Kathleen Elliot creates sculptures out of flameworked glass, using a vocabulary of botanical forms, including leaves, flowers, fruit and vines. Her work has moved from the representational to the imaginary, in which plant forms incorporate human characteristics and convey a sense of alternative realities.
Elliot was born in Akron OH in 1958, but has lived in the Bay Area in California since childhood. As a girl, she was engrossed in all manner of arts and crafts, teaching herself to knit and crochet from a book. She went on to study cosmetology, earning her degree from San Jose City College. After managing adult education programs, Elliot designed management tools for a semi-conductor company in Silicon Valley.
In 1991, an invitation from a friend to try glasswork in his garage became a life-changing epiphany. Elliot took to working with glass immediately, and began teaching herself the art of making glass beads, which she pursued for the next five years. This introduction to flamework, working with a torch directly on glass, was to serve as the basis for her future sculptural projects. Elliot took her first glassblowing workshop in 1996, studied art at De Anza College, and attended the Pilchuck Glass School for three summers. There she studied with leading glass artists Laura Donefer, Robert Mickelsen and Shane Fero.
In 2003, Eliot began making botanical sculptures, drawing upon plant forms she observed in nature. Four years later, she began an on-going series of imaginary botanicals, which use natural forms, but invent new species, including human/plant hybrids. In a painstaking process she creates individual forms, colors them with glass powders, combines them into complex compositions, and anneals the entire piece, reducing the stress on the glass. Then the surface of the sculpture is kept glossy or sandblasted to a low sheen.
Elliot's work is informed by her study of applied philosophy, considering the fundamental question of the "the good life". She has found an answer in the deep human connection to nature. Elliot's study of alternative spiritual disciplines forms another strong thread in her development. She studied with Carlos Castaneda, who wrote about his encounters with a Yaqui shaman. This experience, and the possibility of other dimensions of reality, lead her to create works that reflect a wide range of new expressive possibilities.
Elliot has found kindred spirits both in painting, particularly in the work of Van Gogh, and in the work of contemporary glass artists William Morris and Ginny Ruffner. Elliot's sculptures gained immediate recognition through many awards and articles, and through two solo exhibitions at the William Travers Gallery, Tacoma, and in many group exhibitions including those at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, Triton Museum of Art, San Jose, Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica CA, and the Micaëla Gallery in San Francisco.
John Mendelsohn is a painter based in New York who has written articles and reviews on contemporary art for ArtNet, Sculpture Magazine, dArt International, Cover Magazine and The Jewish Week, as well as essays for exhibition catalogues. He has contributed to the forthcoming book, A Book of Images: Reflections on Symbols, to be published by Taschen in conjunction with the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism at the C.G. Jung Institute, New York. He teaches in the Studio Art Program at Fairfield University.