|Biography and contact details
Alison Lowry Makers Statement 2012
www.alisonlowry.co.uk E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 07747033454
I am interested in textiles, especially clothing. Fabric preserves the essence of its maker; traces of the wearer become entwined with the warp and weft, allowing physical objects to become 'vessels' for memory.
This interest in fabric and embroidery started with some family 'heirlooms': a collection of beautiful and intricate Irish white work hand made by female relations. More recently, an embroidered christening robe that has been in my family for over hundred years inspired a major body of work. Through this work I examined my family links and ties to the past. I examined how delicate life is, and how the states of birth and death can be similar in their fragility and vulnerability. This body of work grew and developed to encompass many other thoughts and feelings, and I realized that these 'little dresses' could be interpreted in a variety of ways by both the viewer and maker.
The universal themes of birth and death are still woven through my work, yet I am increasingly starting to explore how clothing acts like a second skin, and how these items are inexplicably interlaced with narrative. 'Empty' dresses hang like skeletons in closets, bound with the memories the (absent) body still holds.
Glass, for me, is the perfect medium to encapsulate these transient notions. Glass offers endless sculptural possibilities and is full of contradictions- a mirror of life itself. The process of making is intrinsic to my practice and I am fascinated by the interface created when glass is used in conjunction with other processes and techniques, for example photography, printmaking and textiles.
I employ a variety of glass techniques to create my sculptural works:
'Pate de verre' is French for glass paste and is the technique of using crushed glass packed tightly into moulds and fused in the kiln. The resulting works are usually thin walled vessels or sculptures. I sometimes take a mould directly off a fabric or garment, but this can destroy the material. The moulds can only be used once and these pieces have a high failure rate. To finish them I can sometimes spend many weeks sand blasting an individual piece.
Another technique I use is 'box casting'. This entails layering up of many pieces of glass and melting them together in a kiln to create a solid block. This technique allows me to place images and text- either ceramic decals or screen prints- in between layers of glass to create a narrative and give a depth of field. These works generally need a lot of coldworking, which can include sawing, grinding and polishing to create the final piece.
The last method I am increasingly using is the 'lost wax technique', which involves creating a positive form in wax and enveloping it in a mould. The wax is then steamed out, leaving a space into which the glass is melted into, in the kiln. Once fired, the refractory material is broken away revealing the positive cast in glass. These sculptural pieces are normally solid cast shapes and can require, depending on their shape, some hand polishing with diamond pads.
Alison Lowry is a glass artist living and working in Belfast. In 2009 she graduated from the University of Ulster with a first class Honours degree in Art and Design. Since then she has won numerous awards including first place in the category, 'Glass Art' at the Royal Dublin Show in 2009, the Silver medal at the Royal Ulster Arts Club's Annual Exhibition in 2010 and the Warm Glass Prize in 2010 and 2011. Alison exhibits both locally and internationally and her work is held in several public collections; the Arts Council of Northern Ireland recently made a second purchase for their collection.
Her work is inspired by her interest in objects and antique Irish textiles. This fascination with lace and embroidery started with some family 'heirlooms'- a collection of beautiful and intricate Irish white work hand made by female relatives generations ago. She says, " These beautiful works of art were utilititarian items such as tablecloths and sheets- they must have taken years to embroider! The stories those textiles could tell, if only they could talk. Of course at the time these items were considered to be mere 'womens work'. Not craft, and definitely not fine art! Part of my practice tries to redress this balance by creating sculpture- 'high art'- out of these much misaligned fabrics."
Prior to her degree Alison studied textiles, completing a City and Guilds in Creative embroidery. It wasn't until she had had her first baby- her son Oisin- now 6, that she decided to go back to University as a mature student to study art. For the first two years she studied printed textiles alongside lens based media, but it wasn't until her final year that she decided to work with fused glass, and although it was a steep learning curve she hasn't looked back since!
Her first body of work drew inspiration from an embroidered christening robe that had been in her family for over hundred years, " I had just christened Oisin, when the first wearer of the robe- my grandfather- died. All of a sudden this garment came to represent my family history and my ties to the past. Through it I examined how delicate life is, and how the states of birth and death can be similar in their fragility and vulnerability. This body of work grew and developed to encompass many other thoughts and feelings, and I realized that these 'little dresses' could be interpreted in a variety of ways by the viewer and myself".
She employs a range of techniques to create her sculptures, working with cast glass and pate de verre. Both techniques involve many processes and sometimes the failure rate can be high, 'Frequently I open the kiln after a firing and the piece hasn't fired the way I wanted it too. Sometimes glass refuses to be tamed and insists on doing its own thing- I think the challenge is partly the reason I like working with it!"
Alison's work ranges from small vessels and framed pieces- perfect for that unique gift- to larger sculptural works more suited to the serious collector. She also works to commission and recently completed a series of screen printed glass tiles for a private clients bathroom and last year she was given the job to produce the trophies for the Arts and Business Awards held at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.
She is currently on a two year craft business start up programme called, 'Making It,' which is run by Craft NI. Her studio space for these two years will be within the Ceramics Department at the University of Ulster in Belfast. Her other passion is that of educator- this year she has hosted one day glass workshops and short courses all over Northern Ireland and next year she will be teaching masterclasses in England, Germany and Washington, USA.
For further information on these courses or for stockists of her work, please view her website at www.alisonlowry.co.uk