Blanche Tilden, Palais Neckpiece, 2010. National Art Glass Collection. Purchase funded by Wagga Wagga City Council. On display, National Art Glass Gallery, Wagga Wagga, NSW. There are only a handful of Australian artists in the collection of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, part of Paris’s Louvre, and Blanche Tilden is one of them.
Tilden, a glassmaker and jeweller based in Melbourne, says she is “honoured” to be in this “discerning collection”, one of the largest focusing on decorative arts, with work from the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance and art nouveau and art deco, to contemporary times.
Being chosen for such a collection is, Tilden tells me, a feeling that is difficult to replicate. Likewise, she vividly recalls the thrill the first time two of her neckpieces were purchased for an Australian public collection. That purchase was in 1995 for the National Art Glass Collection in Wagga Wagga, NSW. Since then, her work also has been acquired by every major Australian public gallery and other significant collections such as New York’s Corning Museum of Glass.
Tilden, who was born in 1968 in Kiama, NSW, is the granddaughter and daughter of BHP Port Kembla steelworkers. After finishing school, she studied glass, gold and silversmithing at the Australian National University school of art. She then worked with renowned artist Susan Cohn for two years before setting up her own practice in Melbourne.
When I speak to Tilden, she says she first became fascinated with glass as a child. “I was brought up as a Catholic and I really liked the light coming through the coloured glass windows. I was curious about how you make glass and I wanted to make things out of it.”
To gain the level of Tilden’s skill with glass requires hours of practice and patience and, as much as she loves the medium, she says it can be a very unforgiving material.
“Glassblowing is a long process and once you start that process you can’t put it down and go
Flameworked borosilicate glass, oxidised 925 silver; 22cm (diameter)