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Local artist shortlisted for national glass award


The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery has announced the finalists for the RBC Award for Glass and among them is local artist Cheryl Wilson Smith.

“It’s pretty amazing. Something I’ve aimed for for many years. It’s been a dream and goal. At this point it’s still unbelievable. I think it would definitely help advance my career,” Wilson Smith said in an interview on Nov. 5.

She says despite the many individuals and arts organizations available to help northern and northwestern Ontario artists with exposure, (Wilson Smith herself cites Marilyn McIntosh and the Ontario Arts Council, the Glass Art Association of Canada, Fusion Clay and Glass, and the Ontario Craft Council), it’s still challenging to get your name and your work out there.

“Last year I did two Toronto shows which means I drive my car to Toronto because I have a car full of glass work and then you’ve got the expense of hotel and the show—and shows are about two thousand bucks a piece. It’s hard being from the North.”

But the isolation works both against and for her, she says.

“Here, I’m influenced by the rocks, and the lakes, and the land. I’m not influenced by what other people are doing. I get to live in a little cocoon and do my own stuff which I think has worked for me,” she explains. “I don’t like to have to drive two days to go to a show, but on the other hand I can’t imagine living in Toronto on Queen Street and having all that visual stimulation every day. I don’t know what my work would look like.”

The works that Wilson Smith submitted for this show were created through what she calls “frit casting.” She builds up layer upon layer of frit (powdered glass)—kind of like a manual 3-D printer. Then she fires it as one solid piece in a kiln.

“These are pretty organic sculptures that reflect the passage of time and the landscape…kind of our significance in the landscape. I walk down Howey Street every day and there’s a huge rock cut down by where I live and it just always makes me feel insignificant because the rock was here long before me and will be here long after me.”

The RBC Award for Glass is a national award for an emerging glass artist that has not worked professionally for more than 10 years. The award is intended to allow the artist to undertake a period of independent research or other activities with the goal of advancing their artistic and professional practice. The first prize winner will receive $10,000 and the second prize winner will receive $1,000.

If Wilson Smith wins she plans to use the money to help finance a residency she’s been invited to do in Norway.

The winners of the RBC Award for Glass—along with the winners of the Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics—will be announced at the gallery on Nov. 22.

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