Bonsai Beauty: A Q&A with ACE Artist Duo Patti & Dave Hegland


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Inspiration could be found all around us at last year’s American Craft Exposition (ACE) thanks to not only our talented artists, but the incredibly beautiful background the Chicago Botanic Garden provided. A living museum dedicated to the beauty found in nature, the Garden is home to world-class plant displays, including a specialty collection of close to 200 priceless bonsai trees. These miniature works of art receive the attention and care of professional bonsai masters, making all the difference in the world to create unforgettable artistic inspiration. Of those singing their praises is glass artist duo Patti and Dave Hegland who will be returning to ACE this September for the second year.

We had a chance to catch up with Patti and Dave of Hegland Glass to learn more about their background, what they are looking forward to at this year’s ACE, and why those bonsai trees had such an impact on their craft!

1. You both used to have careers in engineering and finance. How was your transition from working in business-focused settings to a more creative environment?

We have found that the discipline, focus and attention to detail critical for success in our first careers was directly transferable to our new careers as glass artists.  We needed to spend the time up front to learn the techniques of our chosen medium, then we could concentrate on the artistic components.   The transition has been rewarding.

Bonsai_12. How did you come about creating glass pieces? And were you ever interested in producing other mediums of art?

We were dedicated collectors of fine craft for over 20 years, and had developed a strong sense of personal style and an appreciation of well-designed and well-executed work long before making the decision to become professional artists.   In the back of our minds, we knew that someday we, too, would like to create fine craft at the quality level we were collecting.   So, when the time came to leave behind our successful corporate careers in business (Patti) and engineering (Dave), we called on our analytical decision-making skills to answer the question of what type of fine craft we would create.   We chose kiln glass.  As a fine craft, it is rapidly evolving, our technique lends itself to the structured design style that we gravitate towards, and we are comfortable working with the tools necessary to create the highly finished look we sought.

3. You have mentioned that the bonsai garden displays at last year’s ACE were very inspiring to you both. What was it about this collection in particular that spoke to you as artists?

Our booth in 2015 was located next to the Bonsai Gardens.  Walking among the bonsai collection, it was immediately apparent that successful Bonsai design requires the conscious implementation of all the elements of quality design critical for all successful art.  Bonsai are works of art.  Their composition, sense of movement, rhythm, balance all work together to communicate a Bonsai’s strength and power, or elegance and tranquility, drama and action, maturity and calm.  In depicting Bonsai in our work, our goal is to artfully employ the same elements of design, communicating the art of bonsai as glass art.

4. We were excited to hear that one of your gorgeous new pieces which was inspired by the bonsai trees will be available for purchase at ACE this year. What excites you most about presenting this new piece?

We are excited to be bringing several bonsai-inspired pieces to ACE.  The ACE co-chairs were able to place our booth next to the Bonsai gardens again this year.  It will be fun to watch ACE attendees viewing our bonsai art glass while standing among our inspiration!  The more we study the art of bonsai, the more intrigued we are by the complexities of the bonsai aesthetic and the similarities with our art practice.

Bonsai_25. Where else do you typically draw your artistic inspiration from?

We are always on the lookout for inspiration.  We find it in the master works of other art forms, such as textiles, ikebana, contemporary painters as well as in the natural world ranging from the solar system to the rural horizons and lively waterways that surround us on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

6. You will return to ACE 2016 as veteran artists. What was the greatest part of your experience as first-time artists last year? And what are you most looking forward to this year?

We were very impressed by the level of interest and knowledge of fine craft of the ACE attendees.  It is a sophisticated audience with both long-time attendees genuinely interested in understanding our work, as well as younger attendees gaining a new appreciation of quality fine craft.  This year, we are looking forward to once again joining in the energy created by so many artists at the top of their game in one venue.  It is special.

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