Glass Cleaning Tips

I clean a lot of glass in my work, and whether it’s my blown glass that I’m getting spotless for a show, event, or customer, or whether it’s getting the shelves on which the work is to be displayed, getting glass clean has become both science and art. I thought I’d pass along a few tips for cleaning glass that I have found indispensable. 
First, forget glass cleaners. That’s right, forget them. I’m sorry to say that while the rest of the world is using Windex glass cleaner, I have long since given up on this product for a far superior product that is more effective and, gasp! Cheaper!
Glass cleaners do clean glass. The problem with cleaners like Windex is that they contain polish and this always leaves a film behind. If you want a cleaner that gets right to it and leaves no residue, buy a gallon of distilled white vinegar. It cuts grease and dirt and leaves no residue once all dirt and grease are dissolved. The nice thing is that vinegar is an excellent degreaser and I have been using it exclusively as a cleaner for my glass as well as my kitchen counter tops and surfaces. The advantage here is that there are no more chemicals or dyes and the cleaner is as hypoallergenic as you can get. 
Remember to get distilled white vinegar since this has no residue from the fruits used to make it (like Apple cider vinegar has).

A Magic Material

Next on the list is not even a cleaner per se, but a material that cuts down significantly on your use of vinegar in the first place. This wonder is called a microfiber cloth
Microfiber came into vogue over a decade ago, and once I was given one by an exhibitor with whom I shared some technical information with (as a kind thank-you), I became a believer in its ability to spit-shine my glass…..without the spit!  If you haven’t used microfiber yet, you should, because it can greatly reduce the need to use ANY cleaning fluids on mildly mussed glass. 
The fibers pick up dirt extremely well and lock the dirt in the fibers. Just remember to give your cloths a good cleaning with mild soap and a vinegar rinse every so often. It is good for dozens of cleanings of window panes, metal objects, or just about anything shiny (do be careful with plastics, love, as they can be mildly abrasive to them). Just bear in mind, microfiber will work only on dirt films on glass and is not designed to sop up big spills. For that, I offer the towel, be it paper or terry cloth.
If you bring these two simple ingredients into your arsenal of cleaning, you will find your world cleaner without the need of the expense of the vast cornucopia of chemistry now under your kitchen sink. 
I hope that you have had a marvelous holiday, and if things are in need of a little cleaning, I hope you will give my suggestions a try. My work here is done. Godspeed and good morrow, my dear glass enthusiasts!

A World OF Delicious (FREE) Digital Content


Museums today are in a state of rapid change.  They are changing due to our changing landscape in the digital domain. As a result, many museums are making their content available in an open and free way to those who view their web sites.  Some museums have NO limit to how the images are used, while others have some restrictions, such as unlimited noncommercial use.  To find out the specifics, you will need to read the fine print.

To assist you in this effort, I am including a list of links to a variety of museums world-wide who have open content.  A sampling of them: (Use acronym OASC for the copyright-free stuff)

Biomorphic Abstraction For ARTS306

Today I am putting up some images for my students in their 3-D course that has to do with our final project which will involve subtractive methods in sculpture.

The images I am going to show you are just starting points.  And yes, I am limiting you in some ways by asking you to stick to biomorphic abstraction.  There are reasons for this.  First, you may have only carved from a block or wood or stone a few times in your life, if at all.  The ability to render realistic details in a material like this requires years of study, or a natural ability to do it, like a savant.  So by being realistic about this, biomorphic abstraction will allow you to ponder and think about the foundation or forms that make up our world without a slavish fidelity to them.  This will allow you to make “mistakes” without losing your piece.

I explained in class, for those of you who were there 🙂 that the process of subtractive sculpture is very different from any other method tried so far.  It requires planning out your concept on paper or in a small model (I gave out clay to those who want to mold a model) so that you can transfer your piece to the block in order to know what you will begin taking away.  In this method, you begin with a block and then transfer an image of your piece in profile on each corresponding facet or plane of the block.  This method requires that you align each profile as close as possible so that once you begin carving, your profiles all match up into one cohesive form.  Simple measuring twice and cutting once is the concept to follow.  this often means taking time to think through your piece ahead of time and as you lay it out on the block.  For your purposes, a sharpie works fine, is fairly permanent, and wont scratch off right away (until you carve along the lines).

This project is wide open to you besides the requirement that it be abstract.  I want to see you think about composition, creating an interesting and engaging form that works in the round.  To achieve this, most often, you need forms that flow from one to the other through the use of line and gentle transitions from one plane to another.  While a focal point is fine for a piece like this, expect us to look at your finished work by turning or walking around it.  This is where having a model to work from can be so useful.  Conceiving the piece on paper is okay, but having a model will give you a tried and true real-world simulation of what your finished piece will be like. If something does not flow or move you around the piece, a quick adjustment to the clay can solve it.  I encourage you to use some sort of clay material to make your model.  🙂

Okay, that said, look at some images related to this project.  Some are by well known artists, and some are by students.  Some are even in plaster. I will have some notes at the end for anyone who was not present for our talk this past week about lay-out and tools used that can be really useful (and are cheap!).

Jean Arp, bronze.  Looks like a figure (s) but has a lot of energy. Seems to be expanding, contracting?
Jean Arp, bronze. Looks like a figure (s) but has a lot of energy. Seems to be expanding, contracting?
Jean Arp Again, marble.
Jean Arp Again, marble.

04PlasterSculpture_l 06PlasterSculpture_l

Three views of the same piece, artist unknown.
Three views of the same piece, artist unknown.

The piece above is a good example of how you choose to mount or place the piece can give the form more energy (on an angle).  Remember how lines that are diagonal are more dynamic?  Same here…

Bronze sculpture, artists unknown.
Bronze sculpture, artists unknown.
Student work, plaster.
Student work, plaster.
Student work, plaster.
Student work, plaster.

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Student work, plaster.
Student work, plaster.
Henry Moore
Henry Moore



Henry Moore, bronze
Henry Moore, bronze


Henry Moore, bronze (multiple views)
Henry Moore, bronze (multiple views)


IMG_0369 IMG_0373 IMG_0370

This piece was made more visually dynamic when the student placed the piece up on one of the “knobs” and found a balance point.



Barbara Hepworth, Mother and Child.


Okay, this piece?  This is not a carving, no. But this is an example of what you wont be able to do with plaster!  Remember that plaster is fairly weak in thin cross-sections, so think bulk forms. If you want tendril-like effects, you can carve them into the surface of a larger form, much like how you did your reliefs, extending off the surface.  You can get all kinds of surface effects, and while most of the pieces are smooth, you do not need to do smooth; how would texture work with your piece?  Using a tool like a nail over a smooth surface could add a great deal of visual energy, like a pointalist effect.  Or carving lines into the surface, as I described earlier?  There are lots of possibilities.  But looking at your proposals will help me to help you navigate what forms will be workable, possible, and not make your next few weeks of the semester filled with sheer frustration!

Hopefully weather will cooperate and we will have some classes where you can bring your piece and we can carve outside.  I can show you some really fast ways to rough out your pieces and get moving on the work. Having your tools on-hand once the piece is cast will be good to do because carving plaster when it is still damp makes it much easier, especially for the roughing out process!  Also, you can use a cheap dinner knife (not the sharp kind) and I can sharpen it so it is a good carving tool.  Also, taking duct tape to a knife handle makes it easier to grasp and will limit the likelihood of getting blisters on your fingers.

Here are a few links for you to use if you need them to refer back, look deeper if you feel uninspired or stuck.

Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture garden in U.K.:

This sculpture park of Hepworth’s work you can see a more cubistic turn in her work, for what it is worth….

Henry Moore:

2nd Page of the Moore: (a little more interesting, if you ask me….)

This is made out of paper, so its not a subtractive method, but its kind of cool, especially if you are getting bored right about now….

This is a great site for all things art….If you scroll through, you will find examples of biomorphic abstraction.  So much of this type of search is just looking and consuming images and finding what interests you….browsing is encouraged!

Okay, so that should get you thinking!  Keep this piece small so you can keep the costs down.  Six inches in any dimension should be enough.  You CAN do larger, but it might mean needing to get more plaster.

This piece is due the last day of class.  As mentioned in class, if everyone is good with that time-line, you can be done before exam week.  However, if people need more time, we go to our meeting time during exam week.  Otherwise, there is no final exam, just a review of your work.  Your paper piece is due the second to last class meeting (important to get it done soon so its out of the way as you begin the plaster piece!!).  Bring money for plaster next class meeting.  Also, a “jab saw” which is found in Lowes in the tool section is a very useful tool for doing the rough-out of your piece and will save you LOTS of time.  Paring knives that have strong blades that do not flex much can be good carving tools.  Peelers can be good for more finished work.  There is also a tool used for scraping callouses that looks like a mini-grater sold in beauty sections of stores that is also good for finish work.  For the final finish, sand paper in grits 120 and 400-600 range are two good choices for finishing your piece for those smooth surfaces.


The Promise Of The Creative

©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford

Many years ago I had a series of dreams where Picasso would show up and teach me something related to art.  I don’t fully understand why I would have Picasso of all people showing up in my dream landscape except to act in a symbolic role as a creative catalyst.  Picasso casts such a long shadow on so much, and from a historical perspective, I get it.  I just never connected with his work that much.  These dreams though ran the gamut from technique to content concerns in art.  One of them helped to cement a notion that I probably had rolling around in the back of my head which I managed to bring more to the forefront of awareness, which is how as artists, we take nothing for granted.  It is this sense that birthed the modern movement in art, breaking away from sheer representation of objects as had been the way for centuries, to a complete departure from what all of that entailed.  It has given birth to Pop, Op, Surrealism, and a slew of movements within modernism.

In this dream, I am looking out across a grass-filled yard and I see a figure down on his knees looking at the ground.  There he was, and he was beckoning me to come closer.  I walked up to him, wondering what this was all about and he looked at me with these wide eyes and said, “If you look at the surface of things, you wont see it.  Don’t take what you see for granted; there are worlds right in front of you!”  He then nestled his nose down into the grass and urged me to stick my face down in the grass, which I did.  He pushed me to nose down deeper into the grass.  As I looked, I saw how the grass became a canopy, and that canopy opened up into a dense realm of life beneath seeing.  He urged me, “Look deeper!” and as I did so, I saw ants, which had been nothing but specks, explode into view.  Small mushrooms that were growing beneath the grass loomed into view.  He kept pushing me, telling me how everything was animated inwardly by a life of its own.  It was this life that artists seek to bring to life, to show the inside of what life is about.  As I did this, I noticed how the mushrooms began to glow with something, a kind of light or life within them.  It was in some ways indistinct, and yet, what it told me was that what I normally would pass over, had its own reality, its own importance if we could stop long enough to just see it.  We miss these things because we simply do not take the time and focus in a very particular way to soak this life up.  This might seem “woo-woo” to you, but it is widely known amongst the mystics and inner seekers that a part of all seeing is only possible by looking within.  There is a reason for this, but that is a story for another day.  This is where the realm of the ordinary doesn’t just transform but is revealed, perhaps for the first time.

For the last two years I have been slowly but surely studying glass in a way that is not too differently from that day in the grass with my Picasso.  I have begun to take my camera and use its power of magnification to get closer and deeper into the material in a way that most people do not see into.  Glass is itself not animate in the way ants or grass or mushrooms might be, but it is nonetheless a material that responds to the environment around it in fascinating ways, in ways that we might not always see simply because of the vast amount of information that our eye takes in and that our brains filter out.  I have begun this “close look” with no notion of just what I will find, and like an adventurer, have gone looking to see what is there.

Artists often pride themselves in how much control they have in their craft.  It is most often what makes artists what they are.  What they do is called art because they are able to transform the mundane until it becomes profound.  Whatever that means, it most often entails a technical capability to lay paint onto the canvas, or to push and shape raw clay into a myriad of amazing forms.  In my case, it is glass.

What I have been doing is filling folders with visual information, snippets, pieces, parts, and more.  I am like a woodsman gathering wood, thinking he might light a fire only to find that he is actually building a house.  Where this leads is already taking shape, and begins to form the corpus or body of a whole new direction creatively.  And it wasn’t really intentional, but the possibilities are so exciting that while it moves me away from my familiar 3-D orientation as an artist, it also moves me into realms that I find are marvelous.  In this way, the material I am gathering suggests certain directions. I am making decisions all the way, but it feels far more collaborative a process than has been the case in the past.  I like this.  I like tricking myself into thinking I have no earthly idea what will come next, because in truth, my intuition has built a realm of possibilities all floating in front of me, or just behind my eyes and sometimes behind my awareness.  I LIKE working this way for the simple reason that when I work so rationally and intentionally as I used to, the results are rarely as good or as exciting as when I let go and allow something a little broader and perhaps beyond the scope of my rational to take the reins.  Again, that might sound woo-woo to some, but it is in truth what all the great thinkers and mystics down through the ages have been pointing to as a hitherto lesser known part of ourselves.  Its less intending as it is letting go of the vast filtering and biasing effect that take place within our minds every single second of every day in order to touch on another aspect of who and what we are.  Mind you, I am not saying that I am relying on accident.  Accidents can sometimes suggest new directions simply because you never had thought of it and some random movement or event in the studio results in such an outcome.  Certainly Jackson Pollock looked down at the paint dribble that had landed on his canvas and decided to try a little more, then more, and then wound up filling canvases with it.  This is less accident and more suggestion.  But the suggestion exists simply because I am so open to it.

Orbital #4

The images that you see are copies of images that exist in high resolution taken in certain kinds of lighting and at just the right angle.  I am seeking to get the glass to show me how it can look different as I move it around in the light.  From one single three-inch swath, I can get five completely different results based on the angle the glass has to the light and what lies behind the glass itself.  I am investigating just how interactive glass is in its environment.  It offers up some amazing possibilities.  Many of the images that I am showing here came from just a couple of pieces of blown glass from the studio.


I call these “Orbitals” partly because the forms that the glass pieces take.  They are round, and they suggest environments, worlds, planets of some sort, perhaps.  Some beg to be scanned, and some have no focal point.  This is where I come in by using these images as the basis for assembling a new form with these images as part of the material from which I will draw.  This work is in its early stages, even after two years of doing this close up work.  It has grown and developed from a series of photos taken from some of my pieces by a client and friend who found them fascinating up close.  I do too, and I have taken this and run with it, although in the beginning I had no idea where it was leading.

To be clear, though, the images aren’t manipulated in post production hardly at all.  The most I ever do is to adjust lighting and adjust sharpness.  Everything else, though, is as I saw it originally, which are amazingly rich and fascinating landscapes, environments, and even worlds within the one we normally see.

Orbital Landscape 2
Orbital Landscape

Certainly these will lead to painting on large shaped canvases of some sort, but exactly how this all comes together is a work in progress.  And really, this is what I am doing, giving you a peek into this early stage process and hoping that perhaps in some small way, it can serve as inspiration for you in your day to day to see things differently.  Sometimes, looking beyond the obvious is all that it takes!