The importance of hugs: ANU art student's affinity for hot glass

25 November 2016

It's something that's really close to my heart but I think it's also something that's really interesting in the community and I want to highlight the role of mothers and how important they are and this was a really nice and interesting way of doing it.

Imagine hugging molten hot glass that sits between 700-800 degrees Celsius in temperature. Yes, you read that correctly, hugging hot molten glass!

This is exactly what Bachelor of Visual Arts (honours) student Catherine Newton did when she created her work, known as Mum's hugs, as part of her honours studies at the ANU School of Art this semester.

The work, consisting of four brightly coloured structures that visually represent the process of a simple hug from a mother, is on display at the main gallery of the ANU School of Art's 2016 Graduating Exhibition, along with two other works she produced that carry the same theme.

"In order for us to get a really nice shape that looked like a hug, the best solution we found was for me to lie down on a flat table," she said.

To create the work, Catherine even borrowed a firefigher's suit from the ACT fire brigade, and she also wore a special leather jacket and specially engineered high-temperature fabric that can cope with the glass temperature.

"Lying on the maver, the first time was quite frightening because I was looking up and seeing this big ball of red hot glass travelling towards me and that feeling of whether he would get it in the right spot or not," she said, smiling on reflection.

"It all went perfectly well, but for those first few seconds of 'what am I doing', it was certainly a rush!"

Catherine says her interactions with the ACT fire brigade and the makers of the heat-proof fabric were also memorable.

"Why are you doing it?!" she says with a smile on her face. "I'd kind of always start the conversation with 'you're never going to believe what I'm going to ask you but..'"

Catherine, who was previously a chef and stay-at-home Mum before returning to study art, says her work focuses on embodying maternal love and intimacy.

"It's something that's really close to my heart but I think it's also something that's really interesting in the community and I want to highlight the role of mothers and how important they are and this was a really nice and interesting way of doing it."

But her sculptures also represent something much closer to her heart - the love for her children.

"I'm talking about my kids. I've got four. The eldest is 28, the youngest is 11. I have a granddaughter, I'm a grandmother and my 28 year old is still as important aw he was when he was a baby."

Mum's hugs is on show in the Main Gallery of the School of Art as part of the 2016 ANU Graduating Exhibition, from 25 November - 4 December.