Friends of The Esplanade: Dreya Glass
With pieces featured in the Esplanade’s lounge and inspiration of work taken from her love of the sea, local glass artist Dreya Bennett takes us on her journey as we find out how she got to where she is today.
How long have you been a fused glass artist and what made you decide to use the medium you work with?
I have been a full time glass artist for 2 years but I cut my first piece of glass (and conversely got cut by my first piece of glass!) while studying at Falmouth University in my teens when I decided to go to evening classes in stained glass. I was instantly hooked on the process and by the translucency and especially the incredibly beautiful shadows that glass casts. After my foundation course I decided to study glass further and did a degree in ‘architectural stained glass’, at Swansea. Though distracted from my glass for many years I continued to make small projects for myself and friends and taught myself how to fuse glass.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
The sea is another huge passion of mine and I love to try and capture a little of its magic in glass. I have tried to show the many different colours and moods the sea has; by starting with a clear glass as the sea itself is clear. The seas colours come from the reflection of the sky and seeing the sand and rocks though the water. I use frits (different grades of crushed glasses), enamels, copper oxides etc to add colour, I then cut many different pieces of glass and layer them over and over to create depth and interest to my work. The work can be in the kiln from 16 hours to 4 days depending on the size and thickness of the piece.
What inspired your passion for glass?
I love designing a piece and then the process of trying to recreate the ideas in my head into a physical piece of glass, and all the results, good, bad, surprising and just plain awful that happen along the way! The processes and the possibilities are endless I am constantly excited by new methods, new ideas and new techniques. It is impossible to become bored with it, as every piece can spark a new idea and direction.
Can you discuss the significance of landscape and nature in your work?
I moved to Cornwall from Africa when I was 9 and little did I know how much it would shape my life and how lucky I was. Even before we moved back to England I was always a water baby. We spent most of our free time in a pool or on the beach, so the sea and its different moods have always been in my life, especially its sound, which can be carried many miles inland on the wind. It is a constant background noise to life in Cornwall. It is all encompassing; its colour sounds and smell, its reflections, translucent quality and constant movement can hold your attention like nothing else. I love to look at it, be in it or on it. The sea has also given me two amazing careers. As a professional kitesurfer, traveling to some amazing locations and setting a world record, by kitesurfing from Cornwall to Ireland, and now as the inspiration for my work trying to capture a bit of my love and the magic the sea has for me in my glass work. To me glass has a similar quality to water (in fact technically glass is a fluid), as such it is the perfect medium to express it. It echos the feel and quality of water, with its colours, reflections and translucent quality. It is enigmatic you can look at it, or through it. It is there and not there. The sea can change, minute by minute as the sun and clouds pass overhead. Glass also plays with light, and changes through the day as the light moves across it or through it, casting reflections and colours.
I currently have 3 new projects that I am working on all in varying stages. I have developed a range of, “Sea Anemones” in three different sizes which are mounted so that they stand slightly off a wall and can be arranged in huge groups or small personal clusters to suit any space. I particularly love the reflections that they throw onto the wall behind them and am very excited that the mounting posts, (called a stand off) can be replaced by a stand off with LED’s in it enabling it to become a subtle lighting feature as well. Ocean Currents are deep satisfyingly tactile, thick chunks of glass that draw you into the depths of the piece, where you can see the bubbles and currents sliding though the work, colours mixing and becoming more intense as they overlap each other, or you can look through the sides to see the layers and the bubbles rising up from the depths. I am working on taking this range thicker still as the edges of the work fascinate me. Lastly, a sea bed range which is the most incomplete project and is proving the steepest learning curve, but also the most exciting. I have been learning to 3D model and have been using a 3D printer to print my ideas. The models are then cast to create molds in which I am casting glass. I’ll admit the results so far are very crude, but the opportunities and possibilities this workflow and method open up is soooo incredibly exciting. I have to constantly battle to remind myself though that I have to run a business and earn a living and can’t ‘play’ every day! I am privileged and so lucky to be able to make glass for a living, I pinch myself every time I unlock and step into my studio in the mornings.