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Lisa's work Italian Nightmares 1.2
Image by ECA Photography student Alex Hall

Lisa graduated from the Glass - MFA programme at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in 2015 and has now returned to the College to do her PhD. Her project “Glass Whispers: Audio and Electrical Engineering meets Studio Glass for Interactive, Personal Art Experiences” was one of 22 projects to win an Ingenious Grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering this year.

Lisa’s 'Makers Marks' exhibition, an interactive and hands-on display, will be taking place in the ECA Glass Hotshop from Friday 7th October to Saturday 8th October 2016.

My practice aims to push glass in new directions through collaborative studio work combining glass with other media.  Collaboration is inherent to it all. I even have my husband, composer David Faleris involved!  Working in studio with diverse groups of people means that I am in a privileged position with the opportunity to see their creative processes at work. It enables really interesting conversation and I am always learning new bits of language from outside my field.  It also means that the outputs of my work are varied in media from videoart to virtual instruments and interactive glass objects to translation projects. Glass remains central to each project though, and while collaboration has a firm hold on my glass practice, I have transitioned in my relationship to glass. During my MFA studies, I worked regularly with glass material, while now I lead teams of people as art director and lead investigator on projects. My PhD research has also shifted my glass practice to use my studio as a staging ground to test out new creative process tools and creativity theories that I am developing.

Could you tell us a little bit about the work that won the Ingenious Grant?

Our international team is challenging approaches to the artist’s medium of glass by forcing new perspectives with collaborations between artists, engineers, sound designers, and composers. For instance, in our project Makers Marks, we are seeking to disrupt traditional ways of working in glass studios; we are questioning the nature of glass and characteristics of glass; and we are embedding the sounds of glassmaking back into the glass we make. We brought in recording equipment to capture the sounds of traditional glassmaking and then we essentially removed these sounds from their source material for separate examination. After processing our field recordings to isolate the elusive making sounds, we have been using this sound material in new studio projects such as interactive glass objects. Along the way, we are striving also to preserve the cultural heritage that is the sound of traditional glassmaking, so one of our outputs is a virtual library of these unique studio sounds.

Why did you decide to do a PhD?  Why did you want to continue your work here at ECA?

Fundamentally, the PhD programme is about striving to make an original contribution to knowledge. Years ago, I was turned down for a job in the United States because the committee told me that I had “too many ideas” and they would have to “say ‘no’ to me too often”. And now I am in a place that encourages ideas. As an MFA student at the ECA, I developed a hunch about the creative process and had questions about it that regularly surfaced while I was working in the studio. I wondered…are there patterns or underlying elements of the creative process that we might be able to harness and refocus in studio to further innovation in art and design? Two years of MFA studies flew by and I felt I had only just begun the work that might be my research niche. I wanted to continue it all and the PhD programme with the School of Design offered an incredible outlet with very supportive faculty and what I considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with scholarship. ECA said ‘yes’ to my ideas and enabled me to pursue a practice-based doctorate that combines a written dissertation with studio work and a variety of creative outputs.

What are you hoping to do in the coming years?

I would say a couple things in the short term. I am eager to create an original design for my PhD thesis and to incorporate bits of my lyric writing and poetry as a way to push against traditional boundaries. I intend to use the creative writing and design to complement, enhance, emphasis, and provoke within the dissertation itself. For the long-term, I am trying to remain very open to opportunities and new collaborations without pre-determining a set path as I am curious where the work and creative process will lead me!