11 Questions with Glass Artist Jenie Yolland

Meet the teacher who is nothing short of an expert in contemporary glass art

Creativity 4 min read May 16, 2022
11 Questions with Glass Artist Jenie Yolland

This week’s feature is dedicated to Melbourne-based Jenie Yolland, an artist specialising in contemporary glass art, and also teaches hands-on classes that allow learners to explore the colourful world of glass art. Throughout the span of her career, Jenie has exhibited in many galleries across the states and overseas, but her exuberance for her craft is most evident within the walls of a classroom. Students enjoy Jenie’s presence as she shares her love and knowledge of glass art making while answering their questions and offering encouragement.

Learn more about Jenie in this interview, and if you’re keen to explore glass art yourself, book for her Absolute Beginners Life’s Colours Workshop and get 50% off her jewellery class. Hurry, because only the first ten people can grab this deal!

How did you first become interested in glass as a medium for your artwork? What was it with glass that appealed to you?

I was introduced to glass art by an elderly aunt who dabbled in it at home and caught the bug from Day One. That was 20+ years ago, and my enthusiasm has never dimmed! It is a unique art form, and I truly love it. It’s not just how sensational the art looks, it’s also mastering the technical nature of the glass itself, and the many different ways to use heat to make it do different things. It’s always a wonderful challenge!

Did you have formal education or were you self-taught?

A mixture. I started out experimenting in friends’ kilns, then quickly progressed to buying my first kiln and creating a studio, in a glass factory, actually. They offered some courses which I took, and other people in the business did some teaching, too, which I eagerly attended. There is a wealth of kiln-forming literature produced by aficionados, which I also devoured avidly. And I still do. Nowadays, of course, the Internet is full of advice. Like I said, I got the bug!

What are the challenges and benefits that come with working with glass?

The challenges aren’t just of design, it’s all about understanding what the glass will and won’t do in any given design. Glass is very stubborn: it won’t be made to do something that the physics won’t let it do. And not all glass goes with all other glass. It’s fun, but it’s complicated.

How often do you experiment with new techniques?

I think you mean, “How many times a day do you experiment with new techniques?” It’s a never-ending journey of discovery. And failures outnumber successes 10-to-one. But that’s half the fun! If only it was “only” about design, but it never is!

What is your most treasured artwork?

Wow, that’s a hard question. I really love the current “Girls” series of faces that I am creating, but they are very polarising. Some people love them and want to buy every one, some people can’t stand them. All good art is polarising, I guess. I am very fond of my Barcelona Series, which was directly inspired by visiting that amazing city. But then again I also love the original clear glass 50cm X 50cm Christmas antipasto platters that I started making right at the start and used to sell at Warrandyte market. Honestly, I could answer this question for an hour – better to move on!

What made you decide to teach about this art form?

It’s just too good – too much fun, too beautiful – to keep to myself. And anyone can “have a go” – it’s really not that hard to learn, even in a one-off course – and most people would never dream of working in glass, so I like surprising people with how accessible it is.

What is or has been the hardest or most challenging part of what you do, as well as in setting up your business? 

Oh, that’s an easy one. Getting galleries to take the work so people see it, and want to know more, or even buy it. Art is not the quickest way to get rich, let me tell you. And artists aren’t salespeople by nature. So I’ve had to learn all about banging on doors. It still doesn’t come easy!

What are the most interesting discoveries students make in your classes?

Unquestionably, the depth of their own creativity. Many people, maybe a majority of people, say “Oh, I’m not creative.” But most people really are. They just need a little shove. A little bit more self-confidence. That’s actually the most rewarding part of the teaching – seeing people blossom as they gradually “get it”.

How can students build upon new skills they learned in your classes?

Well, I offer progressively more involved classes, so they can learn more and more as they go if they’re interested. But there is absolutely no reason why someone cannot follow exactly the journey I have – catch the bug, invest in a kiln, experiment, learn and one day sell their art. It’s one of the smaller areas of artistic endeavour – still plenty of room for everyone!

Do you have any advice for individuals interested in combining art and teaching, as you did?

Don’t think you have to be “trained” to teach. Just have a passion to share what you know, and a sense of humour. Remember people are nervous, so be welcoming and patient. It’s hugely rewarding to see people learning something new.

Can you reveal any plans for upcoming workshops?

I am always adding new courses. My latest idea is to have people making bird sculptures. Why birds, you ask? Well, they just look great, created in glass, and it’s not too hard! It’s a great “beginners” class. And birds are all sorts of crazy colours, so it means people can go a little wild with the colours they play with. I’d also like to hear from anyone who has a great idea of what we could all learn together! It’s all about the collaboration, after all.