My Indiegogo Campaign Link (Draft Mode!)

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Proposed Design For Coffee Mug Design Perk on Indiegogo. ©Parker Stafford

The campaign for the Gaia Lamp is swiftly getting underway with a link to the campaign on indiegogo.  Right now it is in draft mode, which means that I am making adjustments and changes can be made.  If you have suggestions from perks to ways to tighten up the copy, I am all ears (and eyes)! This new design is really great, bringing  to your homes or someone whom you love, a warmth and creative flair!  Its art glass AND lighting all in one!  Everyone who has gotten to see them have all remarked how it transforms a room. Wonderful anywhere mood lighting is needed.  Bedrooms, foyers, living rooms, the possibilities are endless.  While there is one sample that shows the work, I have a number of different sizes from approximately 7″ tall (mini night-light version) to the full-sized version on the campaign site (approximately 12″ tall) as well as a globe in the works.  ALL of these design have been made before, just not as a light feature, so there is no question about HOW to make them.  This campaign is full steam ahead!  So….share this with your friends because the more coverage I can get, the greater the possibility that I can reach my goal!

http://www.indiegogo.com/project/preview/22b29132

Want to contact me to find out how you can become involved in this exciting effort?  It can be as simple as sharing this post and the links with your friends and fellow bloggers. It can also be more involved, such as reviewing copy, and giving design advice about the campaign.  There are perks available for this type of involvement!

Proposed Mug Design For Indiegogo perk. ©Parker Stafford
Proposed Mug Design For Indiegogo perk. ©Parker Stafford

Getting Lit

All drinking jokes aside, this week was one that was kind of big in one of those perfectly understated sort of ways.  It made a big splash, though, as people began contacting me about this new idea I was working on.  It has been….gosh…. maybe two years in the making?  It seems that this happens a lot with me.  It isn’t always because of laziness, but just how  things seem to happen. But the funny thing is that they almost always wind up as amazing for some reason, these back-burner ideas.  The really popular ones…In 1999 I came up with an idea for a galaxy inside of a rock, which I made the first prototypes for that year.  The pieces I made were interesting, but they were not worth writing home about.  Not for me.  Not for a business that set up shop in fairs all across the country whose success was necessary in order to support a business as well as a family at home.  For an artist, this is an order that is tall and is something you are always having to make strategic decisions about in order to keep the business solvent.  One or two flops can result in wasted time, lost revenue, and a sputtering business.

So this piece was  put on the back burner and after a couple of years were pulled off the back burner during a slow summer.  This piece has evolved, though,  from a time-consuming glass piece that took 40 minutes to make each,  to an awesome design made in six minutes with an assistant.  This goes to show how things can change in ways you could never believe could happen.  When you are blowing glass at 40 minutes per piece , it is hard to believe you would be making them one every six minutes. So that is the backdrop behind this next piece I am going to show you that got made this past week.

The story on how this piece came to be is an interesting one and shows that good things come to those who wait.

It was about two years ago during the holiday rush when I was hosting a long line of people who were coming into the studio to blow ornaments and suncatchers for the season.  This is a huge amount of fun for people. I have figured out a way to help people to make beautiful glass ornaments with just a few steps done by me with the bulk being done by the customer. When you consider that it literally takes years to master this art/craft, this is kind of big thing for people to have access to glass. It was during this that an old family friend, Ann Roberts, who teaches at Radford University and who I worked with the Glass Garden (see the archives) came to the studio with a group of people she put me in touch with who blew glass at my studio.  While she was at the studio one day during the holidays,  she was looking at this one vase I had.  It was priced as a second.  I explained that it had not turned out right.  Everything about it was technically right, the colors were off.  The colors had been laid on too dark and this made the piece….well….kind of muddied and dark.  I held it up to the light and saw that it looked fabulous with light shining down into it. Pity it was not a lamp, I said.  Ann then said something about maybe turning it into one. I had actually had this idea for years about making my vases into….LAMPS.  Beautiful stained glass windows of lamps…custom creations unlike anything you have ever seen.  And the idea for this project was born!

We talked enough about it that day when she was in the studio that it was decided.  I would hold onto her vase and would drill into it and try to light it from within.  Ann was game and so was I.

Things have been up and down and up and down since then in keeping the studio open.  The economy has not been helpful, but it is true that hotglass is one of the most expensive fields to go into next to jewelry.  It takes a lot to get a studio operational and keep it operational.  It is a challenge.  But I like challenges, and it is one reason why I was able to run the studio full-time for over 12 years until my shoulder injury shut the studio down for a full year, with efforts after that resulting in sputtering.  Penny-wise and pound foolish.  Yeah.

So even though the studio has been in hibernation, I was able to afford a special diamond bit that would allow me to drill out this vase for Ann.  Then, a couple of days ago,  I headed to my hardware store with vase in hand and got the materials I needed to light this piece up.

The result?  I took pictures.  Its an amazing piece, a wonderful idea, a great concept.  But one thing that the pictures don’t show is how the lamp affects the space around it.  THIS is the really cool part! The same warm feeling that you get when you start a fire was the effect that this vase had on the space.  It created a warmth and a feeling of peace. Cool, too, that the bulb was a fluorescent.  Normally, I would not use these for glass.  I have this love-hate relationship with fluorescent.  It is cheap, but it’s also not a full type of light.  It is a gas that gets excited.  There is something wan about this light, I have always felt.  However, moving through THIS glass, the rules seem to have changed.  And this is good because it makes this design efficient.

The vase shot a brilliant white orb from its interior up on the ceiling and the walls were bathed in its golden glow. This was something I was expecting, hoping for actually.  There was a great satisfaction standing there looking at how the ceiling was washed with this nice white orb on the ceiling.  It created the kind of diffuse light that I have ALWAYS liked.  Maybe it comes from my days working in a painting studio with northern light.  This kind of light always strikes me as festival lighting.  You know what I mean when I say that?  In the waning light of the winter, we have these festival and feast days.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years.  And having candles out and the fire burning bright just feels….cozy, right?  This was the effect this piece had.  Perfect!  I have some final shots of the completed piece at the end of the post.

Highlights of red, orange, yellows, and browns helped to seal the deal as I surveyed the effects this piece had on its surroundings.  The pictures are dramatic, but they sometimes can look more like a piece that is being lit really well from the outside rather than something that is lit from its interior.  This is being lit, obviously, from the inside, but if I had not told you this, you might not have noticed. The effect on the space was magic.  It was even better then I had expected.

So lets take a look at the results and I will try to get some pictures from my phone over here to look at so you can see a little more about the project.  I will warn you, my phone pics are not the greatest, but they work for field work…

The first part was drilling out (near) the bottom of the vase.  This is done with a wet feed drill bit embedded with diamond so the glass does not crack from the heat of the bit cutting the glass.

vase drilled

Then after this, I had to work out a solution for running a wire through this hole in a way that was secure and visually pleasing.  This is the bare wire I had stripped, ready to be wired into the light kit…

vase lamp wire

I had to come up with a custom solution for fixing the wiring in the glass. The solution that I came up with worked the first time, which was nice.  Sometimes these things wind up becoming a hunt for just the right thing.

 

The wiring was pulled out enough so that once I installed the light kit the light bulb could be pulled out of the vase to be changed (not everyone could get their hand down inside the vase).

vase lamp wire 2So the wire length is set in the pic above and the light kit will be attached to these bare wires.  Vase drilled, and the wiring fixed in the bottom of the piece.

Now its on to wiring the light kit.  But before I do that, let me show you a shot taken in the afternoon light on my living room floor as I worked on all of this that shows how the wire is secured in the piece.

vase lamp wire installedSo the fixing of the wiring will keep the wire from being pulled out from the interior of the vase. This is an interior view, below.

vase lampwire in the vase

Okay.  So now for the lighting kit!

vase lamp light kitI chose a heavy duty ceramic fixture that would give the light kit weight in the vase.  Being a prototype, there are more improvements that I will make, but all of this is entirely workable.

Once all of this was done and  I tested the light for proper operation, I installed an inline switch that will allow the user to turn the light off within a foot or two of the fixture itself.  This is a heavy duty light switch that is the best on the market.  It will last for years and is a nice safe switch to use.

Okay, so the rest of the pics are of some quick pictures I took with my other camera!

 

Lamp 1

What is cool about how I do this design is the dimensional quality that I can achieve, which is to say that when I combine colored glass powders with the other glass colors the effect has depth.  The effect is different from most anything else I have ever seen in glass (that is blown thin like this piece).  It comes from my relentless drive towards creating effects in glass that no one has yet done.  No one taught me this, I had to develop it through trial and error, through what large corporations call R&D.  I have been lucky in that most of what I have attempted has tended to yield really good results (even when tinkering).

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Lamp 3

There are, currently, about three different applications of this glass design that I am thinking about using for lighting.  One is a torchiere-based lamp with a large sumptuous glass feature expanding out from the center. All of it, though, including the hardware, will have to be built from the ground up.  the stuff coming to us from China is simply too light weight for something of the kind I will be making.  So yes, expensive, but yet, one of a kind.  Unique.  There are people out there who value this kind of thing still.  Something so visually arresting and unlike anything else that it makes a statement in the room.  This is what winning design is about; winning designs help make a room.  Take a lamp like this out of its space and you are left with a visual vacuum.  Being custom, it has a look that is just….different.  The knobs to turn it on are heavier, made of better materials.  the knobs do not wobble in their normaly cheap housings. They are sturdy.  Being the Rolls Royce of lighting, everything is built to last.  This you know you will hand down to your children, to your grand-kids. People will talk about it, noticing it upon entering the room.  “Where did you GET that?” are the words so often said.

The other design is a more traditional table-sized lamp that includes a base that is lit just like this vase, but that also includes a lamp shade made using the same color design, but with a bowl/shade that it inverted over the upper portion of the light to create its sumptuous glow.  This one will have at least three high intensity lamps up inside the shade with a dimmable feature. The base will be broad, made of a sculpted bronze fitting that will give the entire design a nice stability.  It will have a masculine warmth with a cast bronze central shaft but with a verdigris patina (which is blue-green) to contrast and compliment the warmth of the glass.  The result will be striking and fabulous.  Interested in Art Nouveaux, I would design the base to have an organic effect, but not a rehash of the wonderful but now-overplayed Tiffany era bases which we have all grown to know.  Maybe I will call this Retronouveaux.  It will have a heavier build, which gives it a greater balance between the feminine undulating forms and a supportive solidity which will give these works something that the originals did not.  They didn’t need to.

This, though, is how these things go.  They often are the result of a number of interesting events that all combine to create something that is not always anticipated.  Now that this is out there, the question is where will I be able to take this…

What’s next?  Well….I need to get the studio running again so I can make some of these pieces.  That means ordering the glass, getting propane to run the reheating furnaces and paying for electricity.  Then after that, I have to work up waxes to use for the forms that will be cast in bronze.  Then after that, there is the investment casting that has to be made (this is making the heat-resistant mold that will hold the 2,000 degree bronze once it’s poured).    That, though, is enough fodder for another blog post!

Perhaps what is in order is a crowd funding effort to raise the funds to bring this design to market.  Now the question is, do I keep this on the back burner or strike while the iron is hot?

 

New Work

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©Parker Stafford

If you are an artist then you know the importance of new work.  Developing new winning designs is a way to not only generate renewed interest in your brand, but it serves an integral effect of helping to keep you creatively vital.  I know that for me I get a big bump behind developing new work that helps to push production for a while.  I feel better.  Life just FEELS better to me and my mind is working in a much more fertile way as I wonder just what might be next on the creativity front.  Its as if the world moves from few options to one where options are just bursting at the seams.  Such is the effect that inspiration has on us.

The last four years have brought unprecedented change to my life.  From a severe shoulder injury, to a divorce, to managing an eight-entity partnership to being without a home and without income.  Being instantly disabled was no fun. The doctor explained I would not do anything except therapy with my shoulder for an entire year.   The combination of pain killers and discomfort and my inability to work was like a depth charge in my world.  It shook my confidence, it took me back to square one, and it also gave me a solid period of introspection into WHY I was doing what I was doing and caused me to step back and look—really look—at the who when where and why’s of all of this.. When the tree was shaken in this way I had to look long and hard and honestly at WHY I was motivated to do the things I was doing.  Why was I running a business in production glass?  It isn’t as simple an answer as you might at first expect.  Having a marriage break up during this time was itself a double-whammy and was made much more difficult by a spouse who sought to put children in the middle of it all while also limiting my exposure to them.  The economy was in the doldrums and I had few options available to me as I recovered just enough to wind up in another pot of soup.  And in the midst of all of this very terrible stuff was a center of clarity and purpose…..and even design.  I don’t believe in destiny.  I believe we create much of this.  A life can have a design that often escapes our notice but emerges in times when we allow ourselves to grow quiet.  If you step back and look at our culture and world as a whole, we really aren’t known as the species that quiets itself.  What we take as quieting the mind is akin to a brief distraction from the normal rush of inner dialog that goes along with our days.  You just never realize just how much you do it until you are suddenly without it.  Boom.  The sound goes off. The lights go out.  You are suddenly suspended within a deep blue buoyant ocean of a place.  What happens to you in places such as these?  In sensory deprivation tanks the mind is known to feed information out of itself for its own consumption just in order to keep the information loop it is so used to having supplied to it, going.  We never realize any of this until something comes along to put the brakes on things.  Its relative, so breaking the frame of reference just a little does a lot to begin to shift awareness, feeling, and being.

So, putting away the violins for a minute, I want to say that one of the few things that has helped me get through this period has been the ability to create.  During this time period I have had some of the biggest outputs of writing in my life.  I amassed a 700 page manuscript for a book, wrote several children’s stories and began developing new work and classes for my studio business.  I have written music, poetry, maintained up to three blogs and wrote an article for an online magazine on the subject of nonduality.  I was asked to teach at two colleges locally.  Now I teach at just one.  Part time and perfect.  It keeps me in the mix with young minds that want to be involved in new and different projects in a collaborative way, much as was done this past semester with my sculpture students in making blown glass sculptural forms for the Glass Garden project that I wrote about a few posts down the line.

Being able to have friends who serve as inspirational source-points can be incredibly important for turning the boat in your life around.  I know that for me, the creative was the one force that made the difference between madness and great joy.  It wasn’t a crutch; it was a means for changing how I thought, how I felt and how I reacted to the world around me.  A curious thing happens in the brain when we choose to feel differently; we do!  Our bodies stop pumping out things like adrenaline, which is a stress chemical and begins to pump out things like endorphins, dopamine, and other feel-good compounds.  The body is actually a loyal servant to our own minds and feelings and will most often mirror our thinking and feeling state as precisely as it can chemically. If you care to know just how fast this change can take place, observe as you allow your feelings to shift from one mood to the next. Our bodies can shift on a dime for us if we realize that it is we who control the boat and where its sailing!  Too often, though, we wind up being mastered by our feelings, and this can put people into quite dismal places indeed.  At the end of the day, though, until you understand that YOU are in control of all of this, even your own so very crazy emotions (that feel out of your control), you wont develop the sense of personal responsibility and self mastery that is necessary to have the confidence to take charge of your interior life and put it into a more positive direction.

Shell form 5 -b sizedSo art and creativity was a powerful way through all of this for me.  This was good, too, because I like simple and nondogmatic.  I happen to believe or feel that all of this here was not meant to be difficult but can actually be amazingly simple.  Like falling off a log.  Instead, though, we often set up barriers to our success.  I know I have.  Lots of them.  Why?  it all comes down to self love.  Not selfish narcisism, but rather a reverence for your own self as a gateway to worlds of wonder and boundless joy and love.  We tend to mess it up somehow, self-sabotaging most often.  Somewhere along the line we begin to feel that we aren’t good enough.  We are then on the lookout for any suggestion that we aren’t.  Our minds actually are on the lookout for ANYTHING that matches this pattern turning in our minds or hearts.  The thing about these patterns is that they are like plants; they will continue to self-propogate and can wind up getting worse.  You can also in that moment choose to go in the other direction and actively change the pattern into something different.  You can literally change your mind.  You can change how it operates, how it responds, how it chooses from a list of behaviors.  One of the most powerful ways to change these negative patterns is through creativity.  By being creative, you are granting yourself permission to be happy and to enjoy what it is you are doing as well as to begin to consider not just new ideas but also allowing yourself to enjoy something that you may have felt edgy or uncertain about (because maybe you felt like you just weren’t GOOD enough at it) for some time now. Sitting down with a guitar and playing music alone might at first seem like a lonely thing to do, but it can also be an incredibly nurturing thing too. Giving yourself the freedom to dream wildly and creatively is another way of honoring your own insides. It can be a game changer, it really can.  We now know that the very substance of our brains actually undergoes change as we begin to rewire the brain by developing different thought and feeling patterns.  We can see how different parts of the brain begin to light up when we move away from anxiety and uncertainty and allow ourselves to play and have fun. Play and fun are not mere idle activities; they are the very substance of what gives us long lives, healthy hearts, bodies and minds, and productive relationships.  When we are happy, when we are engaged, everything moves so much more smoothly.

As a result of all of this I remind myself that I need to stop what I am doing periodically and design new work.  Already I have begun some very different things.  Who knows if they will be of any interest.  When it comes to developing new work you do what you like and what winds up selling helps to support the business and more innovation.  Its not unlike a publishing company or movie producer that has blockbusters that help subsidize the less successful but just as worthy lesser known movies or books. I can remember making some of the ugliest suncatchers ever.  They were an experiment that went wrong.  I took them to a show and placed them in a basket on the floor.  They were the first things to sell and were gone within the first hour of the show.  So there is no way to gauge popularity; do what you like, make what you love and leave the rest to the fates.  Really.  If this is about pleasing other people, you are going to spend many sleepless hours trying to do just that when the only thing that ever made any sense or works is pleasing yourself.  I know maybe that sounds self centered, but you know, I have noticed that when I am happy, those around me feel that happiness and respond to it.  If I am not right then those around me are most certainly affected.  Instead of seeking to fill your cup from others, fill it yourself so that you are overflowing.  If we each did this we would each be in a lot better shape emotionally, and socially as a species.

This year I have embarked on some very divergent ideas creatively.  I wanted to do fish for my home.  I made some out of ceramic.  I wanted a garden because of how being amidst living things make me feel.  Last week I had a hummingbird buzz around my head as I stood stock still watching it move through the garden.  Bees and butterflies by the dozen are zooming in and out of this garden and it just lights me up to watch.  It lights me up to watch people enjoy making art, enjoying what they are doing.  I am making new work in glass, more different than anything I have ever done and yet its also some of the most satisfying so far.  I am breaking away from the vessel more and pushing blown forms into sculpture.  I am beginning to make water fountains; this was something I had NEVER considered but once I saw the results of what I and my students had created, I was hooked.  I wanted one in my yard, too. I wanted TWO.  One in the front, one in the back yard!  Here is glass and color and water all in one place creating sound and movement. Maybe its not highbrow, but I am a simple man.  Sometimes the sublime speaks to us through the ray of light peeking through the trees, or in the particular pthalo green we have on our pallet for the day.  In each moment, tucked between the obvious and the esoteric there is something and it is waiting quietly for us to recognize it.  When we do, it doesn’t require grandiose visions.  Its as simple as a smile, as grand as a waterfall.  It is in both, and it waits for all of us.  The gateway is in allowing ourselves, which is so very much like what making great art and invention is all about.

Glass Garden

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This semester, facing a dwindling array of options for how I might be able to engage and teach students sculpture, I decided to do something radically different.  Instead of letting institutional issues get in the way of providing a stimulating creative experience, I chose to go beyond limits and open the door of my studio to my students and to the world of hot glass.  The result was nothing short of amazing.

I was lucky to have attended two very different schools during my college career.  One, Berea College, was a small liberal arts college that charged no tuition and instead required students all to work to help offset their term bills and other costs.  In terms of a college community, Berea is in a class by itself.  There are very few schools that can do what Berea does so well.  The other, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, was a larger state school that had a very good arts program at both the undergraduate as well as graduate level.  While at Carbondale I observed first hand how both the glass and foundry program were run. In foundry, my professor had a visiting artist program that brought in luminaries in the art field like Ernest Trova, Linda Benglis, Rubien Nakien,  Daly, Richard Pert, Red Grooms, and many more.  They all came to make sculpture.  The students were there as assistants to the artist, and their access was total.  No faculty member was allowed to be onsite while the artist was at work with the students.  At the end of the day the students who had worked with the artist on that day all got together with the artist at one of the apartments of the students to have a potluck where stories were told and students had an opportunity to spend valuable social time with the visiting artist.  There was one evening set aside where faculty gathered to have their own social time with the artist, but for the most part, the students were given the lions share.  In the glass program, the glass club, Southern Glass Works served an important role in supporting the glass program.  When I was there the sales we held on campus during the holiday season garnered the club over six thousand dollars, which was enough to buy materials, supplies, tools, and enough material to build a 600 lb capacity cast zircon tank furnace.  The mobile unit that Bill Boysen had built back in the early 70’s affectionately named Aunt Gladys had been used to do demos of glassblowing all over the country.  When I was in attendance, we took the mobile unit out to Tucson Arizona to the Glass Art Society conference where she was used to demo the work of students all across the nation who wanted to try their hand at our delightful contraption that folded up like a fruit stand (actually the studio was built on the chassis of an old fruit stand on wheels). I was involved in doing the last rebuild on her furnace before she was replaced with a larger sleeker model just prior to Bill’s retirement.

I was able to see how business and education could not only mesh, but work together in a powerfully synergistic fashion, all for the benefit of the students.  When I hear educators in the arts bemoan the use of student labor in an art program (say for helping them make their work for example) I think how unfortunate that outlook is.  It exists perhaps because some have misused it in the past.  However, my experience has been that this has been one important route to getting to know the people your teacher knows, the galleries, as well as learning how they work in their own studio practice.  These kinds of experiences were invaluable to me and it is my sense that it is one way that students learn. By doing.  And in truth, the student is at a school involved in an exchange; paying money in order to learn.  But what about more expansive opportunities that would bring students right into the studio operations where they can see up close how things are made, how they are sold, and to simply become exposed to the real world of art?  it is kind of funny sometimes how we educate our students in colleges and universities. They spend all this time alone in the studio and then they go out into the world of work and there just aren’t any jobs that pay them to sit and make art.  There are no art factories or studios that will let them do what they did in school.  To do that, you have to begin your own business.  And you have to be savvy enough to do well so you can keep doing art instead of working a nine to five job in some other kind of work.

Needless to say, I have been anxious to find ways to incorporate these same aspects into my teaching.  Make it less abstract and more tangible and real world. This semester my students and I embarked on a rather courageous enterprise; take twenty kids who had never blown glass before and get them working on a project that would involve installing sculptural glass in a given location on the university campus.

The location had to be found first because glass couldn’t be displayed in just any location.  We needed good security and we needed a place that wanted us there.  We found it in the education department which was very interested in what we would come up with.  it turned out that there had been a lot of talk about what they could do with the garden in the way of art or similar kinds of things to help improve the space.  When we came along, it was like a feite accompli.

It turns out that I have an old friend and colleague who managed the space that we were interested in.  Dr. Ann Roberts had taken on the courtyard garden as her own pet project, weeding and planting flowers over the years she has been teaching at Radford University in Radford Virginia.  It was as if the tumblers all fell into place in perfect combination.  My students and I went to look at the space and we were welcomed with open arms.

We photographed the space, measured it, and then went back to consider the possibilities.  Within minutes of being in the space, students were already suggesting ideas. I stood back and let them ponder, imagine and create.  When an idea was too far afield for what was possible with glass or our collective skill set, I nudged the boat closer in to port.  After our initial meeting we had several main concepts that we wanted to try.  One was a series of staves, tall tendril like pieces that would become canvasses for a range of different color effects.  I had no idea they would expand into so many different combinations.  I had some glass color I hadn’t used in years that I felt like I could let go of and once they got a hold of it, magic began to bubble to the surface.  the way we worked was as a group.  I might suggest something, but I had to ask the group who was working at the time what they thought.  They did the same. “What do you think if we used green over the blue this time and added this colored frit on the surface?”  Sometimes decisions were made entirely in the moment with surprising results.  We considered making a fountain and a large bush-like piece that would have over 80 different glass elements attached to it. Could we get all of this done in three to four weeks, which was the time allotted for the project?  Could twenty students with no prior experience come up with something that would achieve our stated goals?  IMG_3466

Video was shot throughout the project and this is currently being edited for publishing on youtube.  Once that is done a link will be provided. Students learned how to heat up color bits, to gather at the furnace, to blow and shape the glass.  Students were eased into the process with a three hour intensive work period with their teacher, yours truly, in order to get them up to speed enough to be of assistance in the making of pieces.  As soon as that was done and several basic moves were mastered, off we went into the world of hot glass.  It was truly a learn as you go experience. Twenty students had to be trained in this way, and while there was some standing around at first, once students had the basics, we could begin building on those basics.

The ideas expanded to clear crystal flowers, several mushrooms, some pieces that looked like sea urchins, and larger flower forms.  In the end we have over a hundred different elements that went into the garden.

Once we were finished and the work was installed I asked the students what they thought.  They responded that they felt that the space needed MORE glass!  We had some students who hadn’t come out as many times as they should have so we were short some pieces, about twenty in all.  Students continued to come out to the studio additional times in order to make up the difference.  How is that for dedication?  Some how, somewhere, what was as simple straightforward class project had become something much more.  And that is as it should be.  When learning like this goes beyond the bounds of the classroom it enters into the realm of the real world, and when the university studio meshes with the professional production studio, very interesting things happen.

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Students got food and set up the reception.  A poster was designed and printed.  The word was put out.  The result was that the venue has garnered a lot of attention and has already spun off a commission as a result of the display.  Once the materials are paid for, the students will each get an equal share in whatever is sold out of the space.

I chose to donate the studio time to this enterprise just to get it going.  In exchange I got a huge influx of creative energy and ideas moving through the studio.  That is a win-win in my book.  Long after the show is down there will be new ideas floating around and bearing fruit.  it is this sort of collaborative effort that seems to offer the most amount of fulfillment for all involved.  yes, it cost money, but it was worth it to me.  It was a swift kick in the creative pants for me and it has helped me in ways I am sure I can only begin to imagine. As for my students, they have started something that was only a dream a month ago….

The images in this blog entry are all works taken from the installation at Radford University entitled Glass Garden.  It is the beginning of something new and interesting.

Chihuly at VMFA

Green Botanical sized

 

When we think glass, we tend to see in our minds eye objects of fragility that are precious, protected most often behind glassed enclosures.  In art, in every aspect of the field, the journey of innovation has been to question  boundaries. In the same way that Peter Voulkos took the ceramic vessel and turned it into sculpture, Dale Chihuly, a Seattle-based glass artist,  has taken the glass vessel form and transformed it into sculpture in his own unique way.  This was the movement that my ceramics professor from Berea College, Walter Hyleck, described as the “peaceful revolution” whereby artisans who made objects of use were turning their utilitarian objects on their heads by removing utility from the equation and thus turning  them into art.

Chihuly has certainly exploded what we thought we knew about glass by tackling scale as well as norms of vessel making and turning them on their heads.  Chihuly has helped to bring the American Studio Glass Movement into the collective awareness of the world and has thus raised all boats in this regard.

Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly was introduced to glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. After graduating in 1965, Chihuly enrolled in the first glass program in the country, at the University of Wisconsin. He continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he later established the glass program and taught for more than a decade.

In 1968, after receiving a Fulbright Fellowship, he went to work at the Venini glass factory in Venice. There he observed the team approach to blowing glass, which is critical to the way he works today. In 1971, Chihuly cofounded Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. With this international glass center, Chihuly has led the avant-garde in the development of glass as a fine art.

His work is included in more than 200 hundred museum collections worldwide. He has been the recipient of many awards, including eleven honorary doctorates and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Source:  http://www.chihuly.com/biography.aspx

Chihuly achieves what he does by teams of some of the most gifted glassblowers alive today.  His method is often collaborative as he seeks to enliven his own ideas with the process that takes place so spontaneously in the hot glass studio.  After losing the vision in one eye in the 70’s, Chihuly was left with no other option but to use his team of glass artists to push his ideas beyond even what he alone was doing and into the stratosphere of the art world.  Many up and coming glass artists feel as though Chihuly is somehow unoriginal by having others making his work, but make no mistake; Chihuly’s work is unlike any other.  Just as his work is informed by the styles and techniques developed before him, Dale does something entirely his own in pushing the limits of glass. So as a glass artist, we may feel a touch jealous over his fame sometimes, but the truth is, those artists who have worked with him have benefited from the exposure to the connections made while working with Chihuly.  Billy Morris, a glass sculptor who is recently retired, worked for Dale for ten years without pay just to get the exposure and experience necessary to launch his own career.  While Morris worked on some of the most signature pieces Chuhuly is known for, Morris’s work is entirely unique to him and shows few, if any, nods to his mentor.

I saw Chihuly’s work for the first time while studying at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for my M.F.A. in Sculpture.  I was just as involved in the Glass program there as well and jumped at the chance to go with the glass club Southern Glassworks to see an installation at the Laumier Museum of Art in St. Louis.  I have seen a few other exhibits of his work since then, and the mixture of scale, color and technique all have an arresting effect.  Perhaps in never having seen just so much glass in one tightly packed space, the senses don’t know what to do with it all.  I find my eyes seem to love the feast of color and light as I see what new things Chihuly is up to.  When I heard that Chihuly’s work would be at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond from October until February, I decided it was time to pay him a visit once more.  With camera in hand, I took some images of the show and I am including them here to help you get an idea as to what to expect.  There is a link at the bottom of the post for how to find the VMFA.

Float Soft Cylinder 2 Venetian Squid Venetian3 Boat Float Soft Cylinder 3

Link to the VMFA.