The alchemy of glass art | Shynar Kaliyeva

The alchemy of glass art | Shynar Kaliyeva

At just fifteen, Kazakh artist Shynar Kaliyeva took a plunge into the unknown and moved to Czechia to pursue her long-held dream of becoming a glass artist.

Her art of almost ethereal quality is captivating to everyone, so it comes as no surprise that she is now considered one of the most promising talents of the country. And this year, Shynar and Hana Oľhova are launching their own brand, OLŠÉ.

What gave the final push to take such a big step and move to Czechia?

It was a spontaneous decision. I was 15 and didn’t know much about this country, but I heard about its glassmaking tradition, which I found very interesting. When I first saw glassblowing in a movie, I was very impressed by the hot, red glowing, liquid glass, which, in the hands of glassblowers, turned into a vase. At that moment, I knew I definitely wanted to try glass art. So, it was a bold decision from my side to make this big journey for the sake of the glassmaking craft, but with it, I also got to know another culture and met new people.

How does your homeland inspire you?

I often draw inspiration from my homeland, from traditions I inherited. The craft of Kazakhs is very ornamental and close to nature, which is something I really appreciate. So it’s not surprising that my roots are visible in the designs and vessels I create. But our traditions also set limits to how I think about design. For example, I just cannot imagine myself creating a big mug, as in Asia, we use only small-sized vessels for drinking and this is what I consider in my creative process. Also, I often use the color gold in my designs, which is a reference to my motherland, a great country of gold steppes. Sometimes I use the lamb motif in my works, as pastoralism plays a profound role in Kazakh traditions, and there are many herds of lambs and horses in the countryside, grazing in the steppe. I use motifs, materials, and designs that resonate with pastoral culture.

Ornamentation has always impressed me. I’m still looking for ways to use ornaments and patterns in my designs, and I’m also experimenting with different techniques. I try to reconcile the transparency of the glass with the decoration. For example, by stacking some of the pots I have made, the different decorations on them merge and create a new scene. In another case, I have cut lenses on a vase and combined it with the painting of a lamb. The lenses give the illusion of more lambs on the vase, like a flock or a pattern of lambs.

Why is glass so important to you, and why more than another material or form of art?

When working with glass, one feels like an alchemist. Glass is a perfect substance of alchemy; born of earth and fire, warmed by your breath and cooled by air, pliable yet hard, rigid yet fragile. It holds water but lets light through. Glass is simply magical.

Photos: Tomáš Slavík

Shynar Kaliyeva | Facebook | Instagram

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