This is the first of a series of interviews with local artists in which we delve into how and why they have chosen to make art their life. This time I visited the studio of Beverley Bunn, an artist who works with glass.
When Beverley Bunn asked for a mini kiln as a Christmas present she didn’t realise she was at the start of a new vocation. Meeting Bev in her home-based studio in Medway, it’s clear she’s a force of nature. Full of bubbling laughter, fun and enthusiasm it was obvious that when she was forced to give up her job as an aromatherapist by her son’s premature birth, she was still going to need something to throw herself into. Once her son was thriving she looked around for a new occupation. “I started making beaded jewellery but I soon became bored with the beads that other people were making. Then I spotted this lady at Detling craft fair who had made fused glass jewellery and I thought I can do that. I’ve always assumed I can do stuff before I try!”
Bev comes from a creative family. “My mum loved making things. My Dad built boats. We’re a very practical family. I’ve never trained in anything artistic; in fact I’ve always been a bit more of a science person. I did engineering after I left school.” However, not having any training or experience didn’t put Bev off and instead of slippers, her husband found her a tiny kiln to start off with. Using the basic instructions that came with the kiln Bev began to make to glass beads. Soon her jewellery was selling so well, she could afford to buy a bigger kiln and expand her ideas. It was at this point that the jewellery was left behind and an artist was born.
Her studio is crammed with multi-coloured glass rods, beads and stacks of jars of frit (coloured glass ground to different textures). The walls are covered with sketches and ideas and the shelves filled with moulds and experimental work. The obligatory cold cup of coffee sits on the side and Harvey, the Schnoodle, takes exception to being thrown out for duration of our chat. With large windows looking out onto the woodland next to the house it’s a peaceful spot. The trees she is surrounded by play a big part in the creative process for Bev, often appearing unconsciously as a motif in her work. Her work isn’t figurative though. It’s highly decorative and she often works to commission for people wanting a piece for their home. However, Bev is unwilling to categorise it as design rather than art.
Indeed, the engineer in Bev come when she speaks about the process of hot glass work. It’s a relatively new medium to work in. Fusing glass into a vast wall panel or a three-dimensional sculpture is a technical as well as a creative business. Just as artists enthuse about the joy of the accident in printing so the combination of heat, glass and pigment can create something unexpected in the kiln. Layering glass sheets with different grades of frit create stunning results which play with light, colour and texture. Learning to both master the materials and the process whilst also letting them fulfil their potential, is key to Bev’s work.
“My preference is more abstract because I find myself feeling the energy of it. Other people see something in it. Boats on a wave or hills but that’s not how I work. Everyone has done beach huts… My first exhibition was in June 2012 and it was about the Chinese Five Elements. I had three months between agreeing to do it and the exhibition happening and it took me the first 4 weeks to decide what I was going to do. It’s a lot of work to fill a gallery on your own! But I used to live in Hong Kong where the idea of energy is very important. I did reiki there and the energy of things is how I look at things. I looked at the energy of those five elements and that was how I approached my work for that exhibition and it worked really well for me as a theme. But 80% of the people who looked at the work and had no idea what that was all about. They just said, I like those blues together… or I want a red one. What people chose to buy was nothing to do with the concept. “
She divides her work between three areas; commercial pieces which she sells through craft shops and fairs, pieces for commission and then her own work for exhibitions. This weekend she will be taking hundreds of glass snowmen and penguins (plus many other glass pieces) to the Handmade at Christmas exhibition at the O2. Beautiful, quirky little pieces of brightly coloured glass, they are the perfect Christmas gift and will no doubt find their way into many stocking this year. But although she enjoys creating work people love, Bev will be glad to get back to her beloved jars of frit come the New Year. “I’m addicted to frit,’” she says, holding a jar of brilliantly coloured turquoise glass powder up to the light. “Working with frit is all about texture and colour and seeing what happens in the kiln. With the jewellery I did a lot of precision work but I’m fed up with cutting straight lines!"
Hoping a bigger kiln and more space to work in, Bev wants to develope her technique and make sure she can establish her glass work fully as art rather than design or decorative craft. Without doubt, herpassion for her material and the exploring it's boundaries place her firmly as an artist.
For more information go to
Beverley Bunn Glass Art
Bev will will exhibiting her work at the Handmade Christmas fair at the O2 this weekend (14th and 15th December 2013)
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