The nation’s capital is already a thriving hub for those interested in contemporary craft and design, but every year DESIGN Canberra ups the ante with an intensive festival of workshops, lectures, exhibitions, open studios, and many other events.
The theme for DESIGN Canberra 2020—care— works on multiple levels. As glass artist Kirstie Rea, this year’s designer-in-residence, explains, ‘care’ was selected before the pandemic, in the wake of the devastating bushfires and hailstorms that affected so many in the ACT. Now it feels even more relevant, especially when care is also a fundamental cornerstone of any hands-on practice.
From ideas to skill acquisition, execution and presentation, “there has to be a solid element of care attached to the making,” Rea says. Using her own practice as an example, she explains, “When you use a material like glass, you have to know the material science of it so well to actually work with it successfully.” While conceding that every medium must have its challenges, she adds, “There is something about glass; if you don’t respect it and know it, it kind of screams back at you and says, ‘You didn’t care enough! Try again, you didn’t care enough.’”
This notion of care, in the broadest sense, infuses the piece Rea was commissioned to make as designer-in-residence: a diminutive sculpture in which coloured glass ‘blankets’ are stacked under an architectural structure that resembles a doorway.
At a time when there is no shortage of things we need to care about, Rea hopes that the small scale of her sculpture will encourage sustained contemplation, particularly about care, fragility and where we are going through the liminal space of her metaphorical doorway. “It’s quite intimate,” she says. “I wanted it to draw people up to it and hopefully hold them there for a while.”
DESIGN Canberra 2020
9 November—29 November
This article was originally published in the November/December 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.