Artist of the Month, Bernadette Alcock, Lifelong Exploration

by Sandra Marshall

Bernadette Alcock holds fast to the creative drive of her family. She has great love and respect for the crafts that her mother and grandmothers taught her. Equally important, these women showed her that for a successful life, one should never give up.  Bernadette considers herself fortunate to have been surrounded by these strong women. They lived the notion that success is about feeling good about yourself. 

Bernadette has travelled from coast to coast in Canada and abroad, with opportunities to spend vacations in warm-weather seaside locations.  Wherever she went, she sought out art galleries to learn and explore on her journey. Her passion for learning and creating continued in graphic design, business analysis, social media marketing, chocolate making, landscape design, gardening: All types of art, be it painting, felting, fused glass, knitting, or sculpting. 

Bernadette pays close attention to her environment and observes what others may overlook. Nature’s energy inspires her, and she becomes engrossed in the subject she is sculpting, forgetting all else. Continuous learning is another important part of her process. An example is her discovery of liquid polymer medium which was developed in Europe in 2012. Bernadette has been captured by its sculpture potential- learning the techniques through in-person workshops and perusing the literature and art magazines.  She became a certified instructor in 2014 and has led many workshops. During Covid, Google became her best avenue in finding online workshops and inspirational ideas.

Bernadette enjoys the three-dimensional possibilities of liquid polymer and wire sculpture.  And she also relishes transforming objects and recycling from natural fabrics and old jewellery. In fact, any natural product: wool, hair, leather, even floral all inspire her compositions.  Her creations are fun, decorative pieces in the home -or in the garden where the polymer medium protects them from the outdoors. Up cycling for Bernadette is a fun way to not only reduce waste and carbon footprint. She can look an object that has seen better times and give it a new life, a reward for her.  Bernadette loves creating sculpture.

Paverpol and Powertex are the two main polymer products Bernadette uses.  They are eco-friendly, non-toxic textile hardeners developed for natural fabrics.  Her boundless imagination finds the possibilities to be endless.  As a universal medium for all artwork, sculpture, painting, and decoration, it can be used on canvas, textiles, paper, cardboard, plush, leather, fiberglass mat and all natural materials. The polymer can be perfectly combined with self-hardening clays, concrete, stone, ceramics, wood, sand, stone, even waxes. 

Her portrayal of women, young and old, suggests the historical inequality between the sexes, her way to ensure that gender equality remains a focus. She shows children as free spirits with expressive character and enthusiasm. Her days are brightened when creating them. 

Bernadette prefers to create with her own ideas and feels more freedom to experiment with subject and mood. When she started the sculpture process, women and children were always her source of inspiration.  Everyday life- sports, music, and dancing – was the source that was integrated into her work.  She selects bronze or black as the base polymer colours, which she enlivens with added colour and detail, part of her unique style.  She often employs many different types of fibres in her sculptures. Their texture adds enticing detail to work.

Perhaps it is the functional mechanisms of clocks and bicycles which pique Bernadette’s curiosity. She adds them to her collection for possible incorporation into her work, where they become functional, eye-catching ensembles. Bikes also embody asense of adventure and exploration, the thrill of riding free of cars and experiencing breathtaking views. Bernadette sees the bicycle as a powerful symbol of hope. Riding a bike spurs her creative process, connecting landscape with art and design.  Bicycles symbolize that intersection.

Often, an art enthusiast hesitates to bring a sculpture home because of a perceived limitation of placement. Bernadette suggests that how one displays a three-dimensional piece is often as important as the artwork itself. It can sit on a pedestal, shelf, be suspended from a ceiling or integrated into the outdoor landscape.

To start in the liquid polymer medium Bernadette says ‘’Start with an idea! ‘’  No matter what the subject, even abstract, think about the story of how it got in that position, what happens after that moment in time? Good Art flows from good design. I would estimate that by the time I start building a sculpture I’ve spent as many hours designing it (in my head) as it will take to physically build it.  Secondly, think about how to make it structurally sound.

I use wire to build my armatures.  The wire armature is key to the success of my sculptures as it not only holds the sculpture up but it’s the armature’s pose that will tell the story you want your sculpture to tell.   The armature also performs a very practical role in that it holds your sculpture up. Therefore, you need to make sure that you build in any structural elements necessary to support the weight of the sculpture or any extensions to the sculpture. I.e. any objects that you figure may be holding or carrying. Wire is a magical support for this medium because it can support the light weight of the polymer medium and has the flexibility to allow the many gestures that the sculpture can assume.

Be brave, experiment, the possibilities are endless!   There are no mistakes in art, and many  happy accidents. The sentiment that Bernadette feels when it is complete is joyous.

Bernadette connects with others at art exhibitions through conversations about her process- idea-conception-building.  Each sculpture’s story and energy engage people to identify with it and to share it with others. Those connections are strongest when children are part of her piece,  reminders of a child or grandchild. Each time a new member arrives into her family, a new sculpture is requested.  Faces light up with happy nostalgia when Bernadette incorporates a special vintage toy or childhood object.

Commission work is often intimidating for Bernadette, as she wants to connect with the client’s emotions and thinking.  First connections are the rock on which understanding grows.  Talking about reference photos, questions about details and intended placement are all important to better understanding.  People want to take pieces home because of an emotional bond, a cherished memory.  It is a thrill and breath-holding experience when clients first see their commissioned piece. 

You can see more of Bernadette’s work at

About mariasaracino

Figurative Artist
This entry was posted in art classes, Art Shows, Art Workshops, Artist of the Month, Canadian Stone Carving Festival, clay artists, clay sculpture, Exhibition Opportunities, learn how to sculpt, Member Event, Member Profiles, Metal Art, Miscellaneous, Network Show, Online Art Gallery, paverpol, polymer clay, sculpting workshops, Sculpture Atelier, Sculpture events, sculpture show, Stone Carver, stone sculpture, The Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, The national capital network of sculptors, workshops and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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