Amanda Dziedzic – Glass Artist

Words by
Georgina Reid
| March 15, 2016

Amanda Dziedzic is a glass artist who works from a shared studio space in Brunswick, Melbourne. Glass may be fragile but glass blowing is tough and Amanda meets the challenges of her craft with all guns blazing. Her career has taken her from Australia to Japan, England, the US and Scotland, and up next is an exhibition of glass plants, I Dream a Green House, in Adelaide later this month. We talk to Amanda about how plants influence her life and work.

Please tell us a little about your life with plants.
I am mildly obsessed with all things green. I think there is nothing more beautiful than the pattern found in a leaf or the petal structure of a flower. Mother Nature really got it right the first time. Plants are bloody amazing. For me, plants tell a story. Hydrangeas remind me of my great grandmother, staghorns will always be my grandfather, apricots remind me of our first house, that kind of thing. Most of my art revolves around plant life in one way or another, whether directly or indirectly.

Now, can you please tell us some more about how you got involved in glass? It’s not a particularly common career path these days!
I first started glass blowing as an elective at uni. I was kind of fumbling my way through a visual arts degree and bam! It hit me. I had an excellent teacher in Gabriella Bisetto and she really encouraged me to continue. A couple of years later I found myself studying glass full time at Monash in Melbourne and then after that I got accepted into the training program in glass at JamFactory back in Adelaide. I feel very lucky, like my glass career has kind of snowballed in the right direction. Working as an associate at the Jam is where I really cut my teeth as a glass blower. There you work day in day out on the glass, sometimes seven days a week. It’s amazing and brutal at the same time, and if you can come out of it in one piece, you can make it.

What is it about glass that draws you in?

I really enjoy the physicality of the work. Blowing glass is not for slackers. Blowing glass is tough!

It’s hot, potentially dangerous and technically challenging on so may fronts but I really do adore it. If I haven’t blown glass in awhile I really feel it and when I get on the glass again my little heart soars. It feels like it’s where I’m meant to be. I also really love the working relationships you form. I always work with a minimum of one other person, sometimes two and I tend to work with the same people. These bonds are super special. Watching a good glass team in full flight is a beautiful thing. I don’t even have to tell them what to do, each person just anticipates the next move.

Can you please tell us about your upcoming I Dream a Green House exhibition?
I Dream a Green House is really the culmination of three years of work. From the very first glimmer of inspiration in a daikon radish in the back streets of Tokyo, to a hot glass residency in Scotland, I am very excited to see all these works come together.

Greenery invades my waking life daily, and creeps into my dreams at night.

There will be luscious blown beetroots, sculpted stalks of celery, gorgeous stag ferns and even some glassy slugs thrown in for good measure. There will even be some weeds scattered through! I Dream a Green House will open at JamFactory in Adelaide on March 19 in GalleryTwo.

What does a typical day involve for you?
Each day is different. If I’m blowing glass I am up at 5am and at the studio by 7am to get everything hot. We usually work til 4:30pm and I split the day with another glass artist so we can work for each other.

If I’m in my own studio for the day I usually arrive around 9am, set up the kiln to do some lamp working and wait for it to come up to temperature by attending to any emails. At the moment I’m flame working beer bottles into weeds! The Heineken bottles are so lovely! I really like the idea of making trash from trash, that kind of thing. So then I’ll flame work for a couple of hours, take a break to cold work any orders I have, then pack them up for shipping. I split my time making my own work and making homewares and lighting for other companies  – there’s always something to do.

Lately I have been spending afternoons finishing all my pieces for the show. This means lots of thinking and testing. Even though the piece is finished hot, it is really important to me that I take the time to display it right. This can be kind of stressful…

I try and mimic my husband’s hours so I head home around 5pm to hang out with him and my cat. If it’s been a particularly good day, a beer at the pub is always welcomed, or maybe a swim at the pool before dinner.

How would you describe your work/what’s your design philosophy?
Through my training, and with my experience so far as a glass maker, I have learnt that I am essentially a craftsperson. I may design things and I may produce exhibition works and production glass, but at the end of the day and in my heart I know I am a craftsperson. I take pride in the history that comes with being a glass maker and I try to uphold these standards for the future generations of makers.

I’m passionate about creating well thought out works which will be a considered purchase from the buyer.

I design and make products that are here for the long term. These are not throw away, mass produced items, each piece is hand made and has a story to tell. So much goes into one piece. I am also passionate about Australian designed and made works. We have so many talented makers in Australia and it is for this reason that I am also passionate about collaboration. Collaboration is how we can evolve and survive together.

Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
For inspiration I like to wander around fresh markets like Preston or hang out in gardens. I do a lot of research, look at lots of imagery and start to draw from these images. For example, with this show I delved into gardening books and children’s encyclopedias from the 70s. The imagery alone in these things is incredible. From here I usually like to spend a couple of sessions in the hot shop prototyping, getting the shape and colours right before I launch into the real deal. I also like to spend a lot of time with the work in my studio. It clutters up all my work spaces so I really get a sense of how it works as a whole. I’m constantly surrounded by it. I also take a lot of photographs of it so I can look at it later for reference.

I like to immerse myself completely in what I’m working on. Sometimes this can get hard and can feel overwhelming, but usually this passes and I come out the other side seeing something new or with a new direction to follow.

What draws you to plants?
Plants are universal in their appeal. They are something we can all relate to. I also like the stories they tell and the memories they hold.

I feel like there is always common ground to be found when you chat to someone about plants.

Can you tell us about one project you really enjoyed?
Last year was pretty busy for me. I had lots of good opportunities come my way. One of my faves was working with Lisa Gorman to design and make a limited edition of homewares. So fun. That lady is a gun, I have so much respect for her and what she does, she works HARD. The pineapple decanter I made for them was my absolute favourite.

What is one lesson you have learnt since starting working with glass?
Some days blowing glass is the hardest thing in the world and everything you touch turns to garbage and then the next everything is a dream and you really feel like you got this blowing thing in the bag! She’s a fickle beast, taking years of practice to tame. You just gotta hang in there.

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about Australian makers and designers and I am passionate about the sharing of knowledge. There’s no point in squirreling away all your secrets, why not share them and contribute to the growth of your craft? So much better. So much more fun.

What other artists/makers/creatives are you inspired by at the moment?
I am in another show in September in Canberra with three other talented ladies, they are Danielle Rickaby, glass artist, Lauren Simeoni, jeweller, and Melinda Young, also a jeweller. Each of these ladies makes gorgeous plant-based works and I am so excited to collaborate with them to make for a killer show!

What media resources do you look to for inspiration?
I am mildly addicted to Instagram, it’s like spying on all the best bits of a person’s life!

I like listening to podcasts while I am working. Reply All has been good and I REALLY like listening to Conversation Parade… (it’s a podcast just about Adventure Time!! I know, I know, I’m really 12 on the inside.)

I actually really have a thing for hunting down vintage gardening books from the 70s. They are a wealth of inspiration for me.

What is your dream project?
Lately I have been thinking a lot about public art. I think my dream project would be to turn a Melbourne laneway into a greenhouse!! Imagine that?! Beautiful glass specimens mounted on the wall, greenery as far as the eye can see, turf underfoot, and all in the heart of the city! Blink and you might miss it, that kind of thing.

What are you looking forward to?
Apart from the opening of my show, I am actually super stoked to be going back to Japan for a little holiday before the install madness. My husband and I are heading to Tokyo with a couple of mates for a couple of weeks to see the awe that is… cherry blossom!!! So excited, can’t wait!!!!

If you were a plant, what would you be?
Oh man, that’s a great question! I think I might be a Devil’s Ivy. Kinda easy to look after, happy to just hang around but if I really get my shit together and pool all my resources (leaves) I have the potential to be freaking amazing.

Amanda Dziedzic’s website is here!

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