By Judith van Berkom –
We’re introducing KT readers to a few new artists on the West End Studio Tour (WEST), which takes place September 17 & 18 and 24 & 25.
Miriam Vanderhoff-Silburt’s interest in glasswork first began when she restored and framed two panels of stained glass. She spent the next ten years perfecting her skills, teaching others the art of stain glass, and also undertook a number of commissions. But it was when she took an introductory course at Northern Art Glass in Ottawa in fused glass that she found her true passion.
Her basement studio on Kenilworth Street has shelves with containers of powdered glass in many different colours and textures, used to ‘paint’ landscapes. Three different kilns support the various techniques she has learned over the years from experts in the relatively narrow group of artists experimenting with these kinds of techniques.
What began with the making of jewelry, platters, bowls and plates from fused glass has expanded to include work resembling that of Venetian Millefiori Murano glass, landscapes ‘painted’ using powdered glass, multi-layered, gradually heated over days so as not to stress the layers of glass, fused into beautiful, glass landscapes of sky, water, trees.
“I’m always inspired by the landscape,” says Miriam. She used to accompany her father-in-law, Josh Silbert, an accomplished landscape painter, on his sketching trips. He would ask her – what colour is that rock? Grey, she would say. Then he would teach her to ‘see’ the many other colours – the pinks, greens, purples – in the ‘grey’ rock. Her father-in-law’s landscapes adorn the walls of her home and she regards him as the source of her inspiration.
“He was the kind of person who really opened my eyes to nature and the wonderful colours [in nature]. He was an amazing teacher.”
Miriam’s work in glass is a multi-step process. Her most recent work, using the vitrograph kiln, stacks glass in clay pots and places them in the kiln. Heated to a certain temperature, the glass starts to flow. She then pulls a strand, which makes the different patterns. Afterwards the pieces are cut and she fuses them together, putting a dam around them, using a full fuse method.
“It’s how the glass flows through the hole at the bottom of the clay pot that creates the pattern.”
These works are then often incorporated into other pieces of art. She is working on a series where the frame is chosen first – in this case, a series of old wash boards. She also embeds photographs into layers of glass. And she continues to teach others what she has learned.
You can visit the artist at work in her home at 102 Kenilworth St. during the West End Studio Tour, September 17-18 and 24-25 from 11 a.m.to 5 p.m.