Today we present the last in our Techniques & Traditions series. In the interview series Ben Landau of Alterfact, Nicolette Johnson and Hana Vasak of Dáša have all generously shared details of their specialised techniques and studio practices and today we chat with glass blower Amanda Dziedzic.
Glass blowing is an intense craft performed in a hot and dangerous environment and as you’ll read, it is no mean feat to produce one of Amanda’s elegant glass bonsais. Amanda’s vision as a glass artist is realised only with the skill of a team effort, from picking up glass from the kiln, blowing and shaping the piece to finishing (I really should have asked more about what the ‘punty’ is!).
Can you please take me through the process of making a bonsai from start to finish? Do you employ any particular techniques or materials?
When I make production I work with two other assistants. This is to maximise efficiency and get the most out of every session I work. Sessions are usually four hours long and in that time we move!
I ask a lot from my assistants and am grateful to have such skilled artisans working for me. Without them I would not be able to work like I do. Glass blowing is a real communal effort and I just love this aspect of the work.
A usual day on the glass usually goes something like this; arrive a couple of hours early to sort my colour for the day and get the equipment turned on and warming up, light the glory hole and set out my tools. My first assistant will pick up the colour when it is at the right temperature, pop a bubble in it then take a dip of clear glass from the furnace. Depending on how big the piece is he will dip again and have it ready to pass over to me once all the glass is gathered. I will then blow and shape it and my second assistant will bring me a punty to transfer it from the blowpipe. We will then be able to work on the top of the piece and finish it. While we are doing this my first assistant has started the process all again. By the time I have finished the piece he is handing me the next one. We have been working together for over eight years and it really is like a beautiful choreographed dance. The team in full production swing is a beautiful thing. We usually aim to make approx. 20 pieces in a four-hour session.
As far as getting each piece right it really is about reading the glass and knowing your heat. I have made so many of these pieces now that you really get in the zone and your hands just take over. Repetition is key to learning glass blowing and at some point this just clicks. You stop thinking and just do.
The techniques of making things by hand have been around for millennia with many processes remaining unchanged. Can you tell us anything about the history of glass blowing?
Glass blowing is relatively new in Australia. When I say relative, I’m comparing it to someone like the Italians who have been at it for years to hone their craft. A lot of the techniques we still use today are taken from the Venetian way of blowing glass. That being said Australia has a very strong glass community, which is highly regarded overseas.
There is still production being made just not to the same extent. It is interesting to see the evolution and I’m curious to see where we are at in ten years time.
How do you come up with such a beautiful and impossibly varied range of colours?
I love working with colour and I find endless joy in playing with colour combinations. That is what is so great about my Yumemiru series is that the colour combos are endless and always evolving.
I do take a lot of my inspiration from nature and I tend to pay close attention to what the seasons are telling us. That's why in Autumn you may see more reds, oranges and golds come out where as Winter your darker tones, steel blue, grey and aubergine make an appearance.”
I also spend a lot of time with the works in my studio and like to experiment with new colour combos all the time.
What do you love about the glass blowing process?
I love that glass blowing allows me to work with my hands. I also love the immediacy of the material. Glass is a very complicated material to master and takes years of honing your skill before you feel like you know what you’re doing. I guess I like that about it too; it’s not an easy win you know? You gotta work for it. It is a really physical medium and I enjoy that too. The best thing about glass blowing is the people though! The relationships you form working with glass are for life and most likely will span the continents. I love the bonds that are made through glass blowing they are really dear to my heart.
Who or what inspires you?
Nature is my biggest inspiration. I love plant life and for me there are no patterns more beautiful than the ones found in nature. Mother nature knew what she was doing and totally got it right the first time. I think being in a good frame of mind, happy and content is also where inspiration comes from for me. For me, visits to the market, the sights, smells and colours inspire me and make me happy.