Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Little Bit of Deconstruction

This week has been exciting as I am working with some new opportunities to be creative.  Time in the Studio always restores my soul.  I am feeling very blessed and lucky to have such wonderful support from my husband who encourages me to 'follow my bliss'.  The closing of my Gallery, Heron Point Gallery, has been the tipping point for reclaiming time.  As is always the case if you're paying attention, 'closing' also leads to an 'opening' for something else.  Yes, it felt sad that it was an end of an era and that I won't have contact with all my artists or their work on a weekly basis.  But it also feels so right.  I moved over a couple lit display cases to our restaurant next to the Gallery, White Cap Grille (small plug there for you Michael).  The cases will have my fused glass jewelry and glass platters, bowls and plates that are for sale.  I am also showing several of my fused glass mandalas there as well throughout the restaurant.

I'm currently working on an artist's book for an upcoming show in Portland next month.  It's a book that will hang from the ceiling and this week I designed the paper surface that I'll be using for that book.  (Oddly enough I used the same surface design as in one of my glass mandalas below).  I hope to have several 'books' that will be suspended to make one cohesive unit.  Another show that I have 3 books in currently is at the Wishcamper Center at USM.  The show titled, "Is That A Book" is a group show from a Critique Group that I'm in through the Kate Cheney Chappell Center For Book Arts.  These books are made from interesting materials all inviting the question, "Is That A Book".  I'm also preparing for the Book Arts Bazaar in April where I'm showing and selling some of my artists books as well as making a finished book that we'll raffle off during the Bazaar.   So book-making has been my other studio activity.  Someday I'm going to combine the books and glass.  I've made one glass book so far and I see more in my future.

So, back to second mandala, "Strong Women Can Say No" has been through quite a radical change.  It started out with the original 'center' from last semester which is pictured above.  After talking with my mentor, Claudette Gamache, the thought of cutting things up was definitely the way to go. It's always a challenge to cut glass that is more than 3mm thick.  This mandala was 3/8" thick so it took a little coercion to get it right.  I thought of using my band saw but that takes away too much of the glass in the cut.

I turned the cut up mandala over on the kiln shelf, keeping the circle design intact and filled in the lines with various glass frit in two different sizes.  My intention was to break up the writing in such a way that sill left the viewer with the idea that it was writing-even though non-legible.
At this point I fired it in the kiln to create one large square sheet of glass.  I used a pretty high firing schedule to give an even surface on the back (or the cream side of the glass).  What a great surprise to find the firing not only a success but when I flipped it over the frit lines on the front of the piece didn't fuse fully, but left them a delightful matt finish, almost pebbly.

 I felt I needed to do more work on the cream side of the glass which would be the bottom of the vessel.  Using a cut stencil I sifted black glass powder.  This added glass also enlarged the center portion and was going to become the lip of the vessel.

Another firing to fused the black powder on to the pieces of the lip happened before things really took shape.  I must say that a lot of cutting, sawing and grinding took place with this piece.  Coldworking glass has not been something that I paid much attention to but this piece really speaks to that.  Each part of the process changes the work so much.

This is the front of the mandala before firing.  I again added colored glass frit to the outside lip pieces.

This is the back side of the mandala before firing.
I know you can't see the front and back at the same time but I like that there is some connection to both in the design.  I played around with the colors of the lip and decided to keep it simple...saying NO to dichroic glass or anything flashy.

And this is the final piece.  It slumped in the clay form a little differently and I don't quite know why it came out slightly wobbly but I love the piece as it is.

After finishing this vessel, I was looking at all the glass I had left from altering the 5 mandala centers.  The original centers were all square and I cut them to circles so I had all these corner pieces and funky shapes left over.  I had an idea, why not take each mandala's cut offs and create a new smaller bowl with them, adding other materials as I thought fit.  And wow, how exciting that was!  The 6" discs that I created during their initial firing seemed precious.  Again I coldworked each of them into a circular shape that would work with the clay mold.  I also tried new methods of adding glass and had a few successes and raised a few questions about why some things happened that I will have to research.

This passion for glass has me all excited for what's next!  I'm itching to dive into the next vessel but think I should take some time to reflect and connect what it all means.  Having the MFA Pod Weekend this weekend is a perfect hiatus from Studio work.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Road Of Trials

The question I'm asking myself today is why did I start with this particular mandala?  It seemed to be an endless task of decisions that I wasn't prepared for:   I chose to use hundreds of 1/4" squares of glass, all cut by hand.  Halfway through another process I realized that I didn't have any large sized clear frit.  So I ended up making some myself.  A process that is extremely labor intensive and one that I hadn't done before to such an extent.  I could have just ordered some of the correct sized frit from my glass supplier but, no, I wanted to stay with the momentum of the piece.  Who know where my head would have been at had I waited a week for the shipment.
Original Square

The Road of Trials.  It should be the 'mandala of trials'!  I made a video of the process but Blogger isn't allowing me to upload it.  More research on that I guess.  So here is a little of the progression of the mandala.
Circle has been cut and Fine Glass Powders added in multiple layers

Fired circle and now application of red border element

Detail of red border

Detail of hand-carved dichroic glass on the surface

Dichroic elements around border

The circle expands with hundreds of hand cut squares of slightly transparent white glass.  "Grout" lines filled with a turquoise transparent and opaque frits.

Hand altered dichroic glass cut to fit into the out band of the circle.  This white border will eventually be the lip of the vessel if all goes according to design.

Final layer of large chunk frit that I ended up making.  Very laborious task indeed.

I was able to get my ring saw working this semester so I've had some additional options for cutting.  Up until now I've only been able to cut the glass with a hand-held cutter.  That is fine for 3mm thick glass or less but my mandalas end up being up to 1/2" thick at times.  Almost impossible to cut something that thick with a hand held cutter.  I've done it but usually it didn't work out the way I had intended.

Am finding that a lot of the work I'm doing is experimental for me this time around.  New tools, new methods and new ways of combining techniques.  I am wondering where all the 'spiritual' work is hiding.  It usually makes itself known to me at some point during a mandala creation but this "Road of Trials" was totally in the moment with the materials.  I realize that the spirit is within me and comes out through the work I create whether I'm conscious of it or not at the time it's created.  But this one I felt pretty far from in that arena.

This particular mandala ended up have 7 different firings in the kiln.  
The finished  mandala vessel.  The glass is 3/8" thick and the vessel is almost 12" in diameter.  I was pretty pleased with the result of the piece.  I'd change a few things next time around, mostly within the firing schedules.
I have been reading a few different books this semester on craft, spirituality and creativity.  One of the titles that speaks to me a lot is "A Way Of Working: The Spiritual Dimension of Craft", edited by D.M. Dooling.  It is a collection of eleven interrelated essays exploring the ancient relationship of art, order and craft.  It speaks to the consideration of craft as the paradigm of man's total activity.  A making, a doing, and an act of contemplation, as it refers to man the maker, man the user, man the tool, man the receiver and transmitter of forces of creation much greater than himself.

Where creativity comes from has always been a good question and in this book there are various answers, all of which make sense on one level or another.  How far we've come from ancient times when there was no divorce between art and craft.  A painter was a painter, a sculptor was a sculptor, etc, and the artists were members of a craft guild.  A man was a painter, his work was his way of life and was central to his identity and recognized as his means of centering and discovering himself.  Today I can call myself a glass artist but there is SO much more to that like being a marketing agent, advertiser, seller, etc and my identity gets spread thin! 

Keeping centered as all the other 'jobs' of being an artist come into the forefront is the most difficult aspect of being an artist for me, that and managing time wisely.  To stay open to ideas, keeping the quietness of mind in tact is not easy.  Introversion helps me and I'll disappear for hours at a time if left to my own devices, just to go inside myself and re-energize.  It's quite a balancing act but it all seems to work out in the end.