Friday, July 9, 2010

Guilt is only wasted energy.

My biggest concern when I started this blog was the sense of obligation I'd have to keep it current. I knew I'd feel guilty if I lapsed but the fact is I'd rather play with glass or dig in my garden or hang with my friends and family than sit at my computer (some of you are laughing because you know I actually do spent a lot of time at my computer).

But the "my blog" button on my tool bar glares at me every time I sit down to read emails or connect with folks via Facebook, so I've started to feel guilty. I no longer write "blog!" on my weekly calendar. Sigh. This was supposed to be fun! I mean, I love talking about glass! I continually bore my family with my ideas, experiments and glass-related activities.

So, excuses aside, I'm casting off any guilty feelings about my absence (life's too short for guilt; I'm declaring that right now), and attempting to bring you up to speed on where my glass exploration has been and is going.

Back in April I attended the Glass Craft & Bead Expo in Las Vegas for the first time. I was only able to take one class but it was a great one, with Gail Stouffer of Wired Designs Studios in Texas. We worked with powders (my most recent obsession) and explored the crackle technique and powder wafers invented by Bob Leatherbarrow. Here are a couple pieces I've made:

The class was fun but the trade show was thrilling. Here in Santa Rosa we don't have a large glass community. I fly to Bullseye Glass in Portland, Oregon when I need a serious glass shopping fix, so imagine my delight wandering through the exhibition hall full of vendors from all over the nation, offering wholesale pricing on their goodies!

I bought more dichro than I need (but like shoes or jewelry, can a girl really have too much?), a few interesting texture molds, and an all-fiber kiln for quicker fusing of some of my work.

A good lesson in networking came when Gail insisted on introducing me to some key people at Bullseye, who are in the marketing and sales department (people I wouldn't likely have contact with as a consumer). Gail surprised me by insisting that I should be teaching fused glass in my area, and the team at Bullseye agreed.

In May, I accepted an invitation from Bullseye to attend a week-long Dealer's Forum, which essentially trains you how to teach. I'm still amazed at all that was packed into that week. Nathan Sandberg was our instructor; he's extremely talented and very generous with his methods. I've been cutting glass since before Nathan was born (gasp!) but came home using a new method.

Some of the things we covered:
We did a Glass CSI exercise where there were dozens of samples of problematic fused pieces and we were given the firing schedule, lay-up, etc. and had to determine what went wrong. Truly invaluable and I was pleased that I knew more than I thought I did.

We dissected firing schedules, going over each segment so we would know exactly how and why to program our kiln for a specific project.

Next we experienced and made the projects that would be done in an Intro to Fusing and Slumping class. Of course, we fast-tracked it a little but doing the projects like a beginner helped prepare us to teach it ourselves.

We then made multiple teaching example pieces to use in our own classes. Examples illustrating volume control, intentional (and unintentional) bubbles, transparency and opalescence, and more. Here's a sample of how various accessory glasses (who knew it was called that? Not me!) behave when layered over white, black and clear:

After that, each of us gave a slide presentation of our body of work. We had three participants from Denmark, one from Alaska, two from Southern California, one from the bay area, and me. I'm continually amazed at how different everyone's approach is with the same glass!

Our next lesson was open kiln casting. I can already see that I'm going to have to rework my studio space to allow for some wet experimenting. We created a master and then a mold and chose either frit or billet to fill them. We even had the opportunity to preview some luscious new tints Bullseye just introduced. This photo was taken before any cold working was done but you'll get the idea. My pyramid is the pale yellow one:

Since those thick pieces take so long to fuse, we spent the next day touring Bullseye's gallery downtown and attending a marketing workshop (where I was reminded what a great tool a blog is). The highlight of the gallery tour was getting to view the basement, where past and future exhibit pieces are stored. I've posted many of the photos I took on my Facebook site but I'll put a favorite here:

Our next project was called Beyond 6mm. We made a half-inch thick piece and then spent several hours in the cold working shop. While we were able to use the wet belt sander and 24" lap wheel, I really appreciated Nathan showing us how to cold work like most people would: by hand. We used diamond hand pads and made a slurry of silicon carbide to get those half-inch edges nice and smooth. The other aspect of that project was working with Bullseye's line of pale tints. Here's a shot of those pieces:

From there we spent time with Bonnie Celeste, who's work with color reactions is so inspiring. I came home with plenty of new ideas and glass to do some tests of my own.

Nathan did a vitrograph demonstration and shared a new technique he's doing making thicker canes. I'll be getting my small kiln back onto its stand to make some for myself. We touched on kiln-forming with rod, which is just another fascinating technique to add to my must-do list.

One evening was spent at Lani McGregor's house (one of Bullseye's owners). Her husband Dan gave us an intimate tour of every room, where they take potential customers so they can see how you can live with glass in a home setting. It's one thing to drool over pieces in a gallery but knowing how to properly display and light them in your own setting is essential. That tour was one of the most memorable highlights.

Nathan wrapped up the week with a tour of the factory, followed by tips on structuring our classes and answered any questions we had. I'm thrilled to be supported by Bullseye in my efforts to bring new classes to my community. I'm researching locations now and collecting ideas about the classes I want to teach; stay tuned!

I took over 600 photos that week in Portland. See my Facebook page for a few albums.

In June I participated in Art at the Source, a juried two-weekend open studio event. I was hosted in a beautiful, light-filled Victorian home where I was able to spread out and display a large amount of inventory. Sales were much better than expected, despite a heat wave that sent many potential customers to the beach.

My family vacationed in Boston for a few days at the end of June and then traveled through Mystic, Connecticut for a night on our way to New York for the remainder of the trip. In Boston, we visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History where they were showcasing a vast collection of flame-worked glass flowers from the late 1800s. Even with my face pressed to the glass cabinets, I could hardly believe they were glass. Here's one:

In New York, I spent a day with my friend Nina Falk, who's art continues to be some of my favorite. We visited the Heller Gallery, which "has long been recognized for playing a seminal role in promoting contemporary sculpture that celebrates the use of glass as a fine art medium." Nina asked and we were granted a tour of their basement, which was every bit as wonderful as Bullseye's.

We wrapped up our trip with a day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even a full day isn't enough time to appreciate all that they have on display. I can sum up the tour by saying I was simply moved to tears by so much of what I saw. Truly overwhelming, humbling and invigorating. To see the pressure applied to a brushstroke painted in 2600 bc in a border design on a pottery urn just took my breath away. Living my life celebrating and exploring creative outlets is truly what feeds my soul. To see––in person––art that was created so long ago by someone who may have felt the same way, was so touching and something I'll never forget.

On a touristy note, my older son saw one of his favorite comedian/actors in Times Square, and this guy stopped me on the street, begging for a photo:

So now I'm home and just made a flight reservation to attend my second Professional Artist in Residency program at the Pilchuck Glass School at the end of August. I spent a week there last summer doing exercises to further the development of my art, participating in feedback discussions with 15 artists who are glass celebrities (in my opinion) and just rejoicing in one of the most spiritual, tucked-away art communities I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

October brings ARTrails, another two weekend open studio show, in which I open my studio to the public. Lots to do and lots to make; I've got to get off the computer and out to the studio!

Here's hoping your summer is spent doing everything you love, with people you love being with.


Anonymous said...

Valerie, What a wonderful journey your art is taking you on. Sounds so exciting.

Belichek said...

Very beautifully and informative!!!!!