Artist Profile: Layla Walter
Written by Anusha Bhana for Art Ache
Refined. Elegant. Meditative. Ephemeral. Contemplative. Poignant – just some of words used to describe the work of Layla Walter.
We live in a world increasingly plagued by complex environmental, social and political issues, and pursue lives that are filled to the brim with competing demands. So art that captures a positive feeling, invokes a sense of calm and contemplation, allowing us to take a deep breath and recharge, can provide much needed mental and emotional relief.
Herein lies the essential nature of Layla Walters’ artworks.
“Beautiful objects are my voice – promoting peace by making objects of beauty.” – Layla Walter
Born in Wellington and raised in the unique natural and creative environment of the Coromandel Peninsula, Layla Walter is one of Aotearoa’s most critically acclaimed cast glass artists. Her work resides internationally in gallery and museum collections, as well as in the homes of high profile celebrities.
When it came to a decision between pursuing a career in nursing or art, Layla credits her chosen career path to a Tibetan Lama’s insight during a Buddhist retreat in Kathmandu at age 18 -“it’s more beneficial to others if you do art school” he told her. A Bachelor of Design degree majoring in 3D Glass at Unitec in Auckland soon ensued, introducing Layla to lecturer and glass artist Elizabeth McClure. This was closely followed by a 15-year stint working alongside celebrated cast glass art pioneer Ann Robinson, who mentored her in the ancient art of lost wax casting, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Layla’s cast glass creations epitomises what it means to embrace the organic forms of the natural environment and explore our relationship with nature and each other, “All of my work pretty much relates to people and places of importance to me and that’s just something that’s a thread within my own work. For me, I don’t exist without the kindness of others.”
The vessel, an essentially domestic object, often impersonal and machine-made has been reimagined by Layla into one that is personal, delicate and unique. Each vessel champions nature – blossoms, buds, birds, linear abstract forms that appear and disappear from the mass of glass.
When at Unitec studying art, Layla had a sculpture teacher who upon observing her practice one day said “You’re doing what women have done for centuries, you’re holding a vessel in your lap and working it with your hands”. For Layla making vessels is “a homage to the everyday and the domestic, and to the everyday living of lives.”
On display at Art Ache will be a selection of cast glass vessels alongside a new series of watercolour prints produced with guidance from iconic printmaker/painter and fellow Coromandel-ite, Stanley Palmer.
The print series depicts the symbolic Camelia flower in honour of Suffrage 125, alongside a vinyl cut white camellia to be affixed to the exterior of the of the Ellen Melville Centre’s Betty Wark Room and surrounding area, both projects a first for Layla.
The white Camellia is symbolic of the women’s suffrage movement, the flower presented to those members of the House of Representatives who had voted in favour of women gaining the vote in 1893.
Stanley and Layla’s professional relationship extends beyond Art Ache. In 2013 they co-exhibited works at Melanie Roger Gallery – Stanley a series of landscape prints based on his time spent on Great Mercury Island, Layla a series of cast glass vessels also based on time spent on the island, echoing Stanley’s imagery and colour palette.
This year Stanley and Layla joined forces again, Layla describing the experience with fondness on Instagram:
“He said “I’m not going to do this for you” smiling, but really he has been right there, spent several hours in the morning mixing the colours just right, then left me to it. Me working on the kitchen table, him in the studio. Late in the day he filled in some of the stems indigo grey.”
Amid the luminescent hues of turquoise, grassy green, lemon yellow, indigo, magenta and lilac lie expertly crafted artworks that capture an aesthetic beauty that charms the viewer. Layla Walter is, like her cast glass vessels, a beacon for warmth, beauty and compassion in a world that can all too often feel cold and ugly.
Event Press Release.
Layla’s Art Ache Collection Artwork.
Aimée Ralfini interviews Layla – listen to the podcast.
Not in Auckland or can’t make the event? DONT WORRY! We’ve got you sorted :-). You can still support (and donate to) the artist and Art Ache by purchasing one of the Art Ache Collect archival prints from our shop. These artworks are limited and have been created specifically for this particular Art Ache event, with the utopian theme in mind.