The recycled glass sculptures created by Costa Rican artist Juli Bolaños-Durman exude a genuine sense of joy
Jaunty is a word that instantly springs to mind when looking at Juli Bolaños-Durman’s small sculptures made from recycled glass. Her pieces are full of colour and exude a genuine sense of joy that reflects her Costa Rican background. ‘Everything is wonky because I couldn’t draw a straight-line if my life depended on it,’ she laughs. ‘I stopped fighting against that and just embraced it.’
She initially trained as a graphic designer in her native country before discovering glass and quickly becoming fascinated with the material’s possibilities. ‘Even if it’s broken, it can be fixed and embellished. It could evolve into something better,’ she explains. Realising that Costa Rica had neither the infrastructure nor market for glass, she decided to enrol on an MA and alighted upon Edinburgh College of Art. ‘I was just looking for the best glass programme worldwide,’ she says. After taking a little while to get used to her surroundings, Bolaños-Durman has embedded herself into the city’s bijou but lively design and art community – she has shown work at the Scottish Parliament, won a commission for an installation at the new Psychiatric Building of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and became a permanent UK resident last year. In 2017, meanwhile, she was selected for the prestigious Jerwood Makers Open.
When lockdown was first imposed she found herself unable to use the cutting machine she rents at her alma mater. Instead, she started a new on-line community initiative, #StayCreative with Juli, in which she produced a series of illustrations that could be downloaded from her website for children (and adults) to colour in. And there has been new work too, taking found objects and lashing them together with rubber bands in a series entitled Powerful Ordinary Bonds. ‘I’m always interested in challenging my practice,’ she confirms.
When I started in Costa Rica the cost of production was high and you had to make the most out of every little detail, every little piece of material
Lurking behind the facade of all this is a serious message. Initially she used old bottles or glass off-cuts for practical reasons. ‘When I started in Costa Rica the cost of production was high and you had to make the most out of every little detail, every little piece of material,’ she confirms. Quickly she came to realise that, in her words, ‘there’s a moral aspect to our consumption habits… How can we serve the material? How can we show it compassion?’ It’s a beautifully lyrical way to work.