I am so excited for this article! When I was in New Zealand back in March we went to a small town called Whanganui to attend the wedding of some very good friends of us. We know them from China but they are originally from Whanganui and had the wedding back in their home town. The wedding was absolutely breath-taking but that’s not what this article is about. Back in Whanganui I also got introduced to this amazing glass artist through other friends. Her name is Claudia Borella.
I met Claudia on a typical amazing weather kiwi Summer day. Bright blue skies and the morning of the wedding; We were meeting our good friends Jodi and Geoff for a brunch on a sunny terrace in Whanganui. Their friend Claudia briefly joined us as well and something about her appearance immediately sparked my interest. She has a very enthusiastic and appealing look in her eyes, this with her aubergine colored hair and fair skin made her very remarkable. You know when you see a person and instantly you know that there is something about them that will make you remember them? Well, Claudia Borella is someone like that.
When I found out that she is a glass artist, obviously that made me very curious about her. Although to be honest I kind of had something in mind like glass blowing , making beautiful vases or even bracelets, but I was still very interested to see her studio. It was only later in the day that Jodi mentioned that Claudia is one of the leading glass artists in the world and that Sir Elton John bought her work, then I started to get really curious about this to me already interesting person. I knew I couldn’t leave Whanganui without visiting her studio.
When we arrived there I was pretty speechless. What I saw, her work, was not at all what I expected. Forget glass blowing, bracelet making or beautiful vases. What Claudia makes out of glass is not just decoration, although a piece of her would decorate any place into something amazing. Claudia makes art. I should actually type Art. (the investment piece kind of Art). This woman makes phenomenal things out of glass sheets. I honestly had no clue that it was possible. When I first saw it from afar I could have been fooled that it was actually metal and then to learn it’s actually something as precious as glass was quite incredible.
Personally I found her style very clean, there is a beautiful serenity in the work that she makes. It’s almost an understated confidence; A showpiece without being bombastic, but elegant and delicate while still very enthralling.
I was so happy when I found out she was also represented in a studio in Hong Kong, because than l immediately started hoping she would agree to do an interview for my blog and for ROUGE. Claudia Borella is represented in Hong Kong in Koru and soon she will also be in Taiwan.
Below you can read the interview I did with this amazing artist.
You came into contact with glass for the first time during your studies in Canberra. What made you choose to work with Glass rather than other materials?
I applied to cross-train at the highly recognised fundamentally Bauhaus inspired school, Canberra School of Art (now Australian National University), whilst studying Industrial Design at the University of Canberra. At the craft lead school driven by material based training, glass as a raw material fascinated me instantly, so much that I decided to change course from furniture making the day I discovered it. Introducing other natural raw materials is something that still interests me, however finding time to explore and integrate new ideas, materials and techniques whilst maintaining exhibition commitments can be challenging.
How does your work influence how you see glass in everyday life?
I see new opportunities and applications for glass design and art converge in everyday objects more and more. A window for example becomes a canvas, not just a transparent divide that allows light in and us to look out into the world as well as keeping us at bay from the weather. The possibility of a transparent and opaque coloured canvas, can take us to another world, just like a contemporary version of traditional leadlight windows in a cathedral. Works become site specific, relevant to the commissioner, spiritual, meaningful, while encouraging and promoting the need for craftspeople. It reminds us that we are connected to the world, that we exist with material within it. My practice has made me recognise just how much we actually surround ourselves with glass without even realising it. Glass can be such a discretely ubiquitous material.
Can you explain to us a little bit more on the process of your work? When the glass sheet arrives, how do you start?
From ideas to sketches, a cutting plan is designed for the glass of which is available in a myriad of both opaque and transparent colours. Depending on what is being constructed; art, sculpture, design or installation, I design with overlapping layers of colour. The sheet glass must first be cleaned before the cutting can begin. Layers are constructed based on the desired colours, patterning and dimension. Once cut, the glass is then fused together in a kiln much like an electric ceramics kiln. I also integrate other forms of raw glass with the sheet glass. For example, I use several grades of crushed glass (Frit), glass powders, glass coloured strands (Stringers) and glass Billets which are similar to coloured bricks. I also make my own molds for the purpose of further forming (slumping) the glass work. Once the glass is fused together, cold-working the glass begins. This stage is the most physical and where I further work the surface with diamond tools, grits of various grades and water to carve and etch the surface of the glass between the forming stages. The final stage is observation and polishing, but only if the design requires that texture.
Which accomplishment in your outstanding career do you find most memorable?
All of the accomplishments are equally memorable for different reasons. I have to say often the recognitions and awards have been unexpected surprises for me especially when nominated by others. It is a comforting feeling knowing others watch over you. I am very grateful and honoured to have received so many awards.
Can you tell us something about glass that we don’t know?
Did you know glass can harness the light of the moon and convert it into electrical energy? With electronic information and the internet these days it is very easy to discover many aspects of glass. Perhaps of the least expected to the everyday person or the most commonly asked question concerned with glass is what is glass made of? One of its hidden characteristics is that glass is a material made primarily from sand fused by high temperatures and remains a supercooled liquid in its solid state at room temperature. That is, the material is still moving when for example even presented as a window. Of the most remarkable recent inventions I have seen is a giant-sized polished glass marble like structure that can harness both sun and moon light and convert it into electricity. Potentially a realistic solution to today’s energy concerns, form and material combine to harness sustainable energy programs.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Everywhere. The landscape, design, photography, fashion, architecture, even the Dalai Lama. Social media, Pinterest in particular is a useful tool and an immediate source of design stimulation.
Can you give some suggestions to people who are interested in becoming a glass artist?
There are so many facets to glass making, manufacture and or artistic practice that it is important to know what lifestyle or daily practice a person imagines themselves participating in. Some artistic glass practices are immediate and extremely hot, some are dusty and heavy, some are clean and involve no contact with the
material. Handmade vs production vs factory made, industrial vs one-off exclusive objects. They are all very different ways of working with one material. Sometimes people find themselves in love with a material and become trapped by a lifestyle that doesn’t suit them. It’s important to try a variety of techniques in glass and
methods of working that are comfortable (even manageable) and keeps the passion for material alive. Watch some online videos, take some glass short courses to begin with, try different techniques would be my first reccomendation.
Where do you see ‘Claudia Borella’ in the future? Can you share some of your plans?
In the immediate schedule from July until September my work will be part of a Hsinchu City International Glass Art Festival at the Hsinchu City Glass Museum in Taiwain. I am also a director of a glass education programme called ‘Master Artist Program’ (MAP) which is now in its seventh year in New Zealand. In
essence, I invite glass artists from overseas that use Bullseye Glass in their own practice to teach in Whanganui, New Zealand. Bullseye Glass is an engineered raw glass made in Portland, Oregon and is also the glass I use in my own practice. Every artist that I invite to New Zealand uses my studio to teach students that have enrolled from all over New Zealand and overseas to learn a particular glass technique that the visiting artist has mastered. I look forward to our next visiting artist Richard Parrish from Montana, USA who will teach a five-day masterclass in Tapestry in Glass as well as present at the New Zealand national glass conference ‘Image and Object’ to be
held in Auckland during the labour long weekend 25 & 26th October. The MAP program will continue for years to come at my studio, which is a converted 1950’s Art Deco Woolstore that will evolve with time to encourage other creative people to participate in collaborations. I would like to encourage more projects with
other designers who wish to work in glass. Inspiring people to be creative is a constant in my life, it encourages us to think laterally.
Below: transference 20a
All pictures in this post are owned by Claudia Borella