art glass

Art and Design, glassblowing

Sand Into Light


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Today I am taking someone up on helping me write something about my campaign.

 


 

©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford – Closeup Of The Large Gaia Lamp

 

Parker Stafford, Owner and founder of Stafford Art Glass in Newport, Virginia, launches his crowdfunding campaign Lighting The Gaia Lamp to bring a new innovation in art glass and lighting to market.  Normally Parker is accustomed to funding projects himself, but after a series of changes in his year financially, it has caused him to look differently at how funding is procured to bring new products to market.  If the maker of the next new electronic gadget can raise thousands overnight, what keeps a designer studio in the New River Valley from business as usual?  It was time to go back to the drawing board and think big so he could take the project large.  It was time to leverage the power of the crowd now available to us courtesy of the internet.

Lamp 1
©Parker Stafford – Gaia Lamp

The campaign centers on a line of work that was first designed in 2003 and has been in production for close to a decade.  The glass, originally called “Rare Earth” is painted with the fire and intense heat of the glass artisan’s language that melts and makes a thousand small elements into one, in the fire of the furnace. This is a fire that is so hot that if you stand in front of it longer than a minute, your clothes will start to smoke before  bursting into flame.  You think I am joking. You might wonder, then, how it is that a glassblower could ever coax objects of crystalline beauty from such an extreme environment.  It is a good question.  But to understand this, you have to learn a little more about what Parker is doing here, because this is an even bigger mystery.

It is like a poet who bids the earth speak. It seemed something big enough to suggest Greek legends or myths.  The name came as he hooked up the first vase.  A light, literally, was lit in his mind.

“Rare Earth” is a complex and stirring design that employs a palette of golds, browns, and reds.  The proprietary process that Stafford uses as the blow pipe is slowly but continually turned, results in a level of dimension that takes place within a thickness of glass that is less than 1/32 of an inch!  It took him years to gradually grow and develop this design over the years, so what’s hinged into this work is a lot of back story work in the studio.  The glass pieces that he makes in this line are much thicker than that, but this is the color layer that makes the clear glass what it is. It is an example of what this glass artisan is able to do to make his glass sing. When I tell him about this he smirks and says, “My favorite book of Native American speeches was entitled “Songs Of The Earth” and made a big mark on me early on in my high school days.”

It is like a poet who bids the earth speak. It seemed something big enough to suggest Greek legends or myths.  The name came as he hooked up the first vase.  A light, literally, was lit in his mind. Gaia was the goddess, the mother of us all, the earth itself.

So instead of the lighting pieces being called “Rare Earth” he called the Gaia Lamp.  No factory on the planet can make these like Stafford does because how he approaches each one.  Instead of being punched out of a mold, he explains that they are like children; each born from the same lineage, but each free to be individual enough to be identified.  All are family, and none are mere copies of the other.  When you do this, you bring a life to an object, Parker explains, and we have this long-lived feeling about objects containing power, whether they be the medicine pouches of the Native American Shaman or Catholics with reliquaries built from gold and precious stones.  People explain how they were healed from touching a relic or a medicine bag being shaken in their direction. We just believe, universally, that objects can be endowed with a power beyond their owner.

Parker does not suggest that such magic will happen with his work, no, but a subtler kind of magic is at work. A few days after considering the campaign publicly a friend from California walked into a diner in midtown Manhattan and stood face to face with one of the earliest pieces the artisan had ever made.  “She took pictures and posted them on my Facebook page.  I took a look and sure enough, I remembered the piece as some of the very first pieces in the line.  It felt like an interesting synchronicity to me.  It suggested that somewhere in here was something important.”  The person who saw them recognized them because she had one of his vases from the same line.  She had also lit her piece using a candle, which spoke to the universal need to light these pieces up.

©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford

It is the earth, he explains, surely, but unlike any earth you have seen. It is like the earth that we each dream about, the earth that we FEEL. It speaks to you of the soul of earth, of our world, a deep part of our experience, the artisan suggests.  Because it is invested in this kind of effort, this level of thought and blood and fire and sweat and love, these things tend to show, to reveal themselves.

Like the truth, this cannot be held back for long.  Even great ideas, long forgotten, tend to be dug back up and celebrated in later generations.  This one slice of the Earth’s story is not one that we should allow to drop through the crust and into memory, Parker insists. Rather, it should be like a thought that raises a memory within us.  In each of us.  It is the knowledge that the earth is precious, foundational, and important to all of us.  What if you could make that earth sing?  Would that be a song that you would be interested in hearing?  What if that song were as true as it could be?  Parker explains that in making these pieces he has done this.  He has made the earth sing.  Each time a piece is made. I can’t even begin to explain how different these pieces are from commercially made objects looking over his shoulder as he goes through his computer to show me the images that he has of this line.

When lit, the song becomes so much more pronounced. All of this got started when a client and friend who had been at the studio wondered what one of his Rare Earth vases would look like lit.  Parker knew how they would look like, he had seen it many times before.  He had not felt like he could afford the time and money to sink into the project.  “It will look great….I knew that…..and putting that vase up to the lights in the gallery put any question to rest.” The client asked him what it would take to light this vase. He explained the process quickly.  “Do it” she said.

Last month Parker lit the first of these vases and the result was nothing short of amazing.  Then a funding campaign wrapped itself around the effort.  Times have been hard for this artisan of the New River Valley.  It was just a few years ago that the economy caved in on itself.  Resources grew scarce.  He was rebuilding his life after a shoulder injury a few years took him out of the glass game for a full year, doctor’s orders. Parker does not paint on canvas.  He reminds us that he paints on canvasses of molten lava, a silicate material we call glass.  At 2100 degrees farenheit, he artfully casts the colors so that they last for the ages.  Everything about doing this is expensive.  The rewards, he offers me, also match the cost.  Treat glass like how it is treated in factories and it loses its lovely potential, but bring it into the studio and give it clarity and love and humility, and it will show you more than you ever dared possible.  It is evident that Parker knows.  A selection of his recent works are included at the end of the post so you can begin to get an idea about where his skill and artistry take him.

Lamp 3
©Parker Stafford

 

©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford

Lamp 1

Standing at 7 inches for the small and 12 inches for the large, respectively, the two sizes of the Gaia Lamp that Parker has been working on, will be made available through his campaign on indiegogo.  A link is included at the end of the post so you can check this out.

He has another form, though, something that he currently does not have a sample for that is worth mentioning.  Hands waiving in the air, what he describes to me is a round globe instead of a tall statue of a piece.  This globe has all the colors of its taller sisters, but swells with a life that showers the room with something that feels like healing light.  He calls this one the Gaia Globe Lamp. He does not want to make a copy of a salt lamp which was heavily marketed and even oversold. He wants something that will be….different.  The effect that this warm light has on us, he says, is perennial. Listening to him and looking at him sketching the form, I imagine a hypnotic shape that could be hard to pull away from.  I ask him when he plans on making this shape.  He explains that he has made many of them, but they were never turned into lamps.  He will make the first samples as soon as the campaign is funded.  In fact, this piece will go with a group to galleries all across the nation.  He already has galleries interested in carrying the work before the campaign is even into its first week.  It feels comforting to me and I say so.

“That is because this type of light IS healing,” Parker points out, explaining that while he was putting the campaign together he stumbled upon an article about the healing effects of light. It was in a study funded by the Harvard Medical school and it had to do with the effects of blue light on humans.

The Harvard study (Source) looked at the effect that blue light from televisions, computer screens, and L.E.D. lighting had on humans.  The study identified that blue light is what keeps humans alert, which is fine when you want to stay awake, but what happens when you provide this same light at a time when the body depends on getting the right signals telling it that it can rest?  By staring into computer monitors, Parker explains, we have extended that exposure, and the results are startling in that it upsets our sleep cycles and has effects on our endocrine system, the governing body of glands that are identified as being related to healing and growth.  “Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin in the body,” Parker explains, ” and this has two main effects according to this study.  It makes it hard for people to sleep well.  It messes with our blood sugar levels.  People in the study began to show what were described by the doctors as pre-diabetic states.   Changing the light intake from blue to reds and golds changed all of that.”  This is a cautionary tale partly about how we use our technology but also how we take care of ourselves.  If the quality of the light has such an effect on us, then it begs a big question…

Holding his lamp in my hands, I feel its comforting swell in shape, its tapering neck.  It is sleek, contemporary, but, as the artisan points out, is based on forms he saw in the earliest vessels ever made out of glass: his shapes are based on ancient middle eastern forms.  They seem contemporary because they are so classic in their shape

Sitting back in his chair, he levels his gaze and admits, “I am not here to tell you that my lamp will heal the world.  No.  But look, warm light will have its effect. It seems coming across this article was a simple case of perfect synchronicity.” Talking about his lamp he explains that our reaction to many subtle phenomenon is rooted in how it impacts us physiologically even if we are not realizing it being the distracted beings that we all seem to have turned into. Parker smiles and explains, “It is a great reason to make your world more beautiful by filling it with what might very well be a therapeutic effect from the light that it produces; a bonus!   And you are supporting a small business, the little guys and gals who make cool stuff and dream big. Why wouldn’t you get excited about being a part of a dream like this?”

Our voices get quiet as we sit in his darkened study, the lamp gently illuminating the room.  “It’s a different kind of light!” I remark.  And it is different.  It is like fire.

Holding his lamp in my hands, I feel its comforting swell in shape, its tapering neck.  It is sleek, contemporary, but, as the artisan points out, it is based on forms he saw in the earliest vessels ever made out of glass: his shapes are based on ancient middle eastern forms.  They seem contemporary because they are so classic in their shape.  It has more weight than other vases, which were more like a leaf.  This piece has some heft to it.  Parker points out that the base is close an in thick, explaining, “I had to drill through that in order to sneak the light kit into the vase so it did not take up a lot of space.”  Sure enough, a single cord comes snaking out of the base where a toggle switch is positioned a few feet away.  The cord is nine feet long and all materials are heavy duty for long life.  The design is simple, straightforward, and this makes changing the bulb easy.  With a flick of the finger, the vase burst to life.  Its marvelous.  Our voices get quiet as we sit in his darkened study, the lamp gently illuminating the room.  “It’s a different kind of light!” I remark.  And it is different.  It is like fire. You can’t help but continue to gaze into it.  It is hypnotic in the same way that a fire keeps your attention and holds it.

Parker smiles as he takes the vase in his hands and holds it in his lap.  “I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone wouldn’t want to see something like this come to life.” We turn the light out and the night sky surges in around us.  The moon, a sliver, hangs in the sky.  The room feels five degrees cooler.  It was time to leave the room.  He agrees and offers to make a particularly strong cup of coffee, a roast he insists is low on caffeine and is roasted and sold by a local company just down the block from his home.

We talk about the nuts and bolts of this thing as we sip our coffee.

The campaign seeks to raise $5,600 in just five weeks.  It is an ambitious effort.  “The budget came out to this amount when all of the stamps and shipments were counted.  There is no use doing something half-way” Parker explains.  “To do this will mean that I was able to shake the trees  and wake some people up to this opportunity to become part of something cool.  I am learning who will help and who wont.  There is no judgement there, its just effort, the same way a river will flow.  I am not interested in taking anything personally.  But I need the help of the people who will see this and the people who will see this because it has been shared, spread around the planet a little.”  We talk about old lessons about getting caught up in the story of others.  He points out that our “glitches” as he calls them exist when we put value on what other people do based on what they value.  “You have to simply find someone who is like you are.  It is like striking a bell and finding that every bell that gets ‘struck’ by this sounds the same.  I am looking for that reaction. It is a resonance.”

 

If you are a reporter, call me. Let’s talk.  I have a story waiting for you if you are ready.

“I will mobilize thousands of people all to help with this effort.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to say that you were part of making the Gaia lamp into a national phenomenon?”  Parker is looking for people who have this kind of vision.  He says he is seeking recruits, believers who will spread the word.  He points out that he would rather have a hundred people all sharing his story on facebook and email than a hundred dollars coming from one person.  The value of the masses clearly begins to clarify as he shows me the numbers for other campaigns.  It is a big numbers game, and those who succeed are those who have been able to leverage the internet in the right way.  “One to two percent of all the people who I contact will be interested in actually donating.  With numbers like these, I need many people who aren’t even interested in giving, but in helping.  It is an entirely different approach to how money is raised. I began by taking a poll to find out who was willing to JUST spread the word.” Parker looks down at his cup and ads, “A lot of those people who were so interested in helping haven’t helped yet, so I am looking for greater spread.  This is a busy time of year, so I understand.  I am, though, taking all takers.  If you like this thing, press the “share” button. Look at it; do you think it’s cool? Share it.  Give a dollar, even.  If you are a reporter, call me. Let’s talk.  I have a story waiting for you if you are ready.”

It all begins with a dream.  Endless gadgets that are currently being crowdfunded  that are made that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.  One design project seeks a fraction of that.  Hidden in the fractions, though,  lies a great story. It is one that Parker is ready to tell in the language of fire and glass.  The pipe turns as the fire rises, as the poet Sandburg suggested in his poem, this man turns sand into light.  The hottest den of fire is where these pieces are made.  Turning nice and easy and slow, Parker is giving life to something larger than this.

 


 

If you want to find out more this is what you need to know

Parker’s indiegogo campaign is HERE   

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lighting-the-gaia-lamp/x/9122044

Parker’s Facebook page is HERE

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stafford-Art-Glass/273860936858

To contact Parker you can do so by calling him on his cell (540) 605-0034

or info@staffordartglass.com


 

 

The range of Parker’s work over the last three years

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©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford

Shell Form 5 sized

Shell form 5 -b sized

©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford
Shakti Detail
©Parker Stafford
image
©Parker Stafford
VMFA_2
©Parker Stafford

 

 

image
©Parker Stafford

 

round vase sized
©Parker Stafford

 

Collaboration With Parker’s Sculpture Students at Radford University for their installation

“The Glass Garden”

IMG_3455

Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

GlassGarden.13.0279.0

Art and Design, glassblowing

The Gaia Lamp – Calling All Believers!


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©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford

A few weeks ago I wrote a post detailing a project I was doing for a customer.  I was taking a vase and drilling it to allow for a light kit to be placed within.  It was the culmination of a dream I have had for my work that is years in the making.  The pics were shot from my phone camera, good enough for the freshness of the moment as I went along.  But what began so simply has grown legs and sprouted beams of light!  This job has become the genesis of something much larger and now I am crowd funding the production costs for this project to bring this much needed piece of beauty to the market place!

The effort has behind it a wonderful piece of artglass that uses a proprietary process that makes the glass look dimensional, like…well…earth….except this all happens within a layer of glass that is less than 1/16 of an inch thick.  This line of work was first made in 2003-4, so in a sense it is a seasoned performer for me in my glass studio business.  What’s new is how the glass looks when it lit.

First, the piece shoots a diffuse shaft of light up onto the ceiling.  The color of that light is white while the rest of the light radiates through the body of the lamp, turning the light also into a room centerpiece.  If you like the feeling of a warm fire at night, this light is just for you!  The feelings that have been used to describe this light is “calming,” “centering,” “warm,” and “great for meditation rooms!”  It is both artglass and light feature all in one.

Lamp 1

To read up on the beginning process you can read the post titled “Getting Lit” HERE.

The large lamp (shown) uses a 60 watt fluorescent bulb, is U.S. electrical code compliant, and is switched on and off from a handy switch on the cord. The cord is 9 feet in length.  Every piece is also signed and dated by the artist.  The design also makes changing the bulb a snap.  I am currently in the process of garnering support from bloggers, friends, and lovers of all things light and glass to help spread the word.  Raising money in the way that I am means a community.  Ready to change your concept of what community is all about?  Is community local?  Is an idea local?  How do we make an idea one whose time has come?  THAT is where you come in, dear reader!

In the days that follow check back here to this post to find new links to the campaign, more pictures, videos, as well as to find out what is in it for you (like glassblowing opportunities, custom made work, a special limited edition Christmas ornament or sun catcher!), there will be a bunch of juicy premiums I will be giving out for those who donate and who want to take this effort to the next level!

The first link is to the preview page for the campaign.  As of this writing, it is mostly text, but that will change as videos and pictures are added.  See the campaign on Indiegogo HERE.  My hope is to spread the word about this project and product and if you are a blogger with an interest in making American Made a priority, or if you love all things artisan or glass, or cool design, this is just the arena for you!  Fire up the engines!  Calling all believers!

You can also get updates via facebook by “liking” the business page for this campaign HERE!

©Parker Stafford
©Parker Stafford

This is a copy of the campaign poster in its current state….

Glass Lamp Small

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Glass Garden


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Last Spring the sculpture students at Radford University designed and made work in hand blown glass for an interior courtyard in Peterson Hall for an exhibition entitled The Glass Garden.  It was an opportunity to create site-specific works suitable for the environment.  Students developed the concept, the work, and worked to install the pieces in April of 2014.  All of the images in this post were taken by Lora Gordon, in University Relations at the university. Special thanks to Dr. Ann Roberts and the Education Department for their eagerness in assisting in making this project a reality.
Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

 

 

 

Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

 

The Glass Garden at Peters Hall

 

Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

 

Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

 

Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

 

Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

 

 

 

Some of the glass Objet d'art to be found in the Glass Garden at Peters Hall

 

GlassGarden.13.0279.0

 

 

Photo credit:  Lora Gordon, University photographer, Radford University

 

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How We Do It


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IMG_3455Recently while looking through some stats for my site I noticed that there was a search that was made that led a reader to the blog that asked the question how a glass artist in the New River Valley (that must be me….there is only one glass studio currently in the NRV) how it was that colors and patterns in glass are so closely controlled.

When you can see glass being blown, many questions are answered about how what we achieve with molten glass is achieved.  For a material that you cannot touch due to how hot it is, it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea of very controlled patterns in glass.

The truth is, there are many ways that glass is controlled and to be honest, some of it strikes me as a miracle given that you begin with a gob of glass (and yes “gob” is the technical term for glass just exiting the furnace).  Some methods for controlling glass in this way involve taking strands or canes of colored glass, pulling them out into straw-like lengths and then later cutting them into lengths that are all the same, then spacing them apart in regular distances and rolling the molten glass over them.  This is what we call “cane work.”  This includes lots of variations that lead to long regularly shaped ribbons of color running through the glass.  The Italian cane method called latticino is the result of two layers of the same colored cane (typically white) laid on at odd angles to one another so that they effectively create a lattice.  It creates a pattern of diamonds across the surface and looks highly controlled.  How?  Its controlled and looks controlled because it is.  The raw or clear gob of glass is shaped into a cylinder, is measured by a special device called a pi-divider to make sure that the diameter of the glass is sufficient for the number of canes and the distances that the cane are placed so that once the glass is rolled across them, there is no gaps in the pattern.  This takes measurement and precision.  This is done while working the glass on the end of the blow pipe.

Imagine laying down patterns of color on an artists palette so that the paint looks like a painting, just not on a canvas.  Now imagine that instead of paint, you have glass powders making up the picture.  Now imagine bringing a bit of hot glass and laying it down on this palette of colors and fusing those fine powders to the surface of the glass.  In essence it is like what kids used to do with Silly Putty and the Sunday cartoons; they transfer dye or glass colors onto the Silly Putty or in our case, the glass.  That is another way that we do this.  There are a number of other methods harder to explain but are part of how such controlled patterns are made.

In my work I have developed a way of working over the decades that involves an often-used method of putting glass into a mold that creates a corrugated surface in the glass.  Imagine glass coming out of the mold and looking just like a star fruit.  Do you know this yellow fruit that doesn’t have much flavor but sure looks great in a fruit salad? Well, imagine glass rolling in powdered colored glass.  Now imagine how those powders would tend to congregate into the crevices of the glass.  Then imagine how, using heat, those crevices melt into one another, effectively creating concentrated bands of color where the layers touch.  Now imagine taking that and moving to the next level where these bands are twisted and folded even more until intricate patterns are made.  This is not too much different from latticcino effects except they use powders instead of cane.  This is where all similarities end.  This is also where the technique in my studio gets pushed to the next level.  I don’t talk about this level very much simply because I don’t know anyone who has mastered this method in the way I have and I like very much for my work to be unique.  I once was asked by a beginning glassblower how I achieved the effects that I did in some of my pieces where I was actually able to vary the pattern in the same way that you might be able to take, say, a plaid pattern in cloth and then stretch it in certain areas in order to change the frequency of the pattern.  This was something that I had worked on for years and I realized that in explaining it to this person, I was effectively letting the cat out of the bag.  When it comes to discovery of this sort, huge sums of time and sweat are involved.  I realized the best and simplest way to explain to him what I did was to say it was done with glass powders, to which he said he already KNEW that part.  I then moved to the more obvious thing he was asking with was the patterning.  I explained that it was done by controlling the glass.  His answer was that he already KNEW that also…..he wanted to know EXACTLY how I had achieved this effect that had him scratching his head.  In that moment I realized I was like the magician who was asked by an audience member how they did a certain trick.  Some things are hard to explain and some are easy to explain.  Some things that are easy to explain are also hard-won.  How I do my type of patterning is hard-won and explaining how it is done does not tell the full tale at all since it is in truth fairly intricate and involves a lot of nuanced control that is not always explainable, only illustrated in the moment as it is done.

But it is about control.  It is also about letting the glass be what it is.  When you do this, you get effects in the glass that bring rise to effects that give the material a fluid look.  Much of what I do is just letting the glass BE what it is.  This is not some touchy-feely thing, but a fundamental understanding of the material and its expressive potential.  When you can do this you can move beyond the rigidly controlled looks that some glass has and move into more sensual forms that are organic and more interesting (to me).  Often, too, the glass offers up some amazing and tantalizing opportunities by simply allowing it to be what it is.  This is where control and lack of control meet.  Finding the balance is where the crest of the creative lies (for me).  The truth is, for the methods that I use in my Nautilus Series, anyone can do them as a beginner and get some kind of a result.  That is Artglass101.  What I have done is to take this to Artglass 605 which means years of work and practice and observation.  It was my teacher who said there wasn’t much you could do with powders and large pieces.  I took it upon myself to see if this was true.  I certainly didn’t find this out with any teacher.  I found it out on my own and what I found was that glass powders, when properly understood, offered up incredible potential, even for very large pieces. You just have to understand it and not assume that something is the way it is just because you think it is so.  For something that can create a vague veil of color smeared across the surface of glass on the first try, it is hard for some to understand how it can be taken to the place where it exists in my work.  I like such places because they represent an oasis of creative room where others aren’t trying to copy.  I have seen how my more difficult techniques have been appropriated by a few glass artists and I have been able to see the things that frustrated me initially frustrating them as well.  In one case, the artist stopped making the pieces because he could not get past a certain technical hurdle.  This hurdle, which I had mastered only came by repetition and learning from the glass all that I needed to know.  When you are only interested in trying to pick up a look from another artist to try and fold into your own work, this most often means that you aren’t really very engaged in doing the work necessary to take things to the next level.

There are other methods for getting patterns in the glass which often involve chunks of colored glass fused to the surface of glass.  One is the use of a type of cane called murrine (pronounced marine-ee).  This is where a cane is cut so that it is viewed on end instead of on its side.  You can create pictures with this type of cane.  In fact, some glass artists have pushed this to the extreme by making “portrait” murrine which has imagery as delicate as a painting which is the result of many canes being bundled together, pulled out into a small cane and then chopped up and laid out to be rolled up onto the outside of a cylinder of glass and then blown out in a vase or bowl.

For those interested in understanding how this is all done, either visit your local hot glass studio and ask some questions or watch the glass being made or go to youtube and watch a “cane rollup” technique by simply putting those terms into the search window to check it out for yourself.  In the end, all of this is in learning how to do what is difficult look easy.  It isn’t always as easy as it looks, not by a long shot, which is why it often takes years to begin to master glass as an expressive medium.  It can also lead you to appreciating the craft and skill necessary to make what I think of as sheer miracles in a medium that is unlike any other.  I don’t normally toot my horn about all of this probably because I am just not very good at it, but what I am probably good at is making all of this seem deceptively easy.  Once you understand how its not easy at all, you are on the first part of a journey towards appreciating hot glass as a frustrating difficult but incredibly rewarding material!