Note: In late October I began to dig out my studio after having sold my home and moved onto the studio property. While renovating a mobile home on the property originally intended for an employee to live in, I decided the best way to do it was if I lived in it during this period of transition. The studio was packed with belongings and I began to move out the things I wanted to keep and toss what I don’t need anymore.
The glass furnace was in the process of being rebuilt when I had a furnace block fall on my hand, nearly pinning me under the block. This catalyzed an effort to do what I had not done in years past, which was to add automation in the form of pneumatic cylinders controlled by foot pedals to open and close furnace doors. Sounds like a simple thing, and it is, but the implementation wound up being more complicated and drawn out than expected. But then, this can often be the case when engineering “one-off’s”.
The result has been a subtle but important transformation taking place at the studio. The vent hood,which controls the ventilation was also updated in a significant way, essentially enclosing the vent hood completely in order to help make evacuating hot air from the studio more effective. It will result in a more comfortable experience for me, my assistants, and for those taking classes there in the future.
The injury to my hand slowed me way down from where I planned on being, but it also opened up a new avenue that I am glad is now largely completed. Despite delays from the engineering firm, I have managed to get all of the automation done that I have wanted to do for years but never did. As a result, I am looking to the Fall of 2018 as a time when I will begin holding workshops again while also beginning production work again after a long hiatus teaching at the university.
I will be baking into my design of my website the ability to see the schedule and register for any and all classes from the convenience of your computer or mobile phone. I am working with a web designer who will be including commerce solutions for purchasing work and for making the process of connecting with the studio more streamlined. Those changes will be rolled out in the Fall, but for updates and important announcements, follow the studio on Facebook HERE.
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The “Why” (and How)
We create to express and communicate ideas, feelings, and experiences. The arc of art is so broad and takes in such broad swaths of considerations and mindsets. It’s been used to express religious fervor and religious ideas, political propaganda, social justice (speaking truth to power) as well as recreating the beauty of nature. Art accepts all comers. The only rule is that there are no rules. You get to make your own. How that winds up turning out is really up to the artist, and if you are a professional artist, your ideas need to hit a nerve in order to gain acceptance most often. If, however, you create art as a hobby, you are the freest of the free; you can create just as you wish to create. I have, as I have gotten older, sought a path through both of these polarities because I have found that my greatest discoveries came when I wasn’t worried about the bottom line. It has also served to inform my teaching at the university level as well as in my own studio.
Glass takes years to learn. It is gymnastic in the sense that there is a lot of muscle memory involved, and all of this takes time and patience. The best glass workers have been at this for their whole lives and they make what they do look easy when it is anything but that. When I began introducing people to glass I realized that there is this considerable gap that exists with people and their skill level in glass that disrupted their ability to enjoy the material as an expressive medium. As a result of this, I developed a way of working with students in the studio to help fill the technical gap for the time being and working on what they can do on a technical level straight out of the gate in producing glass objects. This method has resulted in being able to give people from all walks the fullest experience in glass possible without having to spend years developing the requisite skills necessary. Since glass is a very expensive medium, it makes learning very expensive also. Not everyone wants to be a maestro, some are content with running around the block to see what glass blowing is all about.
This process is effectively 75% student work with 25% hand-holding by the teacher. This 25% consists of techniques critical to the successful creation of glass objects and represent a technical level that can take weeks or months to master just one of them. Instead of taking weeks worth of repetition, I pick up that part and we work together to ferry objects like ornaments, suncatchers, vases, bowls, and paperweights to their completion on a first-go. This is also why the workshops have been so popular. Most studios do not provide this level of access to the glass for beginners. I have found that by teaching in this way, I can help provide a closeup introduction to glass without years of preparation and work. For those who are serious about learning glass, they will grab the bull by the horns and do what needs to be done to accomplish that level of mastery. For everyone else, it seems my method as developed works very well for the beginner.
My process is to encourage the student to follow the glass and what it wants to do. This may not sound like the kind of control that is necessary for a medium like glass, but over years of experience, glass has a quality that when you allow it to be itself, can and does do some really amazing things. Instead of working in a precisely controlled way, I suggest more room for surprises to occur for students so they can witness the expressive potential of glass. As a result there are creations that are far more complex and interesting than if they had been carefully controlled. Don’t get me wrong, control is necessary in being able to reproduce results in a production environment, but this is not what we are doing in a class. In a class we are trying to get the biggest bang for our buck here: we seek to explore as broadly as possible in a very limited time frame. The student, then, gets a snapshot of the potential that glass has. The results are nothing short of amazing, though, and is one reason why even when I am not offering classes, I tend on average to field three to four inquiries a month about classes even though I have not offered them now for a number of years.
Some folks are content sitting and watching glass being made in the studio. The ability to sit and watch glass being blown is free here at the studio. We encourage everyone who wants to to sit in and learn a thing or two. For those who are not content to sit on their hands and watch, there are the classes.