Bethany Wheeler is a contemporary glass artist who completed her studies at Monash in Glass and Ceramics in 2003.
Predominantly working in kiln formed glass Bethany also creates porcelain and found object assemblage works. Nationally and internationally recognized, you can find Bethany’s work in a number of private and public collections. Her recent works are bold, exciting and intricately detailed.
MADA Gallery: Why did you choose to study BA Ceramic Design, BA Honours & MFA at Monash?
Bethany Wheeler: I had always been fascinated with glass as a material and at the time Monash offered the only degree in glass making in Victoria.
MG: Did you work with glass before coming here to Monash University and how did your degree inform and inspire your practice?
BW: I had gained a little experience working with glass at school and it ignited a passion but I had a very rudimentary knowledge of process until I began studying at Monash. My degrees informed my practice by exposing me to a wealth of specialised glass working techniques and to the rich history of the studio glass movement, which was born out of the course at Monash.
MG: What inspires you to make your work?
BW: I am inspired by the phenomenology of making processes, the act of making marks and the tools that assist an artisan in their practice. I love to create objects that explore materiality, light, colour and surface, across a range of materials from glass to porcelain to polymer clay and found objects.
MG: What drew you to using glass as your chosen medium?
BW: I am drawn to working with glass because we live in vitreous environments; it’s a material that surrounds us in almost every part of life. It is also charged with fascinating material paradoxes, fragility | solidity, liquid | solid, transparent | translucent | opaque.
MG: What are some of the joys and difficulties you face with working with your chosen medium?
BW: I love that way that glass allows light to fill space, letting objects visually materialize and dematerialize simultaneously whilst describing interior and exterior space. Glass can be a challenging material to work with, as a maker it’s imperative to understand the science behind what is happening to the glass when it is manipulated from a solid to a liquid and back to a solid again.
MG: Where is your studio located? Give a brief description of your studio space.
BW: I work from 1000 degrees glass studios in Cheltenham, it’s a space that I established a year and a half ago, building 5 artist’s spaces, kiln, mould making, grinding and polishing workshops and a gallery/project space. The studio enables artists to practice their arts’ businesses with direct access to studio equipment in a vibrant and supportive creative collective. My studio space consists of two rooms, one for cutting and assembling glass, sculpting clay and wax and one where I write, draw and do paperwork – both spaces are bright and the walls are adorned with collections of hand tools, natural artefacts, fans, antique glass advertising posters and artworks by friends.
MG: What does a typical day in the studio involve for you?
BW: A typical day in the studio starts with coffee, opening up kilns, emails and list making. Depending on what’s on the go, I divide my time between research, making and facilitating artists in my studio. There are many facets to my practice including studio glass sculpture, mixed media sculpture, corporate awards (such as Monash’s Distinguished Alumni Awards), jewellery, design objects and restorations and repairs.
MG: What are your artistic plans for the future?
BW: I‘m currently working towards working towards a solo exhibition at The Gallery@BACC in February 2015. It’s a body of work that draws upon The Red Bluff Cliffs in Black Rock translating an abstracted sense of place via a series of multi-media wall installations and assembled sculptures combining kiln formed glass and locally foraged artifacts and specimens such as insects, flora, ochre, sap, salt, charcoal, bark and clay. Concurrently I am developing a range of kiln formed tableware and after traveling to Seattle earlier this year to attend Pilchuck Glass School I am keeping travel a little closer to home and spending time in costal Venus Bay.
MG: Where do you currently sell?
BW: Having taken a year and a half off to build a studio I am just recently enjoying making for retailers again. Currently I stock Kirra Gallery at Federation Square, New Craft and on my online shop.
You can visit Bethany online at: