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Three art mediums converge to form one great show at Alton Mill Arts Centre

July 12, 2023   ·   0 Comments

“Light ~ Colour ~ Texture” can be viewed until August 7

By Zachary Roman

Beautiful examples of glassblowing, woodturning, and painting are on display in Alton.

On July 8, an opening reception was held for “Light ~ Colour ~ Texture”, the newest members’ exhibition to be hosted by Headwaters Arts at its gallery at the Alton Mill Arts Centre. 

The exhibition features work from Brian Parrott, a woodturner; Kathryn Thomson, a glass artist; and Marnie Cooke, a painter. The exhibition began with over 30 pieces on display — but some sold at the reception. It was a well-attended event with light refreshments, and each artist was there and happy to discuss their work with attendees. 

Thomson has been glass blowing since 1976, when she took it up while getting her second diploma at Sheridan College. She explained you have to have an idea of what your final piece is going to look like before you even make your first move. Thomson said it’s a big misconception that you just start and see what happens. 

Glassblowing involves first collecting molten glass out of a furnace. Colour (if desired) is added using little slices of what’s called a colour bar. More clear glass is then gathered over top of that, all before glassblowing even begins. It’s an art form that very much lends itself to planning.

Thomson said collecting glass looks a little bit like how you might gather honey. 

Thomson said she makes “production” pieces like bowls and vases, as well as elaborate sculptural pieces using techniques like sandblasting. Sandblasting is one of the more advanced techniques as it can only be done once a piece has cooled down. Even to make a small piece, such as a little cat sculpture, it takes about eight hours.

In addition to sandblasting, Thomson also incorporates metal into some of her pieces. She likes to play with fantastic and whimsical subject matter in her work, as well as representations of flora and fauna. 

Parrott has only been woodturning for about four years, but it’s something he has always wanted to do. He said he’s never really been an artist and woodturning has become his way to express his creativity. 

“I love working with wood, it’s a great medium. It’s fun to keep expanding my horizons, trying different things, and learning about different woods,” said Parrott. 

He explained each type of wood reacts differently, and even the same type of wood can differ in how it reacts to woodturning from tree to tree. 

“It’s always a challenge, you never know what you’re going to find,” said Parrott. 

Parrott began learning about woodturning from YouTube, then found a master woodturner he was able to take lessons from. He said he picked it up fairly quickly, perhaps from his experience doing lots of planning and renovation work at home. He also credited some good luck for his woodturning ventures working out and said he now has so much fun doing it. 

At the show, Parrott had many interesting pieces made from a variety of different woods. He had a bowl made from Silver Maple, a pen/pencil holder made out of Honey Locust, and a vase made out of Chinese Elm.

Parrott finishes all of his pieces with natural oils and waxes for a nice colour and durable finish. He said the more carnauba wax an oil has, the shinier the finish of a piece will be. 

“Light ~ Colour ~ Texture” is Parrot’s first show with Headwaters Arts, and he said his favourite part of the experience was planning all the things he would show and pushing himself to try new techniques to showcase. 

He said creating vases is relatively new to him and that it was a chance to stretch his skillset.

Parrott explained vases have lots of room for creativity as well since there are so many great examples of them throughout history to draw inspiration from. He said woodturners often look to ceramic pieces for inspiration, since ceramic has been made for such a long time.

Parrott said techniques such as the rule of thirds can be applied to vases to create an aesthetic that’s pleasing and naturally enjoyable to the eye. His wife is a graphic designer and a former art director, so she’s his number-one sounding board and source of advice. The pair will often discuss the direction of his work and share ideas.

Cooke has been painting for much of her life — secretly. She only began sharing her work with the world about eight years ago. Her professional career was in dance, and when she stopped dancing to teach dance, she met a fellow dance teacher who showcased her paintings at the Alton Mill Arts Centre. 

Cooke, who moved to Alton from Toronto, decided to get involved with Headwaters Arts and showcase her paintings. She hasn’t looked back and is now a veteran of many art exhibitions at the Headwaters Arts gallery. 

Over the years, Cooke said she’s learned so much about painting and that she strives to get better and experiment with new techniques and styles. Cooke loves to paint abstract pieces that draw inspiration from nature. 

“I use a lot of texture and I do a lot of layers of paint,” said Cooke. “I don’t need a lot of light, the light is built in (to my paintings).”

Cooke paints in her living room under natural light, and as the day goes on she likes to let the setting sun play a part in guiding her brush. She painted a piece specifically for the exhibition that used lots of bright green, yellow and turquoise to give a summer feel. Cooke likes to paint while listening to music, and said opera is a favourite choice while she works. 

Cooke said artists always try to support other artists and that Headwaters Arts is always seeking to bring more people out to its shows. Cooke said she always tries to be spirited in her work and create something that people will feel the impact of. 

“Light ~ Colour ~ Texture” can be viewed in the Headwaters Arts gallery at the Alton Mill Arts Centre until August 7. 



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