Tell us about yourself!
I’m Jay Macdonell, from Canada. I have worked since 1992 as a gaffer, project manager, administrator and design consultant for various studios, artists, designers, architects and organizations. I have had the privilege to work for artists such as Laura and Alessandro De Santillana, Xu Bing, Angelo Filomeno, Bruce Mau, Catherine Chalmers, and Mildred Howard. I’ve taught at Pilchuck Glass School, Royal Copenhagen School of Art and Architecture on the island of Bornholm, Denmark and many other places. I have been a visiting artist at The Museum Of Glass, The Bay Area Glass Institute, Sheridan College, The Royal Danish School of Design and Architecture, Pittsburg Glass Center, The Chrysler Museum and the Berengo Studio in Murano. I am constantly amazed at the places this material has taken me to and the wonderful people I have had the pleasure to meet and call friends.
I served on the Glass Art Society Board from 2010-2014 and I currently on the Board of Directors of Berlin eV, the first non-profit public access studio in Berlin, Germany. I was on year-round staff as Pilchuck's Educational Coordinator and am now the Manager of Material Exploration at Bocci, a design and architecture firm based in Vancouver and Berlin. My work is in many private and public collections such as Elton John, The Bronfman family’s Clairage Collection, The Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Foreign Affairs Canada, The Museum of Montreal and the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
What draws you to the material you work with, and why have you chosen the processes that you use in your work?
I love the physical nature of blowing glass, I find it very meditative. I find I am able to be in the moment in a way that is difficult in the rest of our lives. So much distraction, glassblowing removes all of this and creates a quiet space to inhabit. The material itself is fascinating, so I study the chemistry, history, processes both industrial and intimate in scale, and the properties of it in all its aspects to give me a greater understanding of the material. I love to work with others in a team, the synergy that happens is magical. I love colour and the material’s ability to achieve gesture. To play with forms and how they relate to each other.
I thrive on working for others, to remove myself and inhabit another’s esthetic. Solving problems that I didn’t know existed opens you to new ways of seeing, to an expansion of idea and possibilities.
What themes do you pursue in your work?
In my work, I divide myself between three rhizomic fields. I explore botanically inspired sculptural vessel forms that have been exhibited worldwide. I am engaged in a series of video/ photographic explorations of constructing metaphors of identity and to study temporal neurological phenomenon and their social relevance. These have been shown in both Europe and North America. Thirdly, stemming from a mid-career research grant from the Canada Council for the Arts I am exploring what I have termed “The Architecture of Necessity”, structures built outside of societal constraints and movements like the Japanese Metabolists of the late 1960’s. Working in such a diverse way allows me to explore glass as a material for sculpture and metaphor rather than as a defining medium.
What is your dream project?
Hmm, I’d have to say that working and creating opportunity for others feeds me creatively in a way that transcends my own explorations. When I joined the GAS Board I did so because I was asked to and having always served on non-profit boards it was a great way to give back to such an amazing community. In working on the various committees, I came to realize that giving back and being a part of the glass community made me feel fulfilled in a really incredible way. I wanted more, to work on a larger scale, to effect change in a broader way. I went to work in a contemporary art museum as their Coordinator of Visitor Services, creating engagement strategies with the Curators for the exhibitions and outreach into the community. I was then hired by Pilchuck Glass School as their Educational Coordinator. I had the pleasure of helping to facilitate the summer programming by working with all the amazing seasonal staff, instructors, TA’s and Artists-in-Residence. Now I get to help create a space for glassblowers in Canada to make a career in glass, setting up a situation that makes a hub for creative exploration with glass and on work projects that are global in scale. Internships, supporting the local community and experimenting with glass/ceramics/metals/CAD/industrial design/film/video, it just doesn’t stop. It’s amazing. If I’m honest I guess I would say I’ve been in a constant state of wonder at the experiences glass has given me since I started. Kinda feels like a dream really.
If you weren't working in this field, what career would you choose?
I think I would have become a teacher, connecting with people and helping find their voice.
What's something about you that most people don't know?
My family and I do senior rescue dog hospice. We take in senior dogs for the last leg of their lives. Sometimes they stay with us a year or so, sometimes less. It is my greatest joy to pour love into them, cuddle the crap out them and send them on their way.
Why are you a member of GAS?
I am a member of GAS because I am part of a global community, because it supports us in ways far beyond benefits. It brings people together, forming lifelong friendships that will chart a career. It celebrates the best of us, at the conferences, the programming is truly outstanding, but what I saw was the time between, people running into each other, exchanging contacts, looking at each other’s work; connecting. That is what GAS does, it connects people together in a way that really transcends the material. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.
See more of Jay's work here