Beate Gegenwart

My principal medium is enamel, a thin layer of glass fired onto metal. I am passionate about this wonderful material and the vast array of beautiful surfaces and qualities that may be created.

Q&A

What craft do you work with?

My principal medium is enamel, a thin layer of glass fired onto metal. I am passionate about this wonderful material and the vast array of beautiful surfaces and qualities that may be created.

All pieces begin with drawing. I see the initial drawing process as a ‘rehearsal’ for the permanent marks to be cut; areas are removed by the laser, describing space, lines creating shadows on the wall behind forming the ‘double’; connecting the artwork, wall and panel. Subsequently, the layers of enamel, fragile yet hard and permanent, interrupt the juxtaposition of the cut spaces, each meticulously drawn, scratched, abraded and engraved. This introduces an element of ‘chance’, the artwork being fired and re-fired several times, the handmade mark unpredictable and intimate.

Cutting, incising and piercing have been part of my vocabulary of making for most of my life. In the early days as a practicing ceramist I intricately incised and pierced very thin and fragile bone china forms. These incisions, lines and holes created energetic movements around and across the forms. The act of cutting through stainless steel with a laser is much more extreme – the high heat required to cut the steel slightly deforms the metal creating physical tensions in strong contrast to the original intricate mark making. I am aiming for an ever-increasing level of intricacy and complexity.

3D printing is an interest and fascinating new departure for me, yet it is an extension of my work in ceramics. It enables the freedom to be playful with my ideas and to make pieces with the most intricate forms. It allows me to take the work off the wall, to create small pieces in space, which may be moved or held. They belong to the wall pieces in concept, yet are ‘free’ and playful. I do consider them ‘handmade’, everything as always is drawn first, then meticulously modelled in Rhino, there are no ‘algorithms’. The electroplating, first in copper, then silver, sometimes oxidised silver, adds the element of the hand and chance. It is difficult to entirely control the electroplating process, hence irregularities are introduced, bringing life to the object.

My most recent work explores fine etching and photo-etching. The surfaces are then delicately textured and brushed before using a variety of surface techniques, such as the patination of metals, brush plating and the use of pigments amongst others.

What inspires you to work with this craft?

Enamel is part of the ‘fire arts’, yet it is seen as a niche material and it is often overlooked in favour of ceramics and glass. I am passionate about keeping this medium alive in a highly contemporary context. My aim is to draw attention to the beauty of enamel and to make it accessible to a wider audience and other makers. Working with metals in general holds a constant fascination for me; it is a hard yet malleable material with endless possibilities.

The materials I like to work with are metals, enamel, glass and paper.

How would you best describe your workspace and what tools could you not do without?

My studio is attached to my house, it is wonderfully light and has sliding, folding doors to the garden. It is a joy. I love being able to start work at 5.00 in the morning if I wish or fire at 23.00 at night.

I have a laser cutter and that is the tool I almost love the most and would not want to be without. Of course, I also have two kilns, one large, one small, and I could not do my work without these two.

Are there new techniques you would like to try?

I am looking for new structures and spaces in between; therefore I would be keen to learn new techniques related to that, to give me the unexpected.

I would also love to study glass techniques, forming, application techniques, colour, which I can eventually translate into enamel and metal. Again, it would be melding related disciplines, yet allowing something unexpected to happen.

What is the best advice you have received that you would like to share with fellow crafters?

The best advice was given to me by a famous artist: for every new exhibition include a piece of previous work; begin by choosing the best piece of previous work, integrate it into your new plan and develop from there. This advice has been invaluable to me over the years when thinking about a new exhibition. It encourages critical reflection and makes sure that there is a logical progression to the work.

What other types of craft do you dream of collaborating with?

I love collaborating internationally with groups of glass and metal artists, sharing skills and ideas.

What professional dream do you have?

My professional dreams are to spend three months in Florence, absorbing Renaissance art as well as contemporary Italian metal smithing. This would have a profound impact on my practice. Another professional aim is to scale up my work to architectural size as well as making very small pieces for the body.

 

Media & Contact

Representation

Freelancer at Beate Gegenwart Studio

 

References

Website: beategegenwyart.co.uk

Instagram: beate.gegenwart

Location

Wales, United Kingdom

Material Library entries

These are Materials that were discovered and crafted by the Craft person behind this profile