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Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre

Detail of: (High)light, 2006. Glass and stainless steel

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Wendy Meyen and Elizabeth Kelly

Craft ACT Gallery Two: 9 February - 18 March 2007

Text by Jas Hugonnet, February 2007

In 2006 Wendy Meyen proposed a project that would give her a greater understanding of studio glass practice. She chose to make this happen by working with renowned Australian glass artist Elizabeth Kelly to investigate the form of the chandelier as a generator for new work. She specifi cally chose to work with Kelly who is well known for her knowledge in coloured glass. The mentorship grants from the Australia Council are administered by the Australian Craft and Design Centres (ACDC), and a key benefi t of the grants are the fact they allow emerging artists studio time with an established practitioner as well as studio time for themselves. During the mentorship Meyen worked through sets of ideas and discussed concepts and design with Kelly in a studio environment. Both explored small scale prototypes and the use of found objects in chandeliers and generated a body of work for this exhibition.

The benefit of working with an established practitioner is the chance to see how designs are formulated, how a business is run and how a studio can be utilised for production. Meyen worked with Kelly for three days a week during the three months of the mentorship on a diverse range of projects and designs. The mentorship also afforded Meyen one day in the studio for herself, where time was spent on the development of her chandeliers. During this time Meyen explored new colours and forms while working in Kelly's hot shop, and developed her cold working techniques. Beyond the studio day, Meyen spent time researching chandeliers, lighting technology and metal frame works.

Throughout this period, she realised the depth of artists working with contemporary chandeliers, and saw a challenge in creating something new by focusing on the use of the glass components. Throughout the mentorship as the work developed, the concept of individual parts coming together to make a whole was the driving force together with inventive combinations of colour. The shadows of these works became as important as the physical works themselves. During her research Meyen was impressed with Indian Shadow lights and adopted the idea of a single internal light source so that the integral shadows of the pieces of the chandelier was what really lit the space and while doing so it placed an emphasis on the whole piece rather than individual components.

For Kelly the process began with a strong emphasis on design balanced with a dedicated approach to actually working in the studio with the aim of delivering a considered and highly entertaining project. As Kelly's studio deals with colour in glass, both she and Meyen chose to enhance, and to abandon, this element in their works. During the project they were able to generate colours that they required as well as fabricate blown elements that could not be found on manufacturer's shelves. Kelly described the mentorship as an ongoing dialogue covering a wide range of topics from the mechanics of fi xings, to the breadth of the studio glass movement and naturally the chandelier as a format for contemporary design practice. Meyen saw their discussions as being pivotal to her professional practice in a manner that could only come about through studio immersion over a three month period.

Jas Hugonnet is the Curator and Exhibitions Manager at Craft ACT.

Image credits (top to bottom)

Craft ACT is supported by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian Government and all state and territory governments, and also gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance it receives from the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian government's arts advisory body. Craft ACT is a member of ACDC, Australian Craft Design Centres.