graduated from Charles Sturt University in regional New South Wales, Australia with a Bachelor of Visual Arts, majoring in Ceramics and Hot Glass. Under the tuition of Alex Mitrovik and Dennis O’Conner, the spark was ignited and Westacott’s glass journey began. In 1987 he relocated to Adelaide, South Australia pursuing a career in Hot Glass. Here he completed a traineeship at The Jam Factory Art and Craft Centre under Director Peter Tysoe and Workshop Manager Tom Persson.
The Jam Factory studio was a revelation to Westacott. The glass world opened and he threw himself into the training. Along with learning the skills and techniques of glassblowing; he studied studio machinery design and acquired engineering skills necessary to build furnaces and maintain his own equipment. The sales department of the Jam Factory connected Westacott with galleries around Australia and initiated the marketing of his artwork. Adelaide’s proximity to the Flinders and Gammon Ranges provided opportunity to adventure into these stunningly beautiful landscapes, reinforcing Westacott’s connection to the country and fuelling his creative passions.
In 1993 seeking diverse landscapes, Westacott moved to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and worked alongside Chris Pantano. He found a sympathetic design sense and discipline necessary to run a business in the arts. By 2004 he had established the Sunshine Coast Hot Glass Studio in partnership, providing a professional workspace used by many local, interstate and international glass artists.
Since 2009, Westacott’s studio has been located at his home in Dulong on the Hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. Set amongst subtropical rainforest he works in an environment which nurtures his creativity. An essential element of Westacott’s work is regular expeditions to wilderness areas for inspiration. It is these journeys that bring to the studio, intense creative energy and the passion to share his vision.
I have a deep fascination with our relationship to the environment. The iconography in my art represents the shift of focus from myself to the natural world. An observation of the intricate web of life that supports, inspires and enriches my existence.
For many years I have carried with me a sense of living and walking through a country with a deep historical human presence. I was born in North Eastern Victoria where Australia’s first peoples had been completely wiped from view, yet the memory of their existence is just beneath the surface. I look for this echo in old trees and places of natural beauty and use this as a lens to inform my artwork.
My favourite pastime is seeking out wild and ‘untouched’ places. This enables me to witness a natural order, where the spirit of the country is strong. These places are becoming increasingly difficult to find and I recognise them as wonderful inspirations for my artwork. Removing the human element from my drawings places the viewer into a ‘surreal’, timeless landscape, where the observer creates the story.
My recent work featuring ring trees evoke a time when the first peoples of Australia marked trade routes, boundaries or ceremonial places, by twisting or crossing branches of small trees. Overtime these fuse into rings and loops. Most of these traditional markers have been destroyed through forest clearing and fires. These living icons are rare, as the trees need to be at least 150 years old to pre-date European invasion.
(See image – ring tree)
Hot glass is a beautiful medium that demands utmost patience and focus to master its properties. Balance and elegance in the forms I make are a prerequisite to carry the designs, and thirty years working with the medium has been about honing the skills to do this. Inspired by Art Nouveau glass, I have been fascinated by the idea of creating 3 dimensional objects as a canvas for my designs. Within this idea is the possibility of playing with the way light is transmitted and reflected through the surface and exploring multiple layers of colour to build depth.
In my hot glass studio I blow the vessels adding colour between layers of clear glass as well as melting it onto the surface. It is a time consuming process with each layer concealing the colour beneath. The finished form is placed into a kiln to cool for several days before I can apply the design and begin the sand carving process.
Inspired by Art Nouveau glass, I have been fascinated by the idea of creating 3 dimensional objects as a canvas for my drawings. Within this idea is the possibility of playing with the way light is transmitted and reflected through the surface and exploring multiple layers of colour to build depth.
Bushwalking into remote and wild places is a very inspiring way for me to find subjects for my glass. While on these trips I sketch and photograph plants and birds in the landscape, bringing this back to the studio as a theme for each new piece. I then draw these ideas in ink and create polymer stencils which adhere to the surface of the glass also adding glue with a special applicator in this drawing process.
Once the design is complete I carefully sandblast the vessel, removing layers of coloured glass to reveal my drawings. I liken the sand carving to airbrushing in reverse, where the jet is removing colour to reveal what is protected beneath.