All posts tagged 'art'

In the Studio with ...Beverley Bunn

by Collage Kent: discovering art in our county, with Alex Welch Thursday, December 12 2013

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)

For more art, culture and politics chat, visit the Collage blog.





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Categories: Art, Art festivals, Art exhibitions | Medway

Cake, coroners and 900 elves; a visit to Gravesend's art world

by Collage Kent: discovering art in our county, with Alex Welch Tuesday, November 26 2013

I was expecting tea and cake; I wasn't expecting 900 elves, all gathering in the town centre in an attempt to beat the world record for the most elves in one place. Fighting my way through the throng of small green and red hats I found the Town Hall's Minerva Cafe locked and bolted. A coroner's inquest was taking place in the Town Hall which meant the facilities had to be closed for the duration. That was a bit of a nuisance as the installation I'd come to see was inside. It was cold, I was hungry and no number of elves could make me feel festive....

Empty out Time, copyright Wendy Cottam 2013

Artist Wendy Cottam's first solo exhibition, Empty Out Time has been inspired by her life and family history which is inextricably tied to the town and the river. The installation combines photgraphs, water and light to create an environment in which images of the town are filtered, distorted and re-imagined to present a whole new and evocative version of Gravesend. The installation works by projecting slides of photographs, which Wendy has taken, through sheets of falling water. In the dark, the light creates a dynamic three dimensional scultpure, ever changing in shape and scale. The images themselves are seen beyond the water, deteriorated by it so that they are unclear and only suggest a narrative rather than shout one. It is an exciting piece of work and as an artist just starting out, Cottam demonstrates a strong ability to take the prosaic and create something magical.

However, I only know this because I've seen it working in her studio. How was I going to experience it from outside the closed cafe? Fortunately a very lovely man on the fruit and veg stall pointed out another very lovely man with some keys who unlocked and showed me in. Although I couldn't indulge in any of the cake, I could see the installation in place. The machinery which engines this piece is industriual in design, mixing plastics, copper and wiring. Even without the water running it is an intriguing sculpture. Obviously not working (and apparently it hasn't been running for much of the time which is one of the problems of putting a water feature in a first floor, wooden panelled room I guess) there are still a number of prints on display which are taken from the the projected images. These are very beautiful, espcially "Woven Industries" and "The Water Tower".  For me, Empty Out Time suggests a dark, fairy tale version of Gravesend but I also think it fulfils an improtant role of art which is to ask questions rather than dictate answers. This asks, 'What is this town? How do we see it?" and that is always an important thing to ask about the places where we live. 

There is so much going on in this exhibtion, so many different elements to it, that I feel there are years worth of work to be developed and drawn out by the artist. Although the cafe is a beaufitul room it would be good to see the piece exhibited somewhere more suitable, with more space and appropriate lighting. However, if you get a chance to see it before it closes this Friday (29th November), don't miss it.

(And yes, in case you didn't know, the elves did beat the world record.)

Wendy Cottam's website


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Categories: Art, Art festivals, Art exhibitions

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