PROFILE - Winter 2019
At her home in a former worker's cottage from 1885, on the south side of the Grand River, Elora, Heather Wood produces glass art with skill and ingenuity, influenced by her original training as a textile artist. Highly professional and self-employed, Heather earns a living exclusively through her craft which supports a simple and environmentally conscious lifestyle of creativity and joy.
Much of Heather's work is produced in a small room, her kiln for fusing the glass in the outside shed. This is The Bridge Studio. Sheets of recycled window glass stand against the wall. They serve as transparent canvases for designs executed with paints, powdered glass pigments, sandblasting, or stamping and sgraffito techniques.
Her interest in craft is a product of what Heather describes as the "hippy-dippy era", with its revival of macramé, embroidery, batik, pottery. Handcrafted arts were given a new impetus, and a timely revival. Heather chose to immerse herself in the world of the textile artist, with its rich history and myriad visual possibilities. She obtained diplomas from Sheridan College School of Design and Georgian College of Applied Arts.
Heather worked with textiles for a decade, producing colourful, ebullient quilts and sinuous painted silk scarves. A focus on the materials of fibre art, the manual input and individual creative expression led to a professional life with satisfying aesthetic value. Heather was one of the resident artists with studios at Harbourfront, Toronto, along with her husband John, who was a glass blower.
In this time of artistic renaissance, the town of St Jacobs was expanding as craft and tourist centre, and Heather and John were invited to open a studio in the village. One of only a handful of solo hot glass studios across Canada, Thorn Glass Studio was established n St. Jacobs, Ontario in 1984.
For 20 years Thorn Studio was a featured attraction, in the rich art collective of St. Jacobs. It closed in this venue in 2004. Thorn Studio was an open glass blowing venue which held classes and events, participating in the burgeoning craft shows of the era. Heather and John used their different skills to create work which was unique. John blew incredible glass shapes while Heather decorated them using a sandblaster and tools that she previously had used to apply resists unto fabric.
In 2004 Heather moved to Elora and opened The Bridge Studio, inspired by the title of a book: "Take the Step, the bridge will be there" by Grace Cirocco. Knowledge and experimentation grew. She learned glass fusing and how to slump glass against forms of metal or clay, producing tableware, vessels, or undulating forms which stand upright and translucent. The glass may be fused in several layers, giving complexity to designs, producing a mysterious depth of three dimensions through which the painted colours intermingle. Firing temperatures are most important, as glass enamels can disappear or the glass simply puddle if the working temperatures are exceeded through miscalculation.
Much of Heather's work depicts trees. Trees in silhouette, trees in bloom, trees in long, shaded corridors that lead to luminous transparent worlds beyond. Her designs emphasise her deep connection with nature and the physical and spiritual essences embodied in trees, animals and plant life. Heather studied for a degree in Fine Art at University of Waterloo, graduating with distinction. and a Studio Specialization in Sculpture. Along the way she was stimulated by such notable mentors as Art Green, Tony Urquhart, Anne Roberts.
Heather has received recognition for the inventiveness and individuality of her work. She was awarded the Excellence In Craftsmanship honour of Fair November in 2010, the Glass Award at St. Bonifas Art Centre, Michigan in 2009 and the Kitchener-Waterloo City Arts Award in 1999.
She has also received Ontario Artists in the Schools Grants through the Royal Conservatory of Art Learning Through the Arts programmes, enriching school children with her experience and example as a successful productive artist. Commissions include the Ontario Arts Council, The Provincial Government of Ontario, Imax Corporation, the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University as well as many other private and corporate commissions.
At present Heather is working on a large commission for a Brampton condo complex, where 25 or 30 of her standing glass pieces will depict various buildings, like the art Gallery of Brampton in a lobby display. She welcomes commissions, consignments and craft shows, using a variety of approaches. She keeps careful photographic notes and records; accidental miracles may be hard to reinvent! Heather has taught workshops at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo, the Burlington Arts Centre as well as Haliburton School of the Arts. She has participated in numerous crafts shows such as the One of A Kind show in Toronto as well as Fair November in Guelph and the Toronto Outdoor Art show.
With a strong belief in supporting the community she loves, Heather volunteers as marketing chairperson for the Elora Fergus Studio Tour as well as being a volunteer with the Elora Sculpture Project. The Elora Sculpture project solicits and displays three-dimensional art each year on the streets of Elora and Fergus.
Our art communities are unusually rich in glass artists with differing skills: blown glass, cut glass, stained glass, painted glass and glass jewellery. Each has its place in the spectrum of the appealing limpid clarity of this beautiful artform.
Interview by Beverley Cairns
is the Newsletter of the Elora Arts Council, published quarterly since 1985
Each publication features an artist living in the area of Centre Wellington.
130 Profiles have been published.
In 2005 the book Profiles was published featuring 75 artists from every artistic discipline.