Gwen Heeney gained her undergraduate degree in 3 dimensional design ceramics from Bristol Polytechnic, before completing an MA in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art. Following this achievement she was awarded the position of Research Fellow in “Architectural Ceramics” at the University of Wales.
Indicative of her valuable contribution to critical debates in ceramics and art theory, Heeney completed her book “Brickworks” in 2003. The text examines the re-emergence of ceramic brick as a key material in installation, public and environmental art practices. Through discussion with artists, architects, engineers and crafts people Heeney places brick at the centre of new public art strategies seeking to engage issues of site-specificity and community involvement. Following the publication of “Brickworks”, Heeney was invited to work with the “Archie Bray Foundation” USA, as a visiting artist and Myhre Scholar, to develop new work using the medium of ceramic brick. In 2006 her resulting project, titled “Light Stacks Archie Bray”, was permanently situated at the “Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts”, Montana USA. The work explores the movement of light over the landscape and employs a six metre tall metal structure based on a shadow found within the derelict brick factory on the site , which supports disassembled carved bricks stacked in a grid pattern, forcing light to reflect and focus.
Following an invitation to speak and develop work at the “International Symposium on Outdoor Ceramic Sculpture” in Icheon, Korea – an event organised by the “World Ceramic Exposition Foundation” Heeney worked at the Institutions “Ceramics Research Centre” to produce a specific artwork in collaboration with a Korean brick company which was permanently sited outside the “Museum of Contemporary Ceramics” in Icheon. This resulted in “Transformation” (2004/05), a large-scale figural form created using industrial firing processes and inspired by an historical artefact in the museum’s collection.
In 2002 Heeney organised and contributed to a conference panel delivered as part of the “National Conference for Education in the Ceramic Arts”, Kansas, Missouri USA. Titled “Bricks, Material, Method and Metaphor” the collaborative presentation comprised artists, historians and ceramicists and examined the use of wet and fired brick in public art. Heeney’s contribution focused upon architectural scale public art and explored collaboration between artists and the brick industry and the strengths and weaknesses of using industrial methods in such projects.