A fire in the shed.
In the tiny hamlet of Warncoort, at the foot of the Otways, there is a fire in a shed.
A fire of creativity!
The purple and orange flames gush from the mouth of a lamp worker’s torch and flow around the many translucent hues of molten glass as Monica Provan winds it onto steel rods.
The colours of the magma melt together to form a glowing mass before being plunged into the kiln at over 400 ºC where their temperature is reduced slowly to prevent them from exploding.
This is only the beginning of the process.
The beads are then fired again to make them more robust after which they are parted from the steel, cleaned and polished.
A few are lost along the way, shattered by tiny imperfections in their make up or inconsistencies in the process but, as any artist will tell you, the mistakes made on the path are an essential part of the creative journey.
The finished products are sorted, reviewed, mixed and matched with others to form sets or separated to stand alone, capped with precious metals to hang from chains or twisted into webs of gleaming wire.
There is no end to this. The torch roars on. The glass softens into toffee and twists dizzily away before the flame.
The artist herself is remarkably humble and talks of her unique and incredibly unusual pieces as one of the local farmers might discuss his cattle. Each of her ‘Children of the fire’ is subjected to a harsh but just critique which outlines its faults before admitting its beauty and value.
Monica began working with glass ten years ago but will tell you that she considers herself something of a beginner, “There is so much more to learn and so many techniques I haven’t even tried yet.” She attends courses and classes which provide access to knowledge and facilities beyond those of the domestic glass artist. The commercial furnaces required to smelt statues of life size proportion for example.
She also teaches small groups of enthusiasts how to blend glass and fire into jewellery, her true passion for the process is in itself inspiring.
Her work can be found in galleries through the Otways and at the Murray Street Market in Colac
lives and creates her silver jewellery at her home in Apollo Bay.
Pamela creates her silver leaf pendants and earrings using fresh green leaves with pronounced veins from her garden (and from other people’s!). She coats the veined side of the leaf with several layers of silver paste. Once the desired thickness is achieved and the silver is completely dry, the leaf is fired in the kiln. The leaf burns away, leaving its “imprint” (in mirror image) on the face of the silver. The silver leaf is then polished and/or textured, depending on the desired effect.
Pamela also creates filigree silver pendants. Using cork clay, she makes the desired shape (oval, round, spherical, tubular, etc). Once the cork is completely dry, Pamela uses silver clay in a syringe to ‘pipe’ a filigree design onto the cork. When the silver has fully dried, the pendant is fired in the kiln, where the cork simply burns away … leaving the delicate hollow filigree shape.
You can find Pamela at her brightly-coloured stall at the Apollo Bay Community Market on the foreshore on Saturday mornings … weather permitting.
For more information, call Pamela on 0407 816 899 or visit http://www.silver-leaf.com.au
Jewelry to Save a Species
“It’s really quite a challenge to fit a Tiger Quoll in to a pendant”, laments , whose latest range of fundraising jewelry does exactly that. She has been working with the Conservation Ecology Centre based in the Otways, to develop a range of handmade jewelry and the proceeds support their Tiger Quoll breeding program. Necklaces and lapel pins, tie clips and cufflinks, all with images designed specifically for the project, hand poured resin and antiqued silver settings.
“It was a funny project to start with because I had the impression that Tiger Quolls were quite small, much like a mouse and Lizzie (from the Eco Centre) kept emailing me back saying that the leaves in the design had to be smaller because the Quoalls are actually large, more like a cat.” It took a field trip out to the Eco Lodge to set Sally’s sense of scale correctly, eventually getting every detail of her designs in line. Scale seems to be an ongoing issue for Sally, as her background in glass blowing and casting has led her in the past to create larger works and these smaller ones are quite new. Luckily for her, the properties of working in glass are similar to resin as both can filter light and are used either with color or to enhance an image. The resin in her jewelry does just that, “It’s almost like there’s a little magnifying glass on top of each piece of Tiger Quoll jewelry, really pulling up those leaves and setting them just at the right scale.”
For more information about the Conservation Ecology Centre’s work with Tiger Quolls, as well as their many other great projects and the ‘Jewelry to Save a Species’ range go to http://www.conservationecologycentre.org or www. sallyforrester.com