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Monette Larsen

"...the sublime beauty of geometry in nature..."

Meet Monette Larsen

Drawing on the imagery and wonders in the living world around us, Monette Larsen examines the molecular structures, nanoscales and mathematics in nature as the foundation for her work. Each piece is a reflection of the living world and her aim is to highlight the splendour of nature, letting the viewer form links to his or her own experiences either consciously or unconsciously.

This particular body of work is influenced by the underlying structures of corals: their shape, growth and movement in the sea. Larsen explores the mathematics of their shape in hyperbolic crochet, adding layers of complexity throughout the lost wax casting process, much like the forces of nature which affect these perfect shapes in the natural world.

The Interview

While Monette won London Glassblowing’s ‘Emerging Artist’ prize last year at the British glass biennale, the 33-year-old feels like she’s been emerging for years. The Dane has been studying the art form since 2005 and first came to see Peter more than a decade ago.

Yet it’s true to say the award has given her more confidence, especially after picking up the National Glass Centre’s Emerging Artist’s Residency Prize as well.

“I was so excited to win two awards,” she laughs. “I’d never won anything before so to get two in one go was incredible. It’s such a confidence booster because it gives you an inner belief about the work you’re doing.”

And while the cheque that went with it was nice, for Monette it’s all about recognition.

“Obviously it’s great to have some extra money but it was more important for me to show off my work; to have it out in the world and for other people to appreciate it.”

Her work for Collect is as much political as it is artistic – a commentary on the state of the oceans and the wanton destruction of vast coral reefs.

“I grew up living ten minutes from the sea and so the oceans and nature are very important to me,” she explains. “Yet the levels of destruction are mind-blowing and if my work helps raise awareness of this then all the better.

“The feeling you get out by the sea – relaxed and calm and wonderful – are all part of this story and we need to do everything we can to protect that environment.”

It’s the first time she’ll have shown at a major international exhibition but the nerves aren’t showing….yet.

“I’m working on something that is a little bit bigger so I’m hoping to have it done on time. Artists are always working like crazy to get stuff finished at the last minute so it’s pretty normal. It’s the first time I’ve shown at a renowned scene such as Collect and while it feels like a huge deal it’s also a wonderful opportunity that I’ve been waiting for. I’ve not had sleepless nights yet.”

Monette’s work is kiln cast and enables her to take more time over critical decisions during the making.

“I felt it was a bit frowned upon when I decided to go from glassblowing to kiln formed work but I’m very much a perfectionist and I want time to think. When you’re blowing glass you have to decide there and then and personally I found my work less precise. I like the time to make a decision.”

Her coral-style pieces certainly test that theory to the limit with hours of preparation needed before she even introduces the glass element.

“I crochet the models to make the underlying structure of the coral because that’s how coral itself grows. I then solidify it with wax and make a silicone mould around it. The purpose of the silicone is to cast a shape out of solid wax, which I can then carve texture into. All the texture you see is carved in and then once the carving process is complete I make a new mould around the wax, which is steamed out and the mould is put it in the kiln with glass on top. It is heated up and cooled down slowly and then I break the mould apart and the glass piece is revealed. The last step is to grind away any imperfections and perfect the shape.”

There is something of a natural evolution of Monette’s work over the years. Hardly surprising given her depth of experience. She first studied at the Glass and Ceramics school on Bornholm, now known as the Danish Academy of Fine Art. She then did an MA at the Royal College of Art in 2012. In between she did a on a four-year stint in the Cotswolds with glass casting experts Sally Fawkes and Richard Jackson.

“It’s really funny how I’m now here and preparing to show at Collect. Especially as when I started my glass journey I was preparing to study something like socio-economics!”

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