Words by Christine McPaul, ACTWC Blogger in Residence
The New Glass 2015 Writing Competition, an initiative of the ACT Writers Centre and the Canberra Glassworks, is part of an ongoing endeavour to develop collaborative opportunities for glass artists and writers. Kelli-Anne Moore, ACT Writers Centre Director, says the idea for the competition came from the desire to ‘recognise and celebrate the work of writers, and to encourage writers to find inspiration in other art forms’.
2015 winner, Claire Capel-Stanley, was announced at a special event held at the Canberra Glassworks. Capel-Stanley’s piece Victories: On New Glass 2015 was published in the online brochure for the New Glass 2015: Archaeology, Excavation and the Arcane exhibition. In addition, the ACT Writers Centre presented her with a two year membership.
‘Glass,’ Capel-Stanley writes in her essay, ‘seems to carry with it the whole consignment of human ingenuity: the necessary innovation of function, and the love of ornament.’ This seems a fitting observation not only of glass, but of the collaborative project which wove two strands of creativity into a new form.
Capel-Stanley, a freelance art writer and reviewer, studied Art History and Curatorship at the Australian National University and has worked in various roles in collections and galleries for several years. She is currently Program Manager at PhotoAccess in Manuka, where she manages exhibitions, artist residencies and marketing as well as the education program. ‘I also have an emerging practice which sits somewhere in the middle of writing, drawing and sculpture,’ she says.
According to Capel-Stanley, winning the award is validation of the sometimes invisible efforts of writers: ‘When you are trying to do anything “on the side” of a job, whether that’s writing, art, or even making your own jam to sell at the farmers markets, it sometimes feels like an invisible career, something you just did one time by accident.’
Art writing awards and competitions are still uncommon, so the opportunity offered by the ACT Writers Centre and the Canberra Glassworks is innovative and welcomed by both glassmakers and writers. Capel-Stanley sees art writing as a growing field, one that is increasingly of interest to arts organisations, noting that, ‘It’s nice to even be able to enter an art writing award, let alone win.’
Collaborations across disciplines provide new perspectives on content and approach—not unlike holding a piece of glass up to the sun and watching where the light refracts. Capel-Stanley suggests these connections are important and can be refreshing for artists and audiences. ‘We have a huge wealth of expertise and creativity in Canberra,’ she says. ‘Collaboration is a great way to introduce diverse knowledge areas to a wider audience, and to participate in a richer and more interesting conversation on current ideas in art, society and culture.’
When asked about what she would say to others interested in entering future art writing competitions, Capel‑Stanley encourages people from different writing backgrounds to enter. Despite the view that specialist knowledge of technical terms and concepts will be required, she suggests this is not necessarily the case, instead believing that some of the best art writing comes from people who aren’t ‘experts’. Capel-Stanley argues that because everyone responds to what they see and feel, art writing is much more accessible than most people imagine. By bringing their individual knowledge and experience into play, art writing is a way of sharing those insights with others. ‘Art can be a really interesting gateway to use as a writer,’ she says.
If you are looking for ways to start your art writing career, Capel-Stanley recommends Siri Hustvedt’s book What I Loved for fiction writers and non-fiction writers could try Forty-One False Starts by Janet Malcolm.
The ACT Writers Centre and the Canberra Glassworks hope to encourage writers to explore the fascinating intersection of glass and writing by running a New Glass Writing Competition on an annual basis.
Christine McPaul is a member of the HARDCOPY 2014 alumni, and is also a founding editor of the e-journal, Softcopy, launched in May 2015. Christine has written shortlisted fiction, published academic articles about literature and women’s writing, book reviews, and a biography for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Christine was awarded a PhD from the Literature and Theatre Studies Department of the Australian National University in 2009. She tweets @christinemcpaul and muses about writing, reading, and finding that illusive inspiration on her blog, Capable of Anything.