Woven Imprint

"There is a quality of time which I forget in the city. I get a similar feeling of space with my work. It's like looking toward Moehau Mountain, walking or sitting on the porch in Colville Valley - a space where my world opens up, where things close up can be put out of focus and my mind begins to travel over things unknown."

As a child Layla Walter learnt to weave harakeke (flax). The contemplative process was a significant prelude to her studies at Unitec, Auckland, where cast glass became her preferred mode of expression. The rhythms of the different processes were surprisingly compatible and there was a way of capturing the essence of weaving, which continues to be a love of hers, in the glass. She took time to develop her weaving skills at night classes and from the woven articles she created silicone rubber moulds for casting.

Walter works with locally produced lead crystal glass which is fed in a molten state into moulds, fired then cooled slowly before being sanded by hand to produce the desired finish.

The appeal of domestic forms, historical functional objects and relics are the starting points for her forms which 'revere the ordinary'.

The form is paramount, and the expanses of unadorned glass in the colours of nature suggest a sense of place and space. While her earlier works were textured all over, recent works are embellished more minimally.

She has developed a personal voice in her glass very early in her career - areas of woven textures define her work, often as 'collars' on her vessels or small rectangles that resemble tags. The woven imprint can be seen to represent the human imprint on the environment.

The woven motif makes reference to a slowing of pace and to domestic work, but she gives it additional status by translating it into a new medium where it can be viewed with a fresh perspective. At the same time there is an investigation of cultural ideas, of considering appropriation and appropriateness of the inclusion of flax weaving as part of her visual language, ideas she has discussed on marae.

The exploration of ideas and techniques has been intensive. Walter acknowledges her mentors, Elizabeth McClure and Joy Wikitera who were important teachers and especially internationally renowned Ann Robinson for whom she works part time.

She weaves the multiple strands of influence into her work. The gentle raranga (flax weaving) she learnt in childhood has been incorporated into an industrial process, interlacing ideas and techniques. Walter is an engaging new presence in the glass art of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Helen Schamroth © 2001