Before ISGNE AiR I was, and I still am at present, working at the University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, teaching the glass courses. At the time I applied for the residency I was also looking for a studio space where I could work on my glass sculptures.
I saw the ISGNE AiR residency call out on the Facebook page of Glass is more. The fact that it was a dual residency at two very current European glass studios and that it covered most of the expenses was very alluring. To my knowledge, there isn’t any other residency out there that combines these two factors – duality and financial support – the latter being especially important for an emerging artist in the field of glass.
It being my first time in Berlin, I have to say that I was very excited, even more so knowing that I was going to go to Berlin Glas, a studio that I had admired for quite a while. As for the first thing I noticed, well, I think it was the fact that there were bikes everywhere. Berlin, as I learned, is a particularly bike friendly city, which was great for me, since I love biking. The people were lovely and the atmosphere was much more relaxed than I would have expected considering you are in one of the biggest cities in Europe.
As strange as this sounds, the differences are so intertwined with the similarities, that it is almost impossible to compare the two experiences. One just has to enjoy each one for what it brings on. And I sure did! It was such an interesting and revealing experience to go from a very big and lively city, like Berlin, to an isolated small fishing village in the Highlands of Scotland. I loved it and wholeheartedly embraced the contrast! At North Lands Creative you have a setting that is much more embedded in nature with the sea being such a dominating presence. The fishing particularities of the place ultimately became a great source of inspiration for some of the pieces I created.
My first day in Lybster was marked by rain and strong wind, but because I love nature and the sea, and I also love working with glass, the combination of these three factors made Lybster the perfect creative environment. There were also the numerous kilns, the sandblasting room, the hot studio and the cold working room… well, needless to say that I was like a child set free in a toy store – exploring, discovering and imagining – pure joy!
I see my approach to glass like having a dialog with someone, I say something and then glass replies, and I adapt and/or take the discussion further to my area of interest. Glass, as a material, has its own personality and it offers such a vast and complex range of expressions that it is almost impossible to get bored. I am very curious by nature, so I like to experiment a lot and try, as much as possible, to intersect glass with other materials in order to feed my inquisitiveness and to produce new effects. I always have some idea or concept in mind while working, but I like to let glass guide me as well, and when possible, to be opened to the unexpected.
This residency had such a positive and subliminal impact on me as a person and on my creative practice that it is hard to put it into words – or, if I would manage, I would fill too many pages. It has definitely helped me develop my artistic vision and evolve as an artist. It also made me more conscious of the organic nature of the creative process. There are things that one can envision and plan, but much of the beauty of creativity springs, in my opinion, when one is receptive to the emergence of the unpredictable – discover, adapt and grow.
What made this residency so special, apart from the dual setting experience, was, of course, the financial support it offered. For emerging artists this support is even more important, and for glass artist, I dare say, it is vital, since working with glass tends to be quite expensive. So, I can’t be more grateful to the people from North Lands Creative and Berlin Glas, that made the effort to provide this financial support and, of course, to the organization Creative Europe for backing this initiative. My salary as a glass teacher and the support from my family in keeping my dog healthy and happy while I was gone also enhanced this experience.
Each place has its own personality and its particularities as a glass studio, but they both offer a very professional, yet friendly and enjoyable working environment. Regarding the staff, in each place they are more like a foster family, that I was lucky to join for a while. It was lovely to get to know different people and make so many new friends. In both settings, I always felt I had the freedom, the encouragement and the support I needed to pursue all my creative endeavors.
I have to say that the biggest challenge of all was leaving each place. Heartbreaking really! I thoroughly enjoyed both, the social and cultural life of Berlin – getting to know the city’s peculiarities while biking all over – and the remote location of Lybster with its spectacular natural setting and its small but warm community.
The ISGNE AiR program is, in my opinion, one of the best residency programs out there. I think this is due to the dual setting and the financial support and, in no small measure, thanks to the cool studios and people that are involved in the program. Being able to focus, for two whole months, on one’s practice, while having access to specialized glass studios with experienced staff, equipment and materials to pursue and explore ideas was for me truly life changing. I loved every second of it!
You needn’t ask this question. Of course, I would wholeheartedly recommend it! It is an amazing experience to have, one which truly widens one’s horizons.
Being an artist-in-residency gave me time to refocus and explore new ideas while enriching my life experience. It also helped me open a new chapter in my artistic practice. In today’s world, as an artist, having such a time is very precious and close to a luxury that not many of us can afford.
At the moment I am planning and working on my next solo exhibition here in Cluj. In the meantime, I am taking part is a couple of group shows in Romania but also abroad. I am also currently trying to build and open my own glass studio, which takes a lot of time and effort. Once I accomplish this, I would love to enter another residency.
Definitely this whole dual experience has helped me further connect to the European glass community and to the larger art community. I discovered new artists, from all over the world, and got to know their different perspectives and practices. I made very good friends and all this made me feel like I am not just an artist from a remote country in Eastern Europe but that I am part of a family of European glass artists and not just.