thrilled to have been selected for the Craft Victoria Fresh! Exhibition and was so excited to be awarded one of the prizes at the opening last week! What a lovely way to start the year. I was the winner of the Frankie magazine award, which means I get an online feature with Frankie and some other goodies!

The Fresh! awards were celebrating 25 years and the first installment at the new premises of Craft. I made some sales on the opening night and hope that more good things will unfold from the great exposure that Craft can provide. Plus, I was featured on the Craft website home page as an advert for the exhibition. Below is an excerpt from the catalogue featuring my work. The entire catalogue can be found here. 

By now you have seen this image a few times, and it isn’t quite finished yet! I have a solo show coming up at Warburton Arts Centre in March that I am super excited about. The work at Fresh! will be featured as well as some new pieces that I have made so far this year. I might give you a little peek at some of that soon. The exhibition is called Walk With Me and is focused on the forest of the Central Victorian Highlands, where I live.

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