Local artist teaches classes overseas

Local fused glass artist Marguerite Beneke has just returned from a very successful trip to England, where she presented two three-day workshops to enthusiasts from the UK and other European countries.

Marguerite works from her studio in Aberdeen, where she has a small showroom, and is well known for her exquisite fused glass art. Her work is featured in upmarket galleries in various centres around South Arica as well as in local outlets. She is a self-taught artist, and her work includes abstracts, Karoo scenes, and landscapes.

Thanks largely to the internet and particularly social media, Marguerite’s work is becoming increasingly well-known worldwide. She is an active member of a global fused glass facebook group, and has received acclaim and interest from other artists all over the world who are keen to learn more about her unique style and techniques.

She has received invitations from teaching studios in several countries, although the logistics of obtaining the necessary specialist materials and the travelling involved have always been limiting factors.

The recent workshops in Ilminster, in the rural English county of Somerset, were the result of a great deal of preparatory work and research, and Marguerite (and her students) thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Most fused glass artists use stained glass, and build up layers of glass for depth. What makes Marguerite’s work different is that she uses ordinary window glass and the colour comes from applied glass enamel paint. She also adds surface decoration for texture such as frits (crushed glass) and copper wire to build up layers.

Marguerite was accompanied by her husband Pieter, who was able to spend some time exploring the local countryside whilst she was busy with the classes. In true English fashion, they were greeted by rain on arrival, but after the hot and arid Karoo, they were thrilled to see the lush green grass!

The comments posted by some of the participants on Marguerite’s own facebook page are testimony to the admiration of the students: “fabulous class, I have learnt such a lot from such a generous tutor” and “the best workshop ever” – these, from experienced artists who have many skills of their own and mostly attended many workshops over the years. There was great interest for a return workshop next year, but nothing has yet been finalised.

Marguerite taught in the corporate world in Pretoria before moving to the Karoo and devoting herself to her art full-time, and so was not stressed by having to address a group of strangers. However, her home language is Afrikaans, and the regional accents of some of her pupils did on occasions lead to some confusion! An amusing anecdote she related is that a lady from Spain asked a question – due to a different emphasis in the pronunciation, there was some confusion about “enamels” (with the emphasis on the first syllable) and animals!

After the courses, the Benekes were able to spend a few days as tourists, and enjoyed some iconic fish and chips, as well as tasting Yorkshire pudding for the first time.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity to travel and meet people in the same industry” enthused Marguerite.

The travelling is not over, as in August the Benekes are heading to Canada, where Marguerite will be presenting three workshops at a studio in Ottawa. The interest in North America is such that these were quickly sold out, and a further series arranged for May 2020 is also fully booked, with a waiting list! Several of the participants for the Ottawa workshops will be travelling from the United States.

Aberdeen is justifiably proud of this very talented resident, whose generous yet humble nature endear her to all she meets!

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