Nicole Ayliffe Glass artist

Can you discuss how you have been influenced by the Australian Glass community?



‘Seasonal Landscape’ Autumn

We are lucky, in South Australia to have such a vibrant, inclusive glass community.  It is also very fortunate that the University of SA is right next door to the Jam Factory, so it is an easy transition once you’ve finished your degree, to start making work in the Jam Factory glass studio.  We are also very lucky to have Gabriella Bissetto as our head of glass at the University of South Australia.  She was such a positive influence when I first started working with glass and I really love her enthusiasm for the material.

I also share ‘The Ware House’ studio with six other artists, five of which are glass artists.  It’s such a great environment to work in. We all get along well, we discuss ideas, offer feedback on new work and I find it beneficial to my practice.  We also have it set up with a cold shop, so everything apart from the blowing process is done there. 

Discuss photography and glass and how you combine both?

I studied both photography and glass during my university degree, so it seemed only natural to combine the two things I love together.  I was lucky enough to learn about a gel medium technique that my photography lecturer discovered and through experimentation I realised that this could be applied to the glass surface.  The combination of these materials led to my ‘Optical Landscape’ series,

‘Optical Landscape Photographic Series, Forest’

I combined black and white photographic images on the back of thick clear glass forms.  The changing thickness of the glass creates some beautiful optical effects when viewed through the front of the form.

Then in my Honours year I changed to creating images from my glass forms.  This was done by carving lenses into thick clear glass forms and then taking these forms into the photographic darkroom and creating and capturing images of refracted light.  This series was titled ‘Optics and Light’.

I have continued to create multiple series of works expanding and exploring a variety of techniques.  The combination of imagery and glass is still front and foremost.  My latest series of works titled ‘Optical Landscape engraved series’

‘Optical Landscape Photographic Series, Forest’

still combine imagery of the landscape, but I have chosen to engrave these patterns onto the glass surface.  These forms still utilize the thickness of the glass creating reflection and magnification of the imagery.

Why do you call some of your glass ‘Optical Landscape’ glass art?

I have always been fascinated with the optical qualities of glass.  In my ‘Optical Landscape Photographic series’ the thickness of the glass gives the illusion of space and the glass acts as a three dimensional optical lens through which you can view the black and white photographic image, when viewed through the front of the form.  Alternatively my ‘Optical Landscape Engraved series’.

‘Optical Landscape Engraved series’ Leaf

I have a cut and polished window, which allows you to view the interior space. I love the way the solidity of clear glass form and the curves of the interior bubble highlights the natural qualities of reflection, distortion, movement and space within each glass piece, creating its own interior world.

‘Optical Landscape Engraved series’ Leaf

Many have heard of SOFA, can you tell us what it is like to have your glass exhibited there?

It was such a huge honour to have my work exhibited at SOFA multiple times by Glass Artists Gallery also later by Kirra Gallery.  I was also fortunate to be able to go over for the exhibition twice.  It’s such an amazing experience being surrounded by so much fantastic artwork.  It was quite surreal to see first hand, the artwork of many of the artists that I had studied while at University, as well as meeting some of the artists themselves from all around the world.

You have exhibited your glass art around the world.  Can you take two places that have propelled your career and why?

Glass Artists Gallery in Sydney would have to be the main gallery that supported me right from when I first finished my degree in 2005.  Maureen Cahill took my work both to SOFA Chicago and Collect London in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.  She also represented my work at Art Taipei, Taiwan 2006, Glass Weekend, Wheaton Villiage USA 2007 and Art London in 2008. It was through this international exposure that I made many contacts with galleries from around the world, who then exhibited and continued to sell my artwork.


Discuss your use of colour in your glass.

         Single colour

         Multiple colour

The majority of my exhibition work over the years has been in black and white. I like the stark contrast and simplicity of a minimal palette, although recently I have been exploring using colours from within the landscape to enhance the imagery I have been engraving. An example of this is in my recent exhibition titled ‘Seasonal Landscapes’ at Beaver Galleries, Canberra.

‘Seasonal Landscape’ Spring

Here colour has been used to enhance the decorative nature of the surface patterns of my engraved pieces, and in my latest work based on the seasons within the landscape, I have used colour in the interior of the piece.  These are designed to have the same qualities as a watercolour painting, where two transparent colours blend together and overlap each other.        

How are you currently using the seasons to develop your glass with colour?

Since we bought a farm in the hills 2 years ago, I have really noticed the change in the colours of the landscape from one season to the next.  We have a fabulous view across rolling hills and valleys and its remarkable what a difference there is in the colour palette, between the lush green colours of spring, compared with the browns and tans of autumn and the blues of summer skies.  It has made me a lot more in tune with using colour to express landscape.

Do you find colour is heavily dependent on interior design?

Not really…. 

Where did you get your inspiration for the series, ‘Moments in Time’?

‘A Moment in Time’ The Master Bedroom

This series of works stem from my memories of my grandparents house on Kangaroo Island, where I spent my holidays as a child.  Each room in the house was covered in different wallpaper patterns, and it was these patterns that I translated onto glass forms.  The optical qualities of glass continued to be the foundation behind the forms.  The transparency of clear glass, the solidity of the form and the suspension of the bubble, suspended as a moment in time.  The bubble acting as a lens, magnifying the memories and capturing an essence of my childhood.  The rectangular forms acted as a fragment or segment of the past, framed within a three dimensional space, which when placed together read as a story of captured moments in time.

‘A Moment in Time’ The Tapestry Lounge Suite

Comment on the commitment of time needed for a solo exhibition.

I find that I am constantly designing and creating new work in my head, so I find that being given a deadline for a solo exhibition gets me motivated to actually make my ideas come to fruition in a three dimensional object.  Having said that, it always takes a lot longer to create exactly what I have imagined, so it doesn’t seem to matter if I have a year to make the work, it always seems to come down to a rush at the end.  I am a perfectionist in my work, so I am always striving to make the work better and better, so without a deadline, I would probably never be finished!

How has the pandemic effected your work?

It was initially a bit scary when everything was shut down. Galleries were closed and exhibitions were cancelled, so my income became almost non existent.  The JamFactory also shut down, so couldn’t make any glass work either.  Although in retrospect, it was also a good time to reduce the pressure of filling orders, and making deadlines.  Instead it gave me time to spend doing other things, which has, in turn, led to creating new designs and new work.  Recently it seems that galleries and online sales have been going very well and people are supporting local artists. This is reassuring and I am enjoying getting back to working again. 

Explain how you use magnification in your glass?

Magnification and the reflection of light and imagery is particularly evident in my ‘Optical Landscape Engraved series’.

‘Optical Landscape Photographic series’ Field Lines

These pieces are created with such a solid amount of glass and the bubble is suspended in the middle, so when the imagery is engraved on the outside surface you can see multiple reflections of that image within the piece.  The curves of the glass also highlight the qualities of distortion, movement and space within each piece.

Take one small and one large piece and discuss the pros and cons in both.

I guess the pros and cons of a large piece is that firstly they are incredibly heavy both to make in hot glass and secondly to hold and coldwork, when they can weigh 6-7kgs, so they are very demanding physically.  The pros though are that you get some beautiful optical effects resulting from having that large amount of semi-solid glass and they do look spectacular when finished.

The beauty though of smaller pieces, besides being a lot easier to make, is that they draw you in to a small world that you can hold in your hand.

Discuss the importance of form and balance in your work.

Form is so visually important, especially with my work being quite minimalist.

There is such a fine line when using such thick, solid clear glass, that the pieces still have an elegance and refinement to them.  I love the counterbalance between the solidness of the glass and the refinement of the delicate imagery used to describe and capture the beauty of nature and the landscape.  It’s such a contrast between the two.


Nicole Ayliffe

instagram @nicoleayliffe

Deborah Blakeley, Melbourne, Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April 2021