Studio Visit with Emilie Patteson at Canberra Glassworks
I'm on a mini holiday in Canberra for the weekend to visit Emilie Patteson at the Canberra Glassworks. It's a freeeeeeezing cold May morning, minus 5 degrees overnight, and the air is fresh. I loiter around the entrance of the Glassworks for a while until someone lets me in to loiter around the foyer until Emilie is ready for me. I've spotted some of Emilie's work in the show room, her style is so unique, it's easily recognisable.
I can't even describe how excited I was last year when a young lady entered the gallery with an application to exhibit her work. That young lady was Emilie. I'd never seen anything like it. So delicate and unique, dried plants embalmed in glass like some kind of artistic science experiment. They are precious gems from Emilie's collection, her childhood, her life.
I'm here at the Glassworks to see for myself how the treasures came to be. First we take a tour of the "Cold Shop", forgive me if I miss a few details, its a very complicated and diverse practice. The "Cold Shop" is not where the hot, scary stuff happens (funnily enough), this is where things like engraving happen. We head on through the cold shop downstairs to see other fun secret rooms that the general public never enter. Coloured rods of glass, all different sizes and colours are stored here. I'm told the colours are created by mixing different chemicals and elements, for example, red contains gold.
I could go on but I'll skip ahead to the fun part, the "Hot Shop", and yes, it's what you think it is..... I'm handed a pair of safety glasses, definitely necessary as glass spontaneously explodes quite often as I was about to learn. Emilie has a helper, another glass artist whom Emilie studied with at ANU, her name is Christine Atkins. She is here as a second pair of hands and to direct me like a traffic controller because I have no idea where to stand and when I might be about to catch fire. The whole process begins at the furnace , which is like a massive glass melting pot which exists at 1130 degrees celsius and is never turned off. A pipe is plunged into the pits of Mordor to be coated in molten glass and the process begins. I leap out of the way as the red hot bulb is transferred to the opposite side of the room to the glory hole at 1200 degrees celsius where it will be turned and squashed (for want of a better word) and twisted into art. The pictures will do a much better job of describing the process than me..... Needless to say it's skilled, complicated, delicate, and dangerous work. I'm very very impressed by the entire experience, it was a genuine pleasure, and I didn't even burn anything.
Now for one last stop, Emilie's private studio. It's a treasure trove of native specimens. Everything from beeswax fragments to sea urchins and shells through to feathers and flowers are stored neatly on the desk and shelves. Small jars, test tubes and vases, most of which Emilie made herself, cover every surface containing seeds of every kind. It's like I've stepped into Professor Snape's storeroom at Hogwarts. Some of the larger jars contain paper soaking in a murky, brown water. This is a deliberate process in which Emilie stains the paper in decaying plant matter and water. It has a beautiful effect, some particular plants like wattle create a brilliant orangey brown colour. Emilie then draws the plants on the paper, so simple and so effective.
Home Harvest is Emilie Patteson's new exhibition at The Corner Store Gallery. It will feature some of her recent glass sculptures as well as drawings. The exhibition is on show from June 4th to 21st 2015, with an opening night on Friday June 5th from 6-8pm. It's going to be a very unique experience, something you'll never forget, I would not suggest you miss it.