Erika Parkin is a Tucson based glass artist, originally from Ottawa, Canada. With a background in silversmithing, Parkin initially became interested in glass through bead making. In 2002, she graduated from the Sheridan College Craft and Design program with a major in glass, and moved to Arizona to begin her professional career. Erika worked alongside Tom Philabaum in his Tucson studio for over a decade. Her work can be found in private collections across the continent, as well as in Europe and the Middle East. Clearly inspired by her surroundings and the wonder that is nature, Erika’s most recent series explores varied landscapes created in syrupy rich layers of colored glass.
About her artistic journey she says: "As a kid, I spent a lot of time hanging around in my Dad’s metalsmithing studio. When I was 14 he put me to work in the summer for twenty dollars a week, (that seemed like a lot of money at the time) and a monthly bus pass, I got hands-on experience with copper and silver and developed an appreciation for the way different materials respond. Through high school, I worked in a bead store as a jeweler and designer. I was fascinated with the beautiful handmade glass beads and wanted to make them myself. So I bought myself a little torch and went about learning all I could on my own. After taking a few short glassblowing classes, I decided to pursue a formal education in glass. I graduated from The Craft and Design program at Sheridan College, with a major in glass. Once I finished school, I applied for a glass job here in Tucson, and I’ve been here ever since!
First and foremost, I’m a glassmaker. I've be working with glass for over 20 years, and professionally since moving to Tucson in 2002. I love the way glass moves when it’s molten. It’s elastic malleable liquid quality. Plus, I love the fire. If you've ever watched glassblowing, it's totally mesmerizing. The heat and fire are truly captivating. Being able to manipulate the material to create what I see in my mind is incredibly rewarding. There is something that can happen when the moment is just right: I become totally one with the material. It's the most amazing feeling.
My art is largely influenced by my surroundings. I like to spend time outdoors, taking in how light and shadows play on different surfaces. I want to capture the beauty, vibrance and visual texture of the world around me, both up close, and far off. Being able to share that with others, is my goal. The kind of work I do is usually referred to as “Fine Craft” or “Functional Art.” I mostly make vessels and centerpiece bowls. The kind of thing you’d find on an entry table or in a niche in someone’s home or office. The idea that another person can take home a piece of my personal interpretation of the world continues to drive me as an artist.
In the case of my Landscapes series the technical development of my work has been mostly a matter of trial and error; extensive knowledge of color combinations and effects of different applications. None of the techniques I use are particularly complex. It's more about getting an idea across, creating simple pieces that evoke a particular feeling. Largely what I do is absorb the visual texture of the world around me then reimagine it, with glass as my canvas. The possibilities are endless.
Urban living had a big effect on my early work, pieces that referenced crumbling cement and exposed rebar, sunlight sparkling on skyscrapers after a rain. Then I moved to Tucson and everything changed. I suddenly found myself in awe of the sky and mountains while yearning for the lush greens of Canada that I had previously taken completely for granted. From that yearning came the Arbour Series. I took the very same copper mesh I had used in earlier work, unraveling, twisting and reshaping it into roots trunks and branches.
I started hiking and camping in the mountains around Tucson, and even taking road trips from time to time. Observation of the many natural surfaces around me lead to the Stratum series, and the great expanse of land a sky became, quite obviously, the Landscapes.”