Self-described maker Bronwen Bender has lived as far as Melbourne and as near as Edinburgh. Raised by Welsh glass artists, her work is earnest, earthy, and unique. Inspired by the natural world and anthropology with focuses in wire, ink, and paper, she creates a natural flow and geometry to all of her work, whether thin, intricate wire portraits or experimental ink patterns.
LAB: Did illustration find you or did you find it? At what point did you commit to it as a craft?
BB: I’ve always loved to draw (I come from a long line of artistic folk), but I fell completely in love with illustration during my foundation year at Edinburgh College of Art, mostly because of the fantastic things my classmates were creating.
LAB: How do nature and anthropology inspire you? How does your work reflect those themes?
BB: As a self-confessed hippie, I think that much of the beauty and richness in the world originates from nature and culture. We have lots to learn from traditional societies and the balance of the natural world. I create my work by hand because I like how imperfections and errors shape it and give it life. I take lots of inspiration from flora and fauna as well as traditional textiles and craft.
LAB: You’re certified in Community and Arts Engagement—why are you passionate about community and creative partnerships? Name a few ways in which partnerships in the arts can practically improve communities.
BB: Creative experimentation is a fantastic tool for building relationships and networks in a community. At a time when most experiences have a fee and many human connections are digital, creativity is a breath of fresh air. It gives us a chance to express ourselves in whatever way we wish and get to know people who are different to us. I believe a more connected community that celebrates diversity is a happier and healthier one.
LAB: What drew you to Melbourne? (And Edinburgh as well!) if you could live in any city in the world, which would you choose? Why? How does that place inspire you?
BB: Both Melbourne and Edinburgh are driven by strong creative spirits. I was drawn to Melbourne for its socially engaged attitude and creative opportunities. I think if I could live in any city in the world it would probably be the one that was least like a city! I’m beginning to crave open space and greenery more and more.
LAB: Between residencies, teaching, freelancing, and exhibitions, which do you find has challenged you most as an artist? As a person? How have you grown from those experiences?
BB: Recently I began teaching an art class for women with intellectual disabilities. Although I have experience in this field, facilitating a class for people with very different creative desires and needs takes a lot of thinking on your feet and can be challenging. I have learnt to let the ladies take the class in the direction they want and they always pursue ideas I could never have come up with. The results are always surprising and it’s much more fun that way.
LAB: What’s one lesson you’ve learned from teaching?
BB: The lesson I have learnt is that everyone is a maker even if they don’t think so.
LAB: Freelancing can be a tough gig, but from the looks of it you’ve had a lot of success with it. Name three bits of wisdom for fellow freelance artists.
BB: Value your own work (otherwise how can you expect others to?). There are bound to be lousy bits but keep going. Enjoy.
LAB: Name one hope for 2017 (for yourself, your work, etc.)
BB: Much more drawing.
We’re always on the hunt for Zealous’ latest and greatest talent!