Art, Inspiration, Interviews
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Interview: Emilie Patteson | Glass Artist and Illustrator

Mushrooms By Emilie Patteson

Emilie Patteson may describe herself as an emerging glass artist and illustrator but if you look at her work, the awards she has won and the exhibitions she’s featured in you would think she has been around a lot longer than she has. It was only in 2012 that she graduated from the Australian National University School of Art in Canberra, gaining a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Glass) with Honours and now she has her own shared studio.

Having a fascination with nature, Emilie is not afraid to explore all sorts of ideas and techniques through her art – even decomposing vegetable leaves in water to dye papers for her upcoming solo show at the The Corner Store Gallery!


Come and meet Emilie and be inspired by her art, her dedication and unexpected discovery for glass artistry …

Please introduce yourself: What is your background and how have you ended up where you are today?

My name is Emilie Patteson and I am an emerging glass artist and illustrator. I studied glass at Canberra School of Art at the Australian National University, and graduated with honours in 2012. I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I grew up in Orange, NSW, and moved to Canberra to study. And I never left! Canberra has an amazing art community, especially for glass. I learnt from some of the best, and am so grateful to be able to work alongside so many amazing artists. We are also really lucky to have the amazing facilities of Canberra Glassworks here. As I am in the very early stages of my career, I’m not in a position to set up my own glass studio. To be able to establish my practice in state-of-the-art facilities, and work with many other artists, I really can’t imagine being anywhere else.

I’ve been really fortunate to receive a number of awards and funding to get me to where I am now. It’s taken a lot of hard work, and opportunities certainly aren’t handed to you on a plate. But I am so grateful for all the support that I have had along the way.

Leaf Litter, 2013 by Emilie Patteson

Leaf Litter, 2013.
Kiln formed glass with found organics.
Photgraphy by Stuart Hay.

You work as both a glass artist and illustrator. Tell us about your creative processes – how you like to work, what motivates you, what you love doing most.

My process starts with collecting. Whenever I’m outside I always seem to find an interesting leaf, feather, seed or similar. Then my collection ends up in my studio. Sometimes I get the desire to draw or make something with it straight away, or sometimes I keep it for months or years before it directly influences an artwork.

The object itself dictates whether it ends up in the glass or on paper. For example, feathers are usually drawn as they burn away too quickly in the glass. Leaves are almost always for burning. Regardless of what the object is, it is precious to me, and I have a strong desire to preserve it forever, be it in glass or on paper.

I always find it hard to say what I love doing most. Drawing is my first love and it comes to me more naturally.  I love sitting quietly in my studio, recording tiny details with my pencil. But I love the processes of hot glass. Every time I encase an object it creates something new and exciting.

Preserved Impermanence II, 2014, by Emilie Patteson

Preserved Impermanence II, 2014.
Blown and hot sculpted glass with wattle inclusions and dried wattle.
Photography by David Paterson.
Awarded Highly Commended in the Youth Category of the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize.

Nature and the cycle of life and death are prominent themes in your work. Tell us more about this and the inspiration you get from nature?

I have always collected natural objects. As a child I had a cardboard box that I kept under my bed where I kept my collection. I’ve always been interested in the tiny details in nature, and the amazing colours and textures. I think it’s also been an influence from my mother, who is a horticulturalist, so I grew up with a home full of pressed plant specimens and baskets of seedpods.

I use nature as a metaphor for my own life. Studying nature has allowed me to observe life cycles, in a way that is really beautiful, and it draws attention to the fact that death supports life. Without decay, there is no new growth.This process allows me to examine mortality, and realise that there is beauty in the fleetingness of life.

People might not always get that reference, but at the very least I am drawing attention to the little details and the beauty that is often missed every day.

Infusion series: seeds, 2014 by Emilie Patteson

Infusion series: seeds, 2014.
Natural dyed paper with pencil.
Photography by David Paterson.

You only graduated three years ago and already have a shared studio (at Canberra Glassworks with fellow glass artist Brian Corr). Tell us more about this – how does sharing a studio work for you? What challenges, if any, did you face going out on your own?

I was really fortunate that when I graduated Brain asked if I was interested in sharing a studio. Finishing art school and taking the next step to professional artist is pretty intimidating and as I was feeling a bit lost as to my next move, I jumped at Brian’s offer. We have shared a studio ever since. Brian was actually my first glass teacher and has always been so supportive of my practice. Our work is very different, but we work well together. It’s so helpful to have someone around to ask: “What do you think of this?” and then be able to talk about your ideas, or look at your work in a new way. Also, his technical knowledge is very helpful.

I think if I hadn’t taken up a studio straight after graduating I would have found it really difficult to make a start with my professional practice. It’s so important to keep the momentum going.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give others wanting to do the same?

Get a studio! Having a studio is the best thing I have done. There is nothing more valuable than having a space that is solely dedicated to your practice. While I make for fun, it is also my job, and so having a separate space where I can work is the best. In the studio there are no distractions, you can leave things out as you are working on them, you can display things so you are able to contemplate them, you can even be messy. The best part is that it’s a place to escape. You know that when you’re there, you can be focused and enjoy your work.

Pause. Found objects.  By Emilie Patteson

Pause. Found objects. Photography by David Paterson

What would be your dream creation/project? Explain.

I have been thinking a lot about a new body of work that I’d like to call “The Collection Project”. So far my artwork has only included my personal collection. I’m interested to see how my work would evolve if I didn’t have control over the found object. My idea is that I would put a call out to the public, asking people to send me items from their own natural history collections, with perhaps a little story about how they came to collect it, or perhaps only their name.

I preserve things because they are precious to me, so I think it would be interesting to work with other peoples’ treasures.

I hope to start this project sometime in the next 12 months, so if you are interested in becoming involved, contact me on my website at Watch this space!

My guilty pleasure is …

Lindt sea salt chocolate. The hidden lumps of saltiness are amazing! It’s always a great little pick-me-up when I’m struggling with things in the studio.

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?

Yes, the way I came across glass was exactly like that! When I finished high school I had applied to ANU to study fashion design. When I went down to Canberra for my interview, I spotted the glass workshop. I didn’t even know that was an option. I had never even seen anyone blow glass before. I had always felt attracted to glass though. As a child I had a large collection of marbles, and (to my parents’ frustration and concern) I was always picking up broken bits of coloured glass. I rejected my offer for textiles, and reapplied the following year for the glass workshop. I was lucky enough to get in and haven’t looked back since.

Upcoming projects:

Currently I’m working towards a solo show, “Home Harvest”, at Corner Store Gallery in Orange, NSW. As I mentioned, I grew up in Orange, and my mum and dad still live there. This exhibition is inspired by the feeling you get of coming home when you have been away for a while. Both my parents are passionate gardeners, and so for this exhibition I am only using plants collected from their garden. It will run from 4-21 June, 2015.

Thanks so much for such a great insight into your background, Emilie!

You can also find her on Facebook.

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