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One to Watch: Juli Bolaños-Durman

We speak to Glass Artist and Hothouse17 Maker Juli Bolaños-Durman

Juli is an emerging Latin American Designer with a background in Graphic Design, she pairs this with mixed media and a recent immersion into glass to create vibrant, characterful vessels.

Juli has been selected for Hothouse, the Crafts Council's Talent Development Programme for emerging makers. Find out more about Hothouse

What first got you interested in making?

Since I can remember, I felt the need to understand my surroundings and learn through the direct interaction of the materials of the moment. As a kid, I would spend many hours playing in the garden with all of my cousins. This is where we came up with new interpretations based on wonder and directed by curiosity.

Juli Bolaños Durman, Portrait. Photo: Suki_Dhanda

What in particular drew you to glass?

I love the fact that it can be ‘fixed’ or transformed through various cold working processes, especially when I encounter found objects that I see potential in and I act as a translator between the material and the ideal of what the object can become.

Consequently, by aiming to transform ordinary objects into valuable-timeless pieces or objects d’art, the process flows effortlessly to materialise into sculptural art with soul or as I refer to in Spanish as 'flavour'.  By challenging and appropriating traditional notions of originality, the mixture of media and their juxtaposition, these end up attributing more character to contemporary compositions, portray a richer narrative and develop my artistic identity as an intuitive researcher.

Which project are you most proud of so far and why?

It is hard to choose one because each one has its own particular magic and served its purpose, in the sense that each was a stepping stone to get to the next. But off the top of my head, I would have to say my MFA graduation project ‘Ode to Intuición’ Series (2013)

Up until then I had no idea that the audience would connect so much to this series of 60 non-functional, sculptural vessels. These appeal to the concept of preciousness and the importance of intuitive play as a guide to the creative process and if you take a look at the creature like figures, best described as perfume bottles, these embody my essence as a Latin American designer: vibrant colours, having a different perspective thanks to my heritage and the playful aspect which is our common humanity.

Thanks to this project, many doors were opened and it has allowed me to be push my aesthetic into the next level.

What do you hope to get from Hothouse?

I am very excited to have the insider’s knowledge on building a business and to move away from the idea of a ‘starving artist’. Most importantly, I look forward to getting feedback on my business development up to date and also understand how we, the UK makers, fit into the wider contemporary context. In the end, opportunities like these will promote conversations with a wide range of industry leaders by developing current peer and professional networks, motivate us to participate of a constructive synergy for new ideas and catapult important critical dialogue. In the long term, the overall experience will challenge our practice in every aspect and enrich the UK community of makers as a whole by developing successful creative businesses.

It seems the illustration process and your background in graphic design plays a huge part in the final pieces. How does that process work and to what extent realised is the final piece on paper?

My background in graphic design has played a massive role on how I observe the world and how I categorize the information and I enjoy compartmentalizing in beautifully grid like structures.

Regarding the illustration aspect of it, I couldn’t narrow it down to just that. I would have to say that I start with Quick Projects: These are characterized by composing without any restrictions and by letting creativity flow without sabotaging ones intuition. By allowing the mind to access the creative process judgment-free, the pressure is off and this is when play provokes the creation of new ideas. Throughout this process, observation aids a better understanding of the work proposed and promotes the discovery of an unlimited and continuous source of new ideas. Consequently, these are the starting points for my work.

And as a Graphic Designer, sketchbooks are a big part of the development of the research since it includes all the experimental thoughts, the Quick Projects and documentation of the technical notes. It is a personal space for ideas, which have influenced the day to day of the studio work to act as, to quote Carole Gray and Julian Malins,  a ‘bound collection of sheets that contain the development of ideas over time, and subsequent reflection and analysis’. These come together and make possible the understanding of the thought and creative processes. By providing a space for dialogue and development of the ideas, the sketchbook facilitates the evolution of future projects.

In the end, the sketchbook becomes the principal storyteller of the project and the portrayal of the creative journey. It is a very personal space in which ideas are proposed without any restrictions. Consequently, these become frozen moments that synthesise the preciousness of that intuitive thought. Personally, the value of the bound collection of sheets is as precious as the final series of the sculptural objects.

Juli Bolaños-Durman, Ode to Intuición, photo by Shannon Tofts

You are originally from Costa Rica, what do you take from this to influence your work?

Costa Ricans are known for being very laid back and to go with the flow. It isn’t always the best approach to life to be too relaxed, but for me this is how I produce my best work. I let myself flow in the process, disregarding if it a ‘good’ idea or not. Sometimes is just needs to be that way and it doesn’t matter the outcome, it is there for a reason and only with time and perspective we will be able to understand its meaning- Design is a process, not just the outcome.

Costa Rica is known of its wildlife and beautiful, vibrant nature. I grew up in a lush surroundings and that is imprinted in me and my aesthetic as a designer.

And one last characteristic that I think is very important is that as a culture we are very cheeky. We like to push the boundaries of what is supposed to be, bending the rules to understand the limits. These allows us to be inquisitive by pushing different ways to solving problems and allows us to make the unmade.   

You have said that some of your pieces seem to have their own character and personality. Can you explain a bit more?

I think of my pieces like if they were my children: we can only put out best intention forward during their development, but at the end of the day we can only cave into the discomfort of not knowing what they will become and the process will surprise us in wonderful ways.

All of my work is certainly not straight at all, just because I cannot do a straight line if my life depended on it. So, I accentuate it to make sure it doesn’t look like it is a mistake and embrace the ‘flavour’ this brings to the composition. Each and every one of these sculptural objects are completely unique and are named according to their distinctive and quirky characteristics. The names are Quick Projects themselves referencing my Latin American roots; by using a mixture of Spanish and English languages and cultural references.

In the end, even the audience has connected with the artwork when they like the idea of baptizing the pieces and I specially like when they say what it reminds them of and how by doing this, they are connecting to that childlike curiosity that keeps us sane. 

You are interested in using discarded objects. What qualities attract you to a found object?

Good question, I’m not quite sure. I guess that I am value the materiality – texture, colour, transparency. But most importantly, I am drawn to objects that look a bit lost and are in the look out for a new identity. Such as imagining if the Ocean had a ‘Lost and Found’ box. Can you imagine what you would find there? Imagine all the treasures from millions of years of sunken ship? My cousins Go Pro that I borrowed that time without his permission? Zeus’ favourite toe ring? This is the type of wonder I value and try to bring to my work constantly. Life is sometime too serious and we cannot forget the importance of having a laugh.

You can see more work from Juli and follow her at the Crafts Council Directory

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