Fall Workshops and Classes

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If you follow Stafford Art Glass on our Facebook page, you will  know about the slew of delays I have had in getting the studio back online again.  It has been kind of exciting, in a weird way, if only because of the significant improvements I have been able to work into the studio while waiting.  Oh, and the fingers I broke last Fall are doing very well, thank-you (the first of a few of the snarls time-wise!).

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Myself, I have tried to remain as Zen about this as possible.  While I very much want to have glass available to an eager group who has expressed interest in it, I also know that once I get in the thick of things once the furnaces are turned on and the gas bills keep climbing, it will be harder to make the changes that I have made this past Spring and  Summer.  These are all great changes, they just took some time (some longer than others!).

As I sit here, the furnace is actually on  its second melt, which means that it is producing excellent glass, the doors to all of the furnaces and a kiln have been hooked up to pneumatic foot control (nice for when you are holding a blow pipe),which means they open and close without having to muscle them open and closed by hand. The vent hood has been enclosed for more efficient ventilation, a fan has been wired in for that vent hood, and some other equipment have also gotten some upgrades.

 

Over the course of the last several months I have ordered over 50 new glass colors, and I put in another order for over half of that amount just yesterday. I have ordered glass color that I think will make for really interesting pumpkins as well as expanded color choices for ornaments, increasing the choices ten-fold. Some of these colors are ones I have not used in my own professional production over twenty years of working in the field (so this is a big step). None of this has been cheap, but it makes for a better experience for all of the people who are eager to sink their teeth into some exciting new offerings at the studio. One of the upgrades has been making sign-up for classes or workshops something that you can do from your phone or computer online.

Beginning the first of October, I will be rolling out my new internet booking calendar.  This calendar will be available right here on this blog at www.staffordartglass.blog.  This calendar will allow you to book classes from the comfort of your mobile device or from your living room.  From now until the calendar goes live, there will be upgrades and changes being made to the calendar to make it more useful for most of the classes that will be taught at the studio. Even though it is up right now, changes are in the process of being made, so it is not just yet ready for prime-time (but soon!).

Here are some of the classes that will be offered beginning October 1st:

  • Blow Your Own Pumpkin – offered from October 1st through to November 18th. You can pick a thirty minute slot for a small pumpkin or two slots for a larger pumpkin (I will have examples of these two sizes when we get closer to our class roll-out).
  • Blow Your Ornament Ball (BYOB) from November 30th through to December 22nd.
  • Make Your Own Paperweight – available year round.
  • Make Your own Suncatcher – available year round.
  • Weekend Glass Blowing Intensive – the first weekend of each month (subject to minimum enrollment).
  • One-Day Glass Blowing Intensive – the second Saturday of each month (subject to minimum enrollment).

That said, this schedule is just a guide to make things easier for all involved.  However, if someone would like to make a pumpkin in January or even in May, all you need to do is look on the calendar and see if the time is available.  The same goes for ornaments. If you would like to blow an ornament in October to avoid making something in December, you are welcome to do that. The way the calendar and the classes are set up for single items, I have those designed so that an ornament can be made  within a 30 minute booking session (which is how the first calendar is set up—and yes, there may be individual calendars for different classes but I have to work out the coding for that first). Since all classes are individual and include one-on-one instruction (except for the one and two-day intensives) this makes scheduling much easier. In truth, it might only take 15 minutes to make an ornament or suncatcher, but I give you that time to make sure we cover all the bases while each and every person is here.  Likewise, a small pumpkin can be made in thirty minutes and a large one can be made in an hour (you would book two thirty minutes slots and let me know that you want to make a large pumpkin when you arrive). The elegance of the way these experiences are set up is that by doubling up on two 30 minute slots is you get the right pricing and enough time to make your piece.  It is a modular system I developed that makes scaling up simple and easy.

There are many things I do not know just yet about the full functionality of the calendar and how many options I will be able to include, but right off the bat I know that there are some options as I write this that will be available.  For example, this calendar will be able to utilize coupon codes so those of you who follow Stafford Art Glass at Facebook or on other social media sites like Twitter can grab coupon codes that will be announced there and bring them here for making your final booking. To take advantage of these, go to the site for Stafford Art Glass on Facebook, hit “Like” and get the latest codes and updates.  We are located on Facebook  here:

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

In instances where the calendar does not allow for the type of flexibility that I might have hoped, I will be announcing work-arounds in the event that someone wants something custom or different from the norm.  But as of right now, I am still learning how to make this calendar as flexible for your use as possible.  I am using one of the highest rated booking calendars out there available for the Word Press platform (it even takes payments) so I am expecting a high degree of functionality once I uncover all of the bells and whistles in the next few weeks.  Given how this past year has gone, I am a little gun shy about making promises about exactly how I expect something like the new booking system will work.  I just know that once I sink my teeth into it, I will be able to work through the software to help bring value to my customers.

If you subscribe to the blog, you will be kept up to date about any new classes or events happening that involve booking your place for an event.  While there will also be updates on Facebook, these can easily get buried under new posts. Word Press makes it so that you can receive updates through email as well as SMS (text message to your phone) which can be even more convenient for many of you. I can also provide class descriptions here that may be too lengthy for Facebook readers.

You will find that prices are inclusive for all of our classes. That means no pesky add-ons that you have to worry about. Anyone taking a class also receives 15% off all merchandise in the gallery as a special thank-you for educating yourself about what it takes to delve into the world of glass making.

In the meantime, until we reach the first of October, I will be working to produce samples of a full line of ornaments that will make deciding on an ornament color combination easier once you show for your time slots. I will do the same with sample pumpkin color combinations, too. Then, if you get here and can’t decide what colors you would like, I will have some samples that might make deciding easier.

Thank you all who have been following along for your patience!  My hope is that the changes will be welcome and will make everything just a little bit more easy. Here’s to a fun and exciting Fall!

Keep It Hot,

~Parker

 

#glassblowing #glassblowingclass #newportva #vaglass #vaglassblower #glasspumpkin #pumpkin

Sand Into Light

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.

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©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
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©Parker Stafford
VMFA_2
©Parker Stafford

 

 

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©Parker Stafford

 

round vase sized
©Parker Stafford

 

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

“The Glass Garden”

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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

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Step By Step Design Of New Glass Work

Dichroic being sized and cut to be put into 980 degree pick up box kiln
Dichroic being sized and cut to be put into 980 degree pick up box kiln

I thought it might be a good idea to document a few of the steps involved in the design and making of a new glass piece in the studio to give you glass enthusiasts a rare look into the process.

All design begins with an idea.  That idea is then implemented using already existing knowledge about how the piece designed might be accomplished.  Often this works well, but sometimes new tools, materials, and skills have to be made or mastered in order to make new work possible.  In the case of the work I am showing you, a special kiln is needed to preheat the looked glass strips called dichroic (shown in the picture above) to be preheated.  2100 degree glass will not stick to room temperature glass, so it has to be brought halfway up to molten temperature.

In the case of the piece being made today, I am designing a new piece for a retailers association in our area for their grand prize winner.  This piece will wind up being a little over a foot tall and will be composed of solid glass with air traps, which are controlled air bubbles trapped in the glass as part of what will be an ethereal design.

Dichroic in the pick up box, ready to be preheated prior to pick up onto hot glass
Dichroic in the pick up box, ready to be preheated prior to pick up onto hot glass

People often wonder what dichroic glass is.  You can see some colored strips sitting in the pickup box kiln above.  Dichroic was originally developed for the Lunar Rover cameras to cut down on sunlight which was cooking the film when under full sunlight.  It is a very thin, translucent, even, metallized coating on glass.  High tech, dichroic is expensive at about 150 dollars per eighteen inch sheet.

I then go to the furnace where the clear molten glass is kept and get a “gather” of molten glass on the end of a metal rod.  This is turned constantly to keep it from dripping onto the floor.  The glass is about 2100 degrees when it exits the furnace, so it moves like honey.

The glass is shaped into a small cylinder and allowed to cool after which I get another gather of glass.  Depending on the size of the piece, I will add dichroic to the outside of a gather.  In this case, I will be getting a third gather of glass.  The volume of the glass in total will be the volume of between two to three softballs in size.  You can see the successful first pickup of color below on the outside of the glass.

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You can see some trails of bubbles in the glass which are part of the design.

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The glass is then twisted to get a spiral.
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The glass is then dimpled which will trap a veil of small bubbles once the next gather is put over the glass.

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This is piece shows the clear gather now over the glass.  This piece is being shaped into an egg shape, which is done with a wet carbon felt pad.  This is all by hand.image

This is a smaller piece.  You can see how ethereal the dichroic can be!

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Once the piece is heated and shaped a number of times, it is cooled and the base stressed with cold water which allows it to break off evenly from the rod.  It is placed in a kiln at annealing temperature, about 950 degrees, and will slowly cool over a period of days.  The picture above shows some of the effects that a glass piece like this has.

 

imageA piece of glass like this will last the ages.  Thick, glass is very durable.  The picture above is a closese-up of the dichroic with the bubbles.  Cool, huh?

That is how pieces like this are done.  One great advantage of being able to work with an artisan is that you get up-close involvement in the design and making of glass which you have commissioned and helped to design.  This process can be as involved or as “arm chair” as you, the customer, desires.  For creating one of a kind looks for everything for display pieces, drawer pulls, sun catchers, drinking glasses, and more, you can’t beat what your local artisan can make for you!

For more on commissioning your own work, read my post a few posts down the line on the steps most often involved in commissioning work by a local studio!

Until then, be happy, do good, and BE good!

~Parker

 

 

 

Breaking New Ground

Long neck copyMuch of what I do in glass has been an effort not to do anything that is like anything others have done.  This is hard to do well. There seems to be very little that is new under the sun.  We say a vase is a vase.  Sometimes we can make our work different by the shapes, the colors, the design we develop within the piece.  I developed a way to make my glass look like rock and this made them very different and sought after. It created the art of the double-take that leads one to think that you see something that you do not, and in realizing it is not as it appears, leads one to wonder how on earth the artist or artisan accomplished it.  I probably don’t need to tell you that this is also where art begins, that place where the ordinary gets transmuted into the extraordinary in some way.  Doing this kind of work  also spawned people making copies, people who I saw walk up to my work, observe it carefully, and then begin making a derivative of it in one years’ time.  I am told that this is a form of congratulations, but for me it does not feel like that.

For years I have zigged when others have zagged.  I did not follow conventions of tradition. As a result I developed techniques in glass that I have yet to see anyone work in the same way.  They are round vase sizeddifferent for the reason that no one has been crazy enough to do what it is I have done.  Even my teacher once said that the techniques I would later use were not something that would yield significant enough results to be practical. That was eighteen years ago and many of those pieces later.  They have somehow gone from impracticality to total practicality…..and new ground being unearthed, or blazed. I have long been amazed at the effects that fuming has had on glass.  This was a technique that Louise Comfort Tiffany developed that became a signature mark of his design work in glass.  Needless to say it has been wildly popular ever since with plenty of paths being cut into that territory. It has been enough to keep me from going down that road even though I have used analogs of irridizing for years, such as dichroics.  Dichroic is a term for a development made during the early NASA days that was developed to create a thin metallic but translucent film on glass lenses to make it possible for photo film aboard the Lunar Rover to be exposed in full daylight on the moon without being cooked (which it did when exposed under normal full light conditions on the lunar surface).  In a way, irridizing and dichroics aren’t that different from one another in that they both involve very small particles of metal that build up slowly on the surface of glass.

I always said I would not fume or irridize glass.  I always considered it a well-worn path.  And it is. The lure, though, of the lustrous surface in glass is powerful.

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A few days ago I ordered some supplies for irridizing glass to give it a try. At first the results were entirely unremarkable.  I began to think that the people telling me how they did it were not actually giving me the whole scoop.  It took a little trial and error to work it out.  The colors were okay, but not great. The information was incomplete, and some things like the type of alcohol used for the spray was wrong.  These small things matter and can make big differences. I changed a few things and switched the order of some things around and found much to my pleasure and surprise that I had some pretty amazing results taking place.

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Today was interesting since the ovens were still empty by noon.  There was no work that had been made. By five o’clock, though, one oven was full and a second one was sent up.  Work was being made at a pretty fast pace and everything was pretty amazing. For a first try.

At some point in my art education I discovered that there was an entry into the sublime that didn’t have to do with the usual concerns of art.  In art content is king, which is to say its supposed to BE about something. I found increasingly that my focus began to settle on simpler things, less complicated things.  While art does create an experience, so too does the glint of light off a brushed metal surface.  Just HOW that impacts us or affects us, or me, is huge.  How the look of polished bronze impacts me is hard for me to explain.  It is just such a basic thing…because it is so direct, so immediate and uncomplicated.  This is the same uncomplicated thing that leads so many on this planet to esteem a rather soft metal not very useful for much of anything except electronic connections and jewelry, a metal we  call gold.  What does it mean? Nothing.  It isn’t about THAT.  Its about the EXPERIENCE.  It is the same thing that Monet did in his paintings to simulate the effect of looking through an early morning foggy haze.  The haze itself means nothing, really, but is itself an effect.  We might say that these things are without coincidence or unimportant, but for the they are not.  I think that the rational mind NEEDS for things to MEAN something. If something does not MEAN something, it simply grows disinterested.  The irrational part of the mind, though, is entirely comfortable with this lack of meaning and instead seeks the EXPERIENCE.  All of this is very much tied up in how our two brain lobes function together as well as separately.  But that is for another blog entry.

If the purpose of art is to help us to see a new way or to impact us deeply, I would argue that just how a color glints off a surface or a texture is rendered can also impact us in a similar way. Nature is the source for all art.  HOW light impacts an environment has become fodder for at down through the ages.  The Vermeer paintings of the wan northern light filtering in through the windows and illuminating the soft light complexions of his subjects creates a simulation or recreation of an original event experience that reaches the sublime.  None of it would have half the impact were it not for something so simple as how light strikes an object, such as the skin of a human in the painting.  Yes, these things matter so much, yet are so often yoked in the service of a larger work that we very often don’t recognize them for what they are, or WHY they are.  I think for me, looking at a simple effect and KNOWING why it affects me fills me with something that just looking at a painting or landscape (whether painted or not) may not do since I might be so caught up in the details that I miss the simpler things, the foundational things that serve to hold the whole circus tend up on its rods and ropes.  The ground  holds the very canopy of heaven up.

detail of a fumed surface
detail of a fumed surface ©Parker Stafford

I can remember sitting with my infant son  who was all of seven months old in my arms in my backyard as the sun set slowly. The entire landscape was washed in a rich gold color. This was the “golden hour” as photographers like to call it, a time when the vibration of light changes to an increasingly warmer tone and is very kind to people being photographed.   The air seemed to heat up but this had nothing at all to do with temperature. The world was bathed in this light that made everything glow.  It was merely the effect of light as it glinted at its fallen angle in the sky. Within minutes the effect passed.  What it conjured, or was conjured in my own mind as a result of its presence, was nothing short of mystical.  It felt transcendent and entirely difficult to even put into words. Perhaps it was because I had had several dreams in my life when I noticed a golden light filtering into my dreamworld and felt as though the light of heaven was infiltrating in.  The experience, though, was entirely simple and uncomplicated, just as with the sunlight.   It went beyond content, it went beyond meaning.  It was an experience of something so simple that it had the power to be a potent force in transporting me to another place…..but a place that was so incredibly present that it had nothing about being swept away, but steadied in the moment as all of the lights seemed to come on and light up life in a moment that felt like an epiphany. My son lay uncommonly quiet and still in my arms as though he was aware that something was taking place.  No squirming; a willingness to take part in this moment, however it was he took part in it for himself.  So in the same way, I find the simple direct nature of making decorative objects to carry, at least potentially, the same experiential “oomph”  as some of these stolen moments that rise like highlights in life.  Curiously, more and more of them are singular, simple, and entirely direct.  Like how the glint of gold is direct, perhaps.

bowl copyThe challenge now is to take this method of working and push the shapes into territory not normally thought of as part of the fumed world.  There are actually very few people who fume glass who make unusual shapes.  For some reason a lot of fumed work tends to be pretty traditional.  Maybe its time to shift things around.

I have been drawn to a rather amazing piece made by Tiffany’s studio that uses a type of fume that is very different from what has become mainstream.  There is a giant punchbowl that he made that is really quite amazing.  The surface on the glass, though, is buttery, soft, and sensual. It lacks the glitz of the tin chlorides and the shifting color palette.  The effect of this punch bowl is far more subtle and this type of surface does not show up often in fumed work.  Currently, I don’t yet know why.  I suspect that it is because it is either very expensive a fume mixture or it is harder to accomplish.  I suspect that it is the latter.  And if this is so, I would like very much to find the particular metals used for the effect and see how I can bring a 21st century sensibility to it in the creation of new work.  This is to say: stay tuned – there will be more!

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I hope you are liking looking at the pieces as much as I have enjoyed making them. It was a real surprise to be honest.

Tumbler. ©Parker Stafford
Tumbler. ©Parker Stafford

I didn’t think I’d like them as much as I do. It has lit a new fire underneath me. Sure, it’s just another line of work, but its more than that.  It gets me down the road a little more with all of this and moves me to the next thing…..and there is a lot of these next things to fill a lifetime it seems.

I swore I’d never irridize…..

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