Mindful Recreations

A morning with Cathy Tillotson of Melting Moments

 

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As I drove home from a lovely morning with Cathy Tillotson of Melting Moments, I felt privileged to have had an excuse to spend time with such an amazing and inspiring woman.

Cathy and I had arranged to meet in the Alcove Art Shop, at the Box Hill Community Arts Centre. I was there to be trained in the various policies and procedures for working in the shop, and Cathy was my mentor. What a lovely morning it was. Surrounded by the inspiring, unique and eye catching offerings of various artists associated with the shop, Cathy and I chatted about creative journeys; the development of handmade from survival to lifestyle to luxury; how we each came to be at the Alcove Art Shop; the ‘parenting’ of children; and the similarities between sending our children out into the world and sending our art pieces out into the world. As we talked Cathy’s face was alight and smiling. She clearly loves what she is doing.

Once the ‘business’ of my orientation had occurred, we got down to ‘real’ business: our interview.

Cathy maIMG_1557kes glass beads. She melts glass rods over a gas flame; exposes them to various amounts of oxygen to reveal different colours; then she anneals them in her kiln (this strengthens them). One bead can take up to an hour to make. Some have a metallic sheen, some a spiral of colour in the centre, and others have fabulous nobbles of colours on the outside. Her obvious skill in being able to manipulate her chosen medium is evidenced by her pieces in the shop.

The theme of this series of interviews is “Tea with the Artists”, so Cathy brought along her favourite hot beverage to share with me, Chai Latte. It is a sweet drink, almost a honey flavour, with a hint of cinnamon and star anise. It is perfect for “the evening, when everything is done for the day”. I have to agree.

In identifying the honey sweetness, Cathy explains that she likes honey, on toast. She also reveals that she loves the smell of bees wax, and often has a piece somewhere in the house- “My father was a bee keeper” she offers by way of explanation. As we talk further the theme of ‘honey’ is returned to. This time as part of the bead making process- Cathy uses it on etched beads, mixed with a little oil, to give them a glow. As we ponder this theme I am reminded of a pot I threw on the wheel only last night that someone said looked like “Winnie the Pooh’s hunny pot”. The circularity of life makes us both smile.

There is a similarity in Cathy’s creative journey and my own. We both made a decision to “just say ‘yes’ to whatever opportunities came up”. That is how we each came to the Alcove Art Shop. That is how we each came to be putting our creative ‘children’ out into the world (and thoroughly enjoying watching other people discover them- Cathy’s face lights up again as she remembers some favourite customers who make her day); we both come from families who made things, and we both work across different mediums. Indeed Cathy told me that she has a tub of wool, a tub of cross stitch, and a tub of card making things. This lead me to ask what else her cupboards contained. “Latch hook kits, craft books, parchment craft and tubs of supplies”, she is also exploring making pasta and bread. We didn’t even touch on the glass supplies!

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Cathy saw a glass bead making course advertised about 15 years ago. She thought it sounded like fun: it was. She’s been having fun since- and you can tell by her face. As she talks about how she wraps silver wire around some of the glass to get little silver bursts in the beads; how she loves a particular glass because if you expose it to the right amount of oxygen it turns metallic; how she can pick the different glasses in an old chandelier; and shares the story of how the Venetian Glass Makers were both revered but also held captive on their island (so they couldn’t share their secrets); the love affair becomes apparent. She shares another story, this time of a Syrian Princess’s burial mound (circa 2400AD), that revealed a skeleton and her glass beads. This story encapsulates what is so appealing about glass- it’s enduring nature and colour. Cathy knows that her children will have her jewellery forever.

I asked Cathy what creative advice she would give. “When playing with hot glass wear tops with high necks made of natural fibre (they are fire retardant), also have burn gel handy and make sure the family pet is NOT under foot”. She also told me that she makes time for making, and time for playing, and that the mistakes can be the real fun- although she doesn’t recommend making the mistake of putting your hand in the flame, as it really does hurts.

As we continue to chat and I attempt to ensure that I’ve asked all my planned questions (such as what is your favourite glass?- “It’s too hard to choose, almost impossible, but Double Helix is one of them”; what is your latest project?- “Egyptian inspired beads”; and what inspires you?”- “1950’s and 1960’s kitsch jewellery- cherries and polka dots”) I am continually struck by the beads on Cathy’s necklace. They are clear with a pinky/ purple swirl around the centre and little spots of silver. They are truly beautiful, and made by an artisan who is both skilled and passionate about what she does.

 

I think I want to go and play with glass now, and I know just the person to talk to!

http://meltingmomentsglass.com.au/IMG_1570

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