Meng Du

Meng Du in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips.

PROJECT ACTIVITY - Glass Nexus Forum/ Visiting Artist Workshop 

PARTNER - north lands creative / glass point

YEAR - 2018

1. When did you first start working with glass, and how has your making process and work evolved over time?

I started my practice in glass in 2010 in the glass department at Rochester Institute of Technology. Before my graduate study in glass, I majored in visual communication and worked as a graphic designer in a small design company. To me, glass was a complete stranger when I just began to learn the fundamentals. Compare to the hot and complicated glass blowing process, kiln-working was a lot friendlier to a zero-glass experienced beginner like me. “Everything is touchable” really gave me a lot of room to experiment. Therefore, I spent most of my time in the kiln shop, to learn and shape, to bring my ideas to life. 

From kiln-working only to assembling hot and cold parts, my works are definitely evolved over time through the improvement of my skills. There was a period of time that I wish I could have been capable of all kinds of glass techniques, however, the more techniques I have learned, the less complicated my making process could be. Through the material, I gradually understand how powerful simplicity means, and how to express my feeling in a subtle, gentle way.

2. Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?

When I had my first solo exhibition at FOU Gallery in NYC back in 2016. It was the first time I worked with a gallery outside of school. I think when the gallery introduced me as an independent artist to the public in their official newsletters, as well as we work really hard to set up a show together as a team, I started to consider myself as an artist.

3. Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Most of my works are done by kiln-forming or hot/cold assembling. Normally I prefer to keep the natural texture of the glass, but doing so much polishing works. In the surface finishing process, I use tea or other non-permanent pigments for staining the glass instead of firing the colour onto it. It may leave a richer texture and a subtle feeling to the works.

4. 2020 has been a significant year, your work focuses on the moment that triggers personal memories, you describe it as a 'quiet beauty'. Has lockdown and the changing world influenced or seen a new focus in your work or the way it is presented?

Yes, definitely. I was not in good shape at the beginning of the Lockdown. Because my partner is a health worker in the hospital, it made me extra anxious, sad, and worried during the early pandemic. While we were staying at home, I continued my recent work Ripple series but gave the details some new touch. I engraved stars and floating bottles of the ocean instead of used furniture from the previous works onto the glass and mirror surfaces. When I look up to the sky and gaze down to an ocean view, I could feel the energy from nature. I truly believe that the sky and ocean are the two elements that could connect us in a peaceful way. They help me find my inner peace during this specific period of time.

5. Please tell us how you found your time teaching at Glass Point during the Visiting Artists workshop ‘Connected Drawings?

I had a wonderful time teaching at Glass Point in Riga! I wish I could be back in Latvia again in summer soon. We didn’t have a large group of students, but it gave me a lot of time to get to know them better. Especially considering the students are all from different backgrounds. It was truly fascinating to see how they come up with an idea through random drawings, then connect them together, and eventually form an approachable idea for their glass works.

6. What was the concept behind the class?

To have the student not only focusing on glass techniques, but more on what they really want to express. Drawing or doodles usually show our interests quite genuinely. I wish the class could help the student discover more information from their daily drawings, then gradually extend them to glass and other materials.

'Waiting For The Awakening'

'Ordinary days'

7. What do you think you offer to teaching programs?

A narrative approach to the glass.

How we can edit the visual languages that we are familiar with, to form an artwork that carries a story behind.

8. How do you benefit from your time teaching students?

It was my first time in Latvia. The landscape, the language, and the culture… Everything was so intriguing to me. I really enjoyed my time with the students, especially through chatting outside of discussions that were related to work. The cultural exchange helps us to understand each other, it benefits us all in every way.

9. You were also able to spend some time at North-lands Creative and participate as a guest speaker at the Glass Nexus Forum in 2018. Please tell us about your time there.

It was my honor to participating in the Glass Nexus Forum in 2018. After the GAS conference in Murano, Italy. I found the smaller symposium scale of North Lands Creative was very comfortable and inspiring. I enjoyed my time as a speaker and also being part of the audience. I especially appreciate that all the attendees could have more time to spend together, to continue the conversations after the talks, which was really nice.

10. What advice would you give artists considering applying for opportunities on the ISGNE project?

Amazing opportunity! Please work hard and try your best to apply for it!

Du_One Day

'One Day'

11. How have you been during the months of quarantine? How is the artist community in China dealing with this unsettling situation?

The situation in most of the cities in China was resumed in March. The public events and venues were slowly reopened under a very cautious guide.

Beijing, where I am currently based, unfortunately, had a second wave in May. Exhibitions were paused and the studios where I fired my works were closed till late July. I donated my works to charity auctions twice during the lockdown to help with the art and other communities. And I believe many other Chinese artists were doing the same. That’s probably the way we could contribute to our society.

Things were slowing getting better after July in Beijing. Now people are working extra harder to make up for the time we lost.

12. It's great to see glass artists' work being exhibited abroad; can you tell us about your recent/upcoming exhibitions or projects?

The upcoming exhibition (still negotiating) will be in a bookshop just launched in Shanghai. The gallery space is surrounded by bookshelves and reading areas, which I found very interesting and challenging. There are lots of venues are trying cross-fields events and shows nowadays in China. I believe it could help developing new ideas on how to present our works to different audiences.

13. How would you define contemporary glass in China, how does it differ from artists practicing in Europe?

In my opinion, contemporary glass in China is still at the very beginning stage due to the lack of professional glass studios/facilities, galleries, and collection markets… etc. Even though it looks like the glass departments in Chinese Universities are blooming. However, compared to Europe, here we don’t have any organizations that help the young/emerge glass artists to continue their careers as an independent artist. It is a pity to see so many talented students have to quit glass because of the limited options and opportunities.

14. What are your favourite European artists, studios and/ or places?

Artist: Simone Fezer, Anna Mlasowsky

Studio: North Lands Creative

Place: Scotland, Sicily

15. How important is it to you to be making work internationally and with other European organizations and artists?

It is VERY important to me to continue working internationally. Not only because of the innumerable inspirations along the trips, but the people who I have met, and the unique cultural diversities that I have experienced. The exchange helps us to understand and respect each other, and sharing always leads us to a better, healthier world.

16. The contemporary glass world is built on mobility: artists and their projects are not subjected to national borders, they travel and work in different countries, and their works are exhibited globally. How do you think the international glass scene will change after this crisis?

I just shared my recent works at an online symposium (Rays of Glass – International Art Project) between the Netherlands and China this week. It was the first international event that I participated in this year. Even though the future is unpredictable, luckily, we are still able to connect with each other through online media. The impact of the crisis will surely continue to affect the way we work in the following years, yet we have to keep optimistic and open-minded to the post-epidemic era. The situation may push us to experiment with a new approach to glassmaking.

Everything is double-sided. When things couldn’t be worse, there’s always something wonderful waiting ahead.

'Little Talks'

Du_Everywhere, Nowhere

'Everywhere, Nowhere'

'Echo From The Highland'

Meng Du

South Korean Scotland based glass artist/educator. Based on my personal experience of growing up in the East and living and working in the West, my interests have been drawn from questions concerning the notion of invented cultural authenticity, historical, and symbolic meanings constructed around objects and how it is appreciated in different cultures.

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