ARTIST STATEMENT | TEACHING PHILOSOPHY | CURRICULUM VITAE
Originally from Vancouver Island, Canada Jill Allan is currently attending Bowling Green State University in Ohio to pursue an MFA in the Glass Department there. In 1999 she graduated with distinction from the Alberta College of Art and Design earning a BFA with a major in Glass. Her work is included in the collections of the Canadian Craft Museum, Vancouver, the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning N.Y. and the Alberta College of Art and Design, Calgary. Jill has received several awards for her work and scholarship including: The Dr. Alice E. Wilson Fellowship form the Canadian Federation of University Women 2012, The Katzner Graduate Research Grant 2011 and The BC Creative Achievement Award in 2007. Her work is quiet, based in the craft tradition of vessel making, but not exclusively functional.
I think of myself as a hybrid: designer - craft maker – artist. I love the idea of crossover. For a long time I struggled with the urge to do all three, seeing it as a problem. But now I see, from a different perspective, the rich, strong quality that my work has because of this crossover of approach.
My work is quiet, based in the craft tradition of vessel making, but not exclusively functional. I am influenced by Scandinavian designs, particularly those of Finland’s iittala and interested in designing with light both for public sculpture and also for the home. Often my work rolls around and rocks back and forth, and while it is not overtly conceptual I believe that this subtle but significant characteristic abstracts the form and certainly the function.
The properties of glass allow me to manipulate light. Even though these properties are well known I am often surprised by the way that the light behaves. Glass can reflect, magnify, ‘minify’, project and hold light to glow. Using thick glass forms is often the best way to demonstrate these properties. I can make the glass translucent or opaque or leave it as a transparent membrane. When I use glass I can make a shape with light which is pretty fantastic.
My latest experiment with light and glass is in using neon. I am excited to use neon to define a space, making a large form that is architectural. I use equipment such as a diamond carving lathe, a sand blaster or a belt sander to achieve this obscured transparency. I intend for that smooth, soft, surface texture and rocking activity to entice the viewer. Sometimes my work must be handled to be understood visually. I am fascinated by the optical trickery of glass and enjoy making work that exploits its’ optical properties.
My favourite part of my creative process is working out a new design in the studio. Once I am in the hot shop I can try out all the things I have been thinking and planning and it is usually pretty gratifying. The process of blowing glass in a hot shop is interesting and exciting and I find that the time spent making work in the studio is my most vigorous conceptual incubator, one idea coming out of another.
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I am interested in the haptic learning process; how the way that we use our hands affects the way that we think. So, approaching the college as a laboratory for experimentation and a place for creative inquiry is my natural inclination. I feel that making mistakes and adapting ideas after a failure is a much more thorough learning process than strictly presented principles that must be adhered to. As an instructor I feel that my role is to provide a flexible support structure for the students to learn and explore the material and conceptual possibilities available to them when creating.
The future possibilities for students are various and there are so many challenges to maintaining an art practice after school, it feels like a heavy challenge to me as an instructor to help them prepare for that. I think some of the best ways I can do that is to be candid about my experience and to help them analyse the tools for success that artists they admire have utilised. In the beginning stages of an education in art I think that my job is to foster curiosity, expose the students to examples of the different possibilities; invite them to take part in the conversation and also to teach the core technical skills required in my studio area to provide freedom to explore their own ideas. It is a mix of technical skill building and negotiating ideas.
Almost every student in an introductory class has no previous experience working with glass as an art material. Because of this it is necessary to emphasize building and practicing technical skills right away. I have seen this emphasis successfully empower students to make interesting and expressive work but I have also seen it preclude the development of conceptual, contextual and aesthetic virtues of student work. So I must balance my approach to teaching skills and encouraging the students to find their voice within the material.
In my experience as a student it was the instructor who encouraged me who made the biggest
impact and allowed me to make a breakthrough. Finding the way to make my critique of student work and skills encouraging is one of the most important tasks I have. It goes hand in hand with the idea of the studio as a laboratory for experimentation and discovery. In the critique setting or one on one with the students my role is to ask questions rather than to answer questions.
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