Cambridge Open Studios is a chance to enjoy art beyond the gallery. 200 artists take part in the Cambridge area and open their doors to anyone who would like to take a look. You can see a wider selection of their work (and buy it if you like!), see their methods first hand, or even just chat with the person behind the creations.
Cambridge Open Studios runs throughout July and to celebrate the event, Local Secrets is interviewing the top artists taking part throughout the month. This week we talk to Tolly Nason, glass caster.
Tolly hates to be pigeonholed - look at her work and you'll see why. Though currently her work is mostly in glass, she also has a substantial portfolio of photography, and her original degree was in textiles. Take a look at her choice of subject; though continually inspired by nature, half her pieces are scientifically accurate in size and scale, half are works of imagination, loosely prompted by natural forms.
Her unconventional training has left her free to combine and explore her materials at will; her textile pieces feature glass tubes woven through the threads and her glass pieces can incorporate enamel transfers of photographs. Her manipulation of glass is particularly beautiful. She often combines solid cast glass with fragile pate-de-verre - a glass paste that is painted onto the inside of a mould. This pairing accentuates the beauty of both and their differing qualities allow her to explore the relationship between organic and inorganic forms.
Tolly has recently completed a self-funded labour of love to celebrate Darwin's theory of evolution. She has cast the beaks of 14 Galapagos finches in red glass, proportionally 20 x the original size. These finches were integral to Darwin's theory, and the beaks will be exhibited in the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge until 15th September 2009, providing an aesthetic introduction to the scientific appreciation of nature.
What work will you be exhibiting in Open Studios?
My photography, and also design led glass work - my ‘Whimsicals' - made using pate-de-verre, and Ice bowls which are made up of clear glass layers and look like melting ice.
What space will you be opening to the public for Open Studios?
I'll be opening The Ark - it's my home and studio (but not my glass studio). I renovated the building and won an award from the council for creating a design sympathetic to the historic environment. I get lots of architects coming to nose around!
What are you currently working on?
I'm making a Great Auk egg, accurate in size and scale. I'm using amber coloured glass and sandblasting it with patterning just like the Great Auk egg has.
How important is your working space to you? Could you work anywhere? Or if your studio was messy?
Unfortunately my studio is messy! But it won't be for Open Studios! I spread out when I work - but I'm trying to train myself to be better.
My work space is hugely important to me - light is crucial, especially when working with glass. I need daylight to be able to see what I'm doing, like when I'm cleaning out the glass moulds.
What things must you have with you in order to work?
The radio - a combination of Radio 1 and 4. I forget about food when I'm into my work - I wonder why I have stomach cramps at the end of the day and realise I forgot to have lunch!
Did you always want to be a glass caster? What do you think made you become one?
I do work more with glass than with photography now, but both feed into each other. I love to place enamel transfers of photographs between layers glass.
I actually did my degree in textiles, but I was always trying to find ways of incorporating glass even at that stage. I've always collected pieces of glass.
Before my degree I worked as Assistant to Bertil Vallien - Head Designer at Kosta Boda (the famous Swedish glassworks) - using sand casting. I was blown away by how he worked; I was only his assistant for three weeks but he completely changed how I wanted to work in the art world.
Has a particular artist inspired you?
It has to be Bertil Vallien - and Antony Gormley for his vision when it comes to artists in general. I'm inspired by people who manage it all - Bertil Vallien and other glass artists such as Dale Chihuly manage to design for glass as well as create large scale ‘objects d'art'. In this way they bridge the gap between skilled craftspeople and Fine Artists.
What's your favourite thing that you've made?
It has to be the Galapagos finch pieces because of the sheer amount of work - physical labour as well as mental ache! I knew I was being overambitious so I'm very pleased it's worked out.
What's the most difficult thing you've ever had to make?
The same thing - the Galapagos finch pieces. Probably the large beaks in particular because I'm a one man band and couldn't move the moulds by myself - I had to use a pulley system to get the moulds into the kiln!
If you weren't a glass caster, what other medium would you like to try?
I don't know what I don't try! I'd quite like to try precious metal casting. If I hadn't become an artist I would have liked to have been in wildlife research spending most of my time in a tropical rainforest somewhere...
Do you think living in Cambridge influences your work?
Yes, massively. We have fantastic resources here which I try to take advantage of.
Tolly Nason will be exhibiting on weekends 3 and 4 of Open Studios (Saturday 18th/Sunday 19th, and Saturday 25th/Sunday 26th July).
Visit Tolly Nason's studio at The Ark, 40 High Street, Little Abington,
Cambridge, CB21 6BG.
To find out more about Tolly Nason and her work visit www.thebowerhousegallery.com
To find out more about Cambridge Open Studios visit www.cambridgeopenstudios.co.uk