A former Uxbridge College student who is now a working sculptor recently celebrated her first solo exhibition and will be at two London exhibitions later this year.
Shivashtie Poonwassie (47), who achieved a BTEC Diploma in Foundation Studies in Art and Design, recently showcased her work at 'Inside…' held at Stables Gallery in North West London. She will also be exhibiting in Battersea, Chelsea and Oxford later this year.
She has also been leading a sculpture project for children at Yeading Infant School which will result in an exhibition there during Hillingdon Arts Week.
Shivashtie, who lives with partner Michael and her two teenage children Naomi and Max in Ickenham, completed her BTEC in 2003 at Uxbridge College and went on to a BA (Hons) in Ceramics and Glass at Bucks New University, graduating in 2007.
Her work includes ceramic and brickwork heads and faces, which are inspired by ideas about perception and reality.
She said: "I had always wanted to do art and finally got the chance when I began the foundation course at Uxbridge College - the course really opened up my eyes. I would recommend Uxbridge College, for me the Foundation course proved to be an excellent grounding for University.
"The Foundation course allowed me to experience a number of different areas in art and design which I would not have experienced otherwise such as photography, textiles and design, it changed the way I looked at the whole concept of art and design.
"I found that even those aspects of the course I never thought would apply to me have become relevant in one way or another and would encourage others not to dismiss any part of a course as irrelevant, as you never know what will be useful in the future.
"It also helped me to understand more about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. I went to the V&A Museum on one of my research visits and saw the glass section; it really inspired me and gave me a direction. The tutors on my course encouraged me to apply for university and supported my application. I was fortunate that Bucks New University did a Ceramics and Glass degree that would fit in with my responsibilities of being a mum."
Her exhibition at the Stables Gallery featured a series of oversize heads made of bricks, which she sculpted and fired at H G Matthews traditional brickworks in Chesham, Bucks, where she rents a work space. All the clay used in Shivashtie's brick sculptures is dug from original deposits around Bellingdon, Bucks, and from nearby Chalfont St Giles.
Her work on the heads starts with a stack of unfired bricks which she works on while the clay is still soft. She sculpts the bricks into a head, which is then left until dry enough to be dismantled and dried further. Once completely dry, the pieces are fired on site in the huge brick kilns, along with H G Matthews' own hand and machine made bricks. After firing is complete, the sculpture is reassembled - using the unique marks scribed on each brick to follow a careful construction plan.
Individual pieces of each sculpture may have a range of characteristics - such as slightly different sizes, darker tones or cracks - depending on how hot they get in the kiln.
The process doesn't necessarily stop after firing and reassembly, as Shivashtie also adds colour and detail to her sculptures by glazing the bricks, or including other items in the final piece.
Shivashtie says: "It's about me being intuitive with the size and shape - I don't actually plan it. It is a reflection of how I feel at the time and a response to the material."
Her sculptures of faces made from ceramic and stoneware involve a range of techniques and materials.
Many of the pieces are based on a mould made from her own face, which is used in many different ways.
She creates a wide variety of different effects by experimenting with different materials - such as by embedding mesh in the clay - and glazes.
Her time at Uxbridge College played an important part in her becoming an artist.
Simon Clark, Head of Creative Studies at Uxbridge College, said: "Shivashtie was an outstanding student during her time at Uxbridge College, so it is no surprise she is doing so well. It is brilliant seeing her creating such original, interesting work and exhibiting it so successfully. Like many of our students on BTEC courses, she used her studies as a route on to a degree, and found that what she had learned stood her in good stead during her higher studies."
More information about Shivashtie's exhibitions and work can be seen at her website www.shivashtie.co.uk.
Shivashtie will be exhibiting at:
* Battersea Contemporary Art Fair 2010, Battersea Arts Centre, SW11, www.bcaf.info - 4 to 16 May.
* Untitled Artists Fair, Chelsea Old Town Hall, www.untitledartistsfair.co.uk, - 4 to 6 June.
* O3 Gallery, Oxford Castle, New Road, Oxford OX1 1AY - 1 May to 6 June.