As a trained scientist prior to creating with glass, Amanda Simmons is fascinated by how our world works and how it can be fixed. Inspired by subjects as diverse as the physics of our expanding universe or how drugs function on a molecular level, the artist has been discovering new ways to explore the properties of mass, heat, time and gravity in the creation of 3D vessel forms. Intense color and patterns result when opaque glass powders react to light, varying in translucency as the form elongates during the firing process. Works are finished using many coldworking processes to shape and mark the glass including sandblasting, hand lapping, diamond point and wheel engraving.
Simmons states: “My practice as a glass artist has become a conduit to further learning by making objects in a material whose language I understand, addressing subjects that interest me in the natural world. Our achievements as a species are impressive but equally frustrating in the cycles of social and environmental injustice, from which we never seem to learn. I want to investigate these cyclic routes and the lessons unlearnt, incorporating this narrative into my work, cultivating and inspiring change in a positive and visual method.”
Originally trained in biomedical sciences (pharmacology) and clinical sciences, Simmons became interested in glass in 2002 after a stained glass course with Ray Bradley and then pursued a postgraduate in Glass and Architecture from Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, London, in 2004. Following a recent two-week residency at Lyth Arts Centre in Caithness, the artist began exploring the continuing research of the Flow Country and its massive capacity to store carbon in the many layers of peat. Working from watercolor prints inspired by the patterns and colors of the land and sky, she produced some of her largest gravity formed glassworks to date for her first solo exhibition Outer Spaces, held July 2017 at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh.
Simmons’ Dahlia Universe series, kilnformed solstice platters, were selected for exhibition in the 2019 British Glass Biennale. Creating work that often examines natural world contrasts, the artist kiln formed platters signifying the changes in season with the thought of our universe expanding like a growing flower. The works investigate whether we could use the biological theory of convergence to explain how our universe was made. Another series, Southern Hemispheres, was inspired by three months travelling and working in Australia. These pieces represent the first small-scale investigations of the resilient Australian native botanicals, posing the question: Do the survival techniques of these plants relate to our current crises in environmental and political situations?
Creating work from her studio in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland, since 2005, Simmons is the winner of The Gold Award from ORIGIN 2010: The London Craft Fair and finalist in Bullseye Glass Company’s Emerge 2012. United States and UK exhibitions include Craft Scotland 2013 and SOFA Chicago. Most recently, Contemporary Applied Arts exhibited Simmons glass art in their material-focused exhibition COLLECT: The International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design. Her work can be found in public collections including: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England; National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland; Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth, Scotland; and Ernsting Stiftung Glass Museum, Germany.
An important part of Simmons’ practice is to educate and mentor, a way to pass on the skills developed over 19 years of kiln forming glass. Her 60-minute Master Class Video, available on Bullseye Glass Co.’s website, shares the full process by which she creates her tall vessels. She says: “I enjoy mentoring students starting out in their careers with glass, including business advice, professional development, and a range of glass techniques.”