Committee Spotlight: The Art of Glass & Volunteering

~ Michelle Saleeba

I sat down for a Q&A with established WA glass artist and Army Art committee member Merilyn O'Shannessy to find out more about her stunning sculptural glass pieces and what motivates her to volunteer.

Merilyn O'Shannessy

MS: What inspired you to become involved with Army Art?

MO: As an exhibitor, it was disappointing to see Army Art having the problem of obtaining committee members to keep the event going. As I have been volunteering for many years with other organisations, I decided to become involved to regenerate the event so it can continue in to the future.

Tell us about your history of volunteering in the community, and why volunteering is important to you?

I have been volunteering for most of my life. I grew up in the country where volunteering and helping others out was part of our life.

I see volunteering as giving back and helping others either at a personal level or to the community. My husband and I help out our elderly neighbours mowing their lawns, weeding and assisting in whatever way we can.

Volunteering gets you involved and communicating with other folk, keeps you busy and is self rewarding. I am and have mainly been volunteering for a non profit self funded community based organisation, involved in the arts.

What do you wish other people could know about Army Art and the work they do?

That Army Art exists and the difference Army Art makes to the community from the work that is done. It seems that people remember the event, but not the ongoing support to charities and organisations. Army Art is like every other event and they need voluntary help to keep things happening.

Describe how you became a glass artist.

Having a country childhood, and parents who were poor, we learnt to play with collected things from the bush, being creative with whatever was available.

In later years, I had always wanted to learn to do things properly. I have done various courses and have dabbled in many art and craft activities. I have no skills with a paintbrush at all, despite trying this out for a couple of years. I found glass, which has since become my chosen art form. I did a basic course and loved the medium. Continued to play and experiment and have been doing this now for many years. I teach adults and children from time to time, including voluntary unpaid teaching most weeks.

Bowl and glass mat, Merilyn O'Shannessy

Who or what are your strongest influences?

I am mainly influenced by nature.

Describe your art practice and what is inspiring your current body of work?

I have a love of textures, odd shapes and all things different. I am not a perfectionist and my work reflects this. Always odd rather than even. I do have certain concepts in mind and am particular with how I like things to work out. Heat and gravity sometimes decide on the outcome of certain pieces that go into the kiln to cook. I have a love of recycled glass and like to play around with new concepts before I use new glass.

You can see more of Merilyn's work at Courtyard Gallery @CanningArtsGroup

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