Amanda Baron is in 'The Lightness of Being' at Birch Tree Gallery until 1 August 2017
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Amanda Baron talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and her favourite part of the making process.
Who or what got you into making?
My father and grandfather instilled a love of making in me from a very early age. Both had dedicated making spaces and I was drawn to the jars and tobacco tins of nuts, bolts, screws and nails, the tools they used and the scent of oil, waxes and wood – I loved the smell of their workshops. Around the age of four my grandfather gave me a block of wood, a handful of nails and a hammer. Left alone under a huge Cypress tree in his garden I began connecting hammer to nails to wood. I think that was the moment I inherited my future as a maker.
An ability to draw was recognised by an inspirational art teacher at school and after an incredible Foundation Course year in Carlisle, tutored by the jeweller Jan Goodey, I completed a degree at Edinburgh College of Art, initially studying Ceramics then changing to Architectural Glass.
Could you please tell us a bit about your work?
I have developed work that reflects on my experience in the field of stained glass restoration over the past twenty-five years. As a conservator I was able to closely examine individual fragments of stained glass windows that required careful documentation, cleaning, repair and sometimes replacement. When viewing a stained glass window we look at the narrative depicted in the image whereas I look at the individual fragments that make up the image. It was these fragments, their surface decoration, shapes and colour without the constraints of lead that influenced my recent work. I make collections of fragments that converse with each other to evoke a sense of place. These pieces are made through careful selection of mouth blown glass, mark making and polishing. I also make paintings on glass that reflect my research into elements of Scottish landscape. I highlight the qualities of glass using traditional painting, staining and enameling techniques that are relatively unchanged since the medieval period. The work is hand painted using kiln fired glass paints and can have up to six firings to build up surface layers. They embody and crystallise my response to the craft of the material and the beauty of landscape.
What are your inspirations?
Thinking technically, one piece of glass that had an impact on me was an ancient fragment with a fly painted on it. It was so lifelike the initial instinct was to swat it away. It was a fascinating and amusing illusion created by the painter. The fly’s wings were painted on the surface of the glass with the body painted on the underside allowing the depth of the glass to create an illusion of three dimensions, perfectly simple and yet extraordinary. This is something I have thought about a lot recently and I’m factoring the depth as well as the surface of the glass into my painted work.
In terms of image making, last year I undertook a week long residency on the Isle of Eigg. This proved to be an extremely immersive experience allowing me time to absorb and think creatively about the elemental factors that have formed the landscape of this remarkable island. I spent a lot of time on the Singing Sands studying the palette of the sky, clouds and light, the surface and shadows of rock pools, plant forms, the incredible geological textures of the rocks and boulders and the geometric patterns that are created by tidal movement of the naturally monochrome sand, made of white shell and quartz black basalt, on Laig Bay beach. Through interaction with the island’s environment I created extensive documentation in the form of sketches, notes, photographs and colour charts that developed into the work that is currently on show in Edinburgh.
Museums also inspire me. I love displays of individual fragments of ceramic, glass, textile and print that once belonged to larger objects, each having a story to tell, a shape to reimagine, a surface to feel or an image to inform. For me, there’s a mystery and a private interaction with these dislocated elements that is full of potential.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
There are many processes involved in my work and I enjoy them all – colour selection, cutting, painting, leading and soldering. I think more recently I’ve relished the process of selecting an area to study and research through charts, notes, sketches and photography. I love walking and engaging with my surroundings and it is new and exciting to think through how these ideas can translate into and onto familiar materials and processes. When back in my studio I collate the material and begin to piece together a collection that reflects my observations. This is an exciting process of rediscovering a place when removed from it through memory and documents.
What are you working on right now?
I’m about to spend some time on holiday on the Isles of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides. I expect this environment will invoke a response in my work. The current exhibition is recently developed ideas and I’m keen to extend some of the thinking and processes in that body of work. There’s something about the image and the surface that I want to investigate. Painting on glass engages depiction with the transparent nature of the material. I hope to find appropriate spaces to exhibit new work. I’m also interested in running classes in traditional glass painting techniques as I feel it is important to pass on historic processes which can be applied to contemporary craft making.