Glass sculpture can be a look-don’t-touch artform, but Michelle Atkinson has taken the opposite approach with her Impression Series glass bowls. Working out of her garage studio in the Calgary community of Bowness, Atkinson creates her pieces by melting sheet glass in a kiln and then molding it into striking forms using, as she puts it, “time and gravity.” She embellishes the bowls with impressions of organic materials such as wood grain, tree bark, fir-tree needles and prairie grasses, before sandblasting and oiling the glassworks to produce a texture akin to leather. “You’re not quite sure if it’s glass, so you want to touch it and it creates that whole community around the piece,” Atkinson says.

Atkinson finds her artistic inspiration in the Alberta landscape, both in the form and colour palette of her work, which references the rich turquoise blues of the prairie sky and rusty reds of weathered barns. The idea for the Impression Series came to her during a stay on a working ranch — in 2015, Atkinson was one of a small group of contemporary artists selected to take part in the Calgary Stampede’s Artist Ranch Project. The annual residency, held at a ranch in Longview, facilitates the interpretation of Western heritage through art. “As a city girl out on the prairie, surrounded by stunning vistas and the rough, yet grounded way of ranch life, I am inspired by the commonalities between rural and urban living,” Atkinson says. “This work brings together textures and shapes from the Alberta landscape like the patches of a quilt.”

Photograph: Jared Sych   |   Writer: Shelley Arnusch

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