by Dave Yanko
CUPAR - When glass artist Jacqueline Berting's $15,000 Canada Council
grant ran dry half way into the creation of her widely-acclaimed
The Glass Wheatfield in 1991, the ever-candid Berting didn't
hide the fact in interviews with media who'd begun tracking her
progress. Then a surprising thing happened.
images with permission
Glass Wheatfield debuted in an outdoor setting at Regina's
MacKenzie Art Gallery.
"All of a sudden these cheques started arriving in the mail,''
Berting said. "And the weird thing is, it just kept happening. It
"But then I had these bizarre feelings, too. You think: 'Oh my
God. Why are they doing this?'''
After the Wheatfield's successful debut in 1992, Berting
came up with an idea to build a glass house that would brim with
evocative imagery. But when she finally succeeded in landing the
elusive grant allowing her to pursue the project, she realized she
didn't have the necessary equipment to create the piece.
newlywed husband James Clark she'd have to leave the province because
Saskatchewan didn't have the specialized production facilities she
needed. And then another surprising thing happened.
"James said 'Don't worry. We'll figure this all out. I'll make
works in the studio on her property north of Regina.
With that, Clark began researching, designing and then constructing
all the facilities and production gear Berting needed, including
kilns, heating and venting systems and a water-driven grinding wheel
for finishing glass surfaces.
"He's just an incredible kind of genius,'' Berting says of Clark,
a former photographer, hairdresser and steel-mill crane operator.
"He didn't know a thing about any of this stuff when we first met.''
Berting no longer questions the good fortune and serendipity that
have played such important roles in her life. She's too busy trying
to keep up with the demand for her popular work.
She was born in 1967 and grew up on a farm an hour and a half
east of Saskatoon in the St. Gregor region of Saskatchewan. A self-proclaimed
'oddball' who didn't fit in at school, she chose to pursue art,
first at Red Deer College in Alberta and later at Ontario's Sheridan
College, a year after graduating from high school. At Sheridan she
focused on pottery, choosing a class in glass only to fill an elective.
Although her early efforts in glass 'looked like garbage', she was
House of Perception was created using images intended to
appeal to all ages and senses.
"Glass is very mystical, and precious - it's almost true to life.
We're very strong and tough and beautiful, yet we're still very
fragile. (Glass) seemed to work really well with the kinds of things
I wanted to express.''
In some ways, too well.
Berting, who shares a country home with James and young sons Bryce
and Lucas, says The Glass Wheatfield, a 400-square-foot base
containing 14,000 sheaves of glass wheat, was a salute to the Canadian
farmer during difficult economic times. She was pleased with results
and happy with the public's response to the piece. But after it
was completed, she was ready to move on.
However, fans of the Wheatfield had been phoning before
the piece was even completed to ask whether she made any 'small
wheat'. With money scarce, it became ever more difficult to deal
with these requests.
blows glass near the kiln and other equipment desined and built
by husband James.
"At first I said 'No, I don't. The Wheatfield is the Wheatfield.'
But I was so broke that I gave in and started making these little
gifts, little bundles of wheat.''
She continued to make the wheat, as well as blown-glass baubles,
orbs and bottles, as she worked with James to complete the glass
house she calls The House of Perception.
To produce the panels that comprise the glass house, Berting used
a process called 'sandcasting', in which moist sand with a high
clay content is used as a mold, or cast. Objects she wishes to have
represented in the panel are placed into the cast before the molten
glass is poured into it.
She used the sandcasting technique for a divider she was commissioned
to create for the cafeteria in the new fine arts building at The
University of Regina. Each of the 200 panels contains an image or
images associated with the university.
was one of three artists who contributed work to the fine arts
cafeteria at the University of Regina.
Through it all, the popularity of the 'little bundles of wheat'
continues to grow. That's given Berting a degree of financial security
she could only dream of 10 years ago. Berting Glass now employs
several people, including one who spends the majority of his time
producing glass wheat. Back home at St. Gregor, her mother helps
with marketing and shipping while her father builds frames into
which some of the wheat sheaves are set.
Berting admits it was a difficult decision to hive off to others
a good share of the gift ware production. But she says she really
had no choice.
wheat, in several formats, continues to pay the bills.
"I worked morning to night. I'd play with the kids for a couple
of hours after the babysitter left, and then I'd go straight back
to work. I was turning into a zombie.''
Theoretically, she should have more time now to pursue the larger,
unique projects that satisfy her creative urge. But she's still
heavily involved in 'the trap' of day-to-day production. And she's
been commissioned to do a major work for a new city hall to be constructed
next year in Weyburn.
She looks forward to the time when she can create a major project simply for the joy
of doing it.
"There are other big projects I've got on my mind, that I just
want to do. And if somebody wants to buy them, great.''
Check out Berting Glass website here.
| Contents |
| Events | Search |
Prints 'n Posters | Lodging
Assistance | Golf |
© Copyright (1997-2012) Virtual Saskatchewan