Rebecca Gouldson is a metal artist who uses etching techniques traditionally used by print makers to produce unique wall pieces for private, corporate and public clients. Since relocating from Liverpool two years ago, Rebecca now lives in Bristol where she has a studio at Centrespace.
During her time as an undergraduate at the University of Wolverhampton, Rebecca Gouldson was exposed to a variety of materials on her 3D Design course; metals, ceramics, plastics and woods. However, it was the "solidity and permanence" of metal that appealed to her most and its, perhaps surprising, "versatility" that continues to fuel her passion for the medium to this day. From her studio in Bristol, Gouldson creates her beautiful wall pieces by using techniques more commonly associated with printmaking. Layers of processes, including acid etching, electroplating and chemical patination, are used in innovative sequences, to create her unique crafted objects. We sat down with her to find out more.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK?
I make metal wall pieces for private, corporate and public clients, on a variety of scales, from the domestic to the architectural. Metal is an incredibly versatile material; I love to push the boundaries of how metal can be manipulated; using acid etching, chemical patination and electroplating to add layers of rich texture, colour and even images to the surfaces.
My pieces vary enormously in scale, from small artworks, which people buy for their homes through my network of galleries or directly from me at a show, to large pieces, that wrap around the outside of buildings. The majority of the work I do is to commission, for individuals or businesses who want something that’s unique and meaningful to them but also beautifully crafted. Craftsmanship is very important to me. I find people are fascinated by my making processes, and I love to pass the story on.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I recently created a series of three-dimensional wall pieces for an exhibition in Chicago called SOFA (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art). It was a challenge to perfect the new techniques, but I was really pleased with the pieces I made and one of them was bought by a collector at the show, which was great.
For a very different project, I’m going to be creating a trail in the paving of a town in South Wales. The purpose of the public artwork is to link a local theatre with the town arts centre, creating a flow of movement between the two places. Last year I designed and fabricated seven individual cast iron drain covers for a town in North Wales, which was also used to provide a physical trail from one part of the town to another, so it will be interesting to build on what I learned from that project.
HOW DOES YOUR COMMUNITY AFFECT YOUR WORK?
Since moving to Bristol from Liverpool a little over two years ago, I’ve been welcomed in to a very close knit studio group in the city centre called Centrespace. I feel very fortunate because there is always someone around to bounce ideas off, to pick the brains of and to go to lunch with. What is also great is that studio members get each other involved in their projects, seeking out expertise, advice, even making skills. We also have The Letterpress Collective on the ground floor if we need any printing.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
I’m really interested in how we create order and structure in our environment. This underlying theme leads me to a broad range of fascinating subject matter such as aerial photographs of farmland showing hedges dividing areas of textural ploughed fields, or the repeating pattern of windows on skyscrapers. At their core is the human desire to divide and organise the space around them. More recently I’ve been absorbed by the tools and architecture of historic industry, such as shipbuilding, which was inspired by my shipwright Grandfather.
WHAT DOES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
My starting point for a new project or body of work is to do some research; taking photographs, drawing and making prints on paper. I then scan or import these images and manipulate them on the computer, before using them as resists in the etching process. I heat transfer the resists to clean metal and then submerge the plates in acid, much like a printmaker making a printing plate. Using metalsmithing techniques, I cut and file the metal to the right shape and size and then use finishing techniques to colour and texture the surface until the piece is perfect.
WHICH METAL ARTISTS DO YOU PARTICULARLY LOVE?
I’m in awe of a Japanese metalsmith called Toru Kaneko. Toru uses traditional Japanese metalsmithing techniques to combine elegantly simple vessel forms with the most incredible rich and varied metallic surfaces. What I love is that they are so simple and at the same time so complex... just perfect. On a smaller scale, I covet everything that enamel jeweller Jessica Turrell produces. As well as faultless craftsmanship, it’s the thinking behind her pieces that I love so much. Her jewellery pieces are bold and confident, but at the same time subtle, and sophisticated.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN LEARNING YOUR CRAFT?
I’d tell them to sign up to a local class and have a go. It’s not until you get hold of a material in your hands and try to manipulate it, that you fall in love, or sometimes decide that it’s not for you and move on to another material or craft technique. What material you connect with will depend on several factors, including how patient, how spatially aware and how dexterous you are, but also how you respond to the sensory experience of working with it.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
It may sound like a cliche, but success for me is doing the work I enjoy and making enough from it to have the life I want. I’ve sometimes thought it strange that I don’t have many hobbies, but I think it’s because I genuinely enjoy the way I make my living and this means that long hours at work, rarely seem like long hours. In life, I can’t wait to own my first home, and to transform it from top to bottom.
WHICH WOMEN DO YOU ADMIRE?
I admire so many! However, one of my favourites at the moment is TV scientists is Dr. Alice Roberts, who I’ve also seen talk in person. What I admire is her passion for her subject which completely engages her audience and inspires a new generation of scientists. I am drawn to people who have a strong sense of purpose, who communicate their values and beliefs passionately.