Why Art

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. Watching it all as it happened, I was able to move quickly out of the way. Still, it snapped one finger and fractured another. My hand had bruising and after a visit to the E.R., the finger was reset and put in a splint. X-rays revealed the damage, though, and surgery was required to fix my smallest finger. In many ways, the surgery created even more damage in order to reconstruct the finger so I might still be able to use it. It’s amazing how losing use of one finger can affect your grip and dexterity!

As a result, progress has been slowed at the studio and the pace has suddenly changed. I have had to rely on the help of others when my cast has kept my hand largely immobilized for a month and a half. That said, I’m very close to having the studio operational again. A large order of glass was made a month ago and I now have colors in that I haven’t used before. I look forward to using colors for iridizing as well as colors for making pumpkins when we are ready. It has also given me pause recently to bring in a technician to assess my furnace doors and suggests ways to automate opening and closing them (he comes tomorrow).  This will come in very handy in the years to come. While things have been busy, I am now having downtime imposed by the injury. It seems a good time to do some writing on a blog I have neglected now for months.

For more information about the studio, classes, as well as the designs that I make, go to my Facebook page HERE and look through the feed to see work by students in the past. Until then, some writing on creativity, glass, and other things…

If the link doesn’t work for your device, copy and paste this link into your browser:

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

 


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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.

This has led me to treat my studio as something akin to a temple of sorts. I wouldn’t call it a dogmatic temple, but one that seeks to serve the one great pole that everything in the studio turns around, which is the North Star I call creativity. It turns out, that while you can be very creative while under pressure and under fire, there is another mode where creativity works even better, which is in an environment completely free from fear or any outside concerns. This is part of my “temple” idea and is why I treat it as a place where I do my best to lay aside all outside concerns of life in order to be truly free to create.

I have spent decades studying the mind/body connection to creativity in the hope of building my own creative potential as a maker and creator. Along the way I found much more than I bargained for, and I found it not by taking up a discipline like psychology or some other science, but by going to a place few go. It has led me to a new understanding of how creativity works and how our own brain and mind are involved. It’s revolutionary. But because I don’t have peer reviewed articles or a degree in the field, I speak from the authority of my own heart and my own experience….backed up through my years of careful observation and creative practice. Now it’s not my intention to go into what all of this entails. That seems too weighty a thing for this time of year as we are stepping out of the darkness of winter while anticipating the light of Spring. I note that for the next few months, we have probably some of the coldest weather ahead of us.

I’m a glass blower whose background is in sculpture. I came late to glass and spent a decade working full time in the field. I did a lot of catching up in that time in order to build a stable of designs that would sustain me in my chosen profession. I learned a lot on my own that I was not taught directly. The truth is, I had one graduate level introductory glass course. The rest, I did on my own, even while studying for my MFA at the University Of Southern Illinois at Carbondale in the early 90’s. I worked alone once my own studio was built in 1997, and my studio was never open to the public for the first seven years of operation. My studio space was small and unsafe for people to be in except for experienced glass blowers. When I had an assistant for the first time, we had to find a way to move in that cramped space so we didn’t slap each other with molten glass. It also got unbelievably hot, which is itself quite dangerous for anyone who might be sensitive to heat. Slowly, I began to have open studio events where the public could come see glassblowing from the safety of a small area in the studio. When I had the opportunity to move to Southwest Virginia, which is where I grew up, the only building for sale during my move turned out to be perfect for glass. I have found that there is this curious thing that happens when you are doing things right for yourself. It’s a form of serendipity that we call synchronicity. Serendipity is like a happy accident that works out, but synchronicity involves your having already thought about something that then happens I a rather interesting, but personally significant way. When these happen, it’s as though some larger force is involved in making the perfect events fall into place. These have happened to me personally for years, but were largely limited to those singular big moves in life. Read in and you will see how this synchronicity played out in my move…

A year before I made my move, I sat down and sketched out my dream studio. I was careful to calculate the square footage of the space in my studio notebook. I quickly forgot about that sketch from 2005, a year before I even knew I would be making the move, and didn’t find it again until 2011 when I was looking for something, maybe a glass recipe. When I found my sketch from 2005, it seemed that my drawing was eerily similar in size to the new studio (which I had no control,over finding….it was the only commercial building on the market so I took what I could get at the time) I realized upon doing the calculations of the new building that my new studio was 150 square feet larger than the square footage of my drawing. It seemed like a wish had come through loud and clear. This was significant as it related to offering glass classes because one of the calculations in my drawing from 2005 was to have the kind of space where I could offer classes, which wasn’t possible in the space I was in at the time.

What this new studio offered, with its greatly expanded space and vaulted ceilings, was the opportunity to offer glassblowing to the public. I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to do this at first, but then something happened that began to change all of that. This has to do with the nature of creativity and the discovery I made about the workings of the mind and the brain (which isn’t important for my purposes here, except that something was the trigger that got this effort moving). What I found was that by thinking about how best to make glass accessible to the public, I was able to develop a method of teaching glass that can take someone who has never done glass before and allowed them to begin realizing designs straight out of the gate.

Glassblowing has for centuries been known as a team effort. While I worked alone and bucked the trend, I had worked on teams in graduate school and understood how they worked pretty well. I folded this aspect into my thoughts on how to teach glass to beginners. We would work as a team. By doing this, I could perform the steps that take years to master while giving the student over 80% of the actual work in making their pieces. Some people just want some level of involvement but don’t want to spend weeks or months learning a few important glass techniques. Others are interested in glass in a more involved way. For them, they are willing to plough through the piles of lost pieces in order to develop technique or skill.

The thing is that creativity is not dependent on skill. Creativity is what we are deeper down. No matter the area of human endeavor, creativity is everywhere. It doesn’t need to be art. How we build houses, the ideas that go to make for a new invention….all of this and more are the traces left by creativity. But for me, the question was how to teach glass so that I can excite, then inspire my students, which is where creativity emerges most readily. This is not a teachable thing, and things that you cannot teach are part of who we are. This is experiential. So the way began to unfold for me.

By not getting caught up In technique, I came at teaching art or craft from a unlikely direction. Students were encouraged to think wildly, without the constraints that technique tends to impose and I became the technician and my students became the designer. Yes, in some cases, I did the technical work myself, but the student was there gathering the glass, shaping or “marvering” as I guided them along on what step to do next. By doing the heats, the stretches, blowing into the optic mold to get ribs in the glass, I was able to let students realize as much of their creative energy without frustrating them with the technical issues. The result?

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A suncatcher made by a first-time student

People, by and large, have a great time and do amazing work. They love it. I suspect that letting people feel wildly free in a supportive “anything-goes” environment has something to do with it. This also has everything to do with how creativity operates. Think about it. When you are in the inspired moment, how do you feel? One element of the creative moment is the feeling as though anything is possible. It’s a feeling of expansiveness, Of excitement, and we most often are moved to make something. The reality, though, is that once the inspired moment passes, the new idea often has many hours of work involved in order to develop the inspired concept or idea. And this takes time.  This is where the technical or the craft comes into the picture. How best to not get students tangled up in technique lest their creativity gets frustrated in the details? Hmmmm…

 

When I was an undergraduate art student, I realized a years worth of work over the course of a four hour intensive moment of sheer inspiration. I was alone, thinking of what I needed to do, wanted to do, for my thesis exhibition while studying at Berea College in Berea Kentucky. I’m a sculptor, so I couldn’t very well just make my ideas on the spot. I had no idea how my pieces were going to be constructed. I didn’t have the technical details worked out. But I had ideas. So I just let them out by drawing very quickly and then grabbing pieces of foam-cor, wax, paint, and a few small tools like a sharp butter knife and a razor blade, and began making models. All of this was amazingly fast and I realized ideas that kept up with the blazing speed of my creativity. When I was done, I had my whole year laid out in front of me. I would have gotten mired in the technical details if I had tried to think about how I was actually going to build these things. I have since used the same type of method for visualizing new work ever since.

In graduate school eight years later,  with five months to go before my thesis show, I realized I didn’t want to make the pieces I was doing at the time, and decided to make an abrupt change. With only five months remaining, this might have sounded like insanity, but I felt like I needed to do something more.  And then came the synchronicity that helped solidify my feeling into resolve. The same day as I was thinking about this and wondering if I could pull it off, I saw an old wet eagle perched in a dead tree along the road to town. For me, this was a sign. My creativity was like that eagle, and it was cold, wet, and stuck to that dead tree, which was the old work. My own eagle (my creativity) really wanted to soar. So I got to work immediately and re-visioned a whole new body of work in a weeks time. It all worked out, actually, even if I was working right up until the day before the show was installed.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this would help me later when trying to teach people how to tap their own creative juices in the glass hot shop.

Wait. What? Hang on, let me explain.

I think that the biggest thing that I hope people can take-away who come to the studio is realizing the power of their own creativity. What most often stymies people is their fear. Fear of failure, fear of not being able to “do it right” or some other fear-based thinking. It might not be the same kind of fear as when facing a bear in the woods, say, but it’s something that is nonetheless real to most people. And glass comes to the rescue because you can dribble glass on the floor and it will look beautiful. It seems for as intensive as Glass is as a material in the technical realm, it starts off from a very beautiful place. By letting the glass be what it is, designs can be realized very quickly and if students are willing to let their work be a kind of adventure, a lot of really amazing stuff gets made. Glass is a material that seems to me to naturally want to flow when it’s hot. To do that, you have to push glass to the edge of your ability to control it. To do this means you just have to trust the glass sometimes to become fluid or to begin to be at that place where it could all just spin out of control. This is a bit like the self as it tries to relate to creativity, is it not? Your reasoned self has to let go of trying to control your wild creativity if anything amazing is ever going to come through. Most people wind up being so controlled, unknowingly, and glass helps them to let their hair down a little, to loosen up, to relax, and to be a little more free-thinking at the creative level.

Not long ago, I had a local artist who wanted to make some pieces in the shop for some sculpture she was making. She had very definite ideas about one of the pieces and we went about making that piece. It didn’t quite reach the level that either of us had envisioned. Then I turned to her and asked her what her thoughts were on the next piece. She had ideas, but then stopped herself and said that she was interested in my just going with the flow. That’s speak for collaboration. Years ago I tried to make some work for another sculptor based on her ideas but I was really keeping my own ideas out of the mix because I wanted this to be her work not mine. I actually had an idea that I held back on bringing out for her project because I felt like she might feel like it wouldn’t wind up being “hers.” In the end, after working through several iterations that weren’t working out, I said that I had this idea I had been wanting to try in my own work for years. She said that this was what she wanted me to do, to do my end of it bringing whatever it was I was interested in. She wanted to collaborate! I was late to the party! The result was “perfect” in a certain sense, and everything began falling into place in this odd serendipitous way. Once I began, I found that I had piping that I considered using in the glass that just so happened to sleeve perfectly over metal rods that she had already built into her sculpture months before. We didn’t have to source any materials from outside the studio. It was, in a word, easy.

 

In the same way, then, my artist friend recently was able to get a piece that was over-the-top amazing. What made it so great was a mishap with the piece that resulted in its dropping off the pipe and onto the floor. This meant picking the piece up “off-axis” and applying a colored wrap of glass off the original axis as the bubble of glass is oriented to the pipe. What I have found is that my greatest discoveries come when things like this happen. They happen because they force me out of my comfort zone and my old way of thinking. This is just what creativity asks of us if we are to make truly ground-breaking work. When you are faced with losing a piece, something interesting happens, at least with me….which is, with nothing more to lose, the magic comes racing out of the bag because you have nothing left to lose. Here, I’m working at the “edge” of what might be possible or likely…..and the unlikely emerges most often. I tend to feel as though creativity has conspired to break me out of my familiar in order to create the new. It’s not merely an accident, it’s what accidents can do to you mentally and emotionally in that split second when you realize if you don’t act quick, you could lose the piece you have been working so hard on. Her, the accident has become my unlikely conspirator in breaking out of old modes of working, being, thinking, and making. I know that this might sound like insanity to some of you, and honestly, had it not happened a slew of times, I might have not caught on to its raw potential.  Bear in mind though, I’m not talking about going into the studio with the thought of having work crashing to the floor in mid-make. Nope. Read on….

I know that in my field this is something that most artisans group into accidents and sloppy work. As a result, events like these often tend to go unproved for their potential. I’m not suggesting that I go into the studio hoping for accidents, but to learn how to be more and more free in what it is I think I can make. And this is very much what a newbie faces when they come into the studio. Maybe they have seen beautiful glass vases or other forms in their life and they have no idea how to make them, but their ideas can be limited by what they have seen from that past.  Sometimes it’s fun to copy in order to learn, but when it comes to feeling creative and letting it off the leash, a different approach is often the best one. You need a way to match the wild and fast energy that is the natural velocity that creativity needs to travel at. You never know about this “velocity” unless you get into an experience where you are forced to make decisions very quickly. Luckily, glass is made very quickly, all things considered. It is the perfect material for being able to move with the restless energy of creativity to create a series of work within hours or days instead of months or years. Instantaneous gratification? Maybe so, in a way.

What I’m saying here is that I take all comers. I can work in a very controlled technical way and I can support the creativity that is lurking half-realized. I can’t begin to tell you what might come through our collective hands at the studio, but by giving a tap of the hat to the very nature of our creativity while working within the confines of the glass world, some pretty amazing things can be made.

In the months to come, I will be finally getting back to the studio to work full time again. It’s been years since I have been able to do this. With an injury when I moved that sidelined me for a year, a divorce the following year, and a studio but no funds to fuel its start-up, I took to teaching at the university. But in a synchronistic way, events have fallen into place at a favorable time to go back to blowing glass. And I can’t be happier, hopefully I can keep from breaking any more bones and can settle into an exciting and challenging schedule of glass glass glass!

 

If you are interested in classes, or just to come watch glass being blown, announcements will be made publicly on my Facebook page. Classes will include offhand glassblowing, and torch worked glass (bead making). Glassblowing will be available first while the bead making studio has to be built around the torches I already have in-house and will take some time to build the tables, venting, and small kilns, tools, etc., in place before classes can be offered. My hope is that I will be offering both by next Fall. Please “like” my Facebook page as well as to remain more up to date on events and classes there.

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

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The New

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Large companies can pour millions into new products each year, hiring experts called consultants to help direct them in their dream of new products and new directions for their businesses.  In the world of the artist, this too also happens, but on a mini-micro scale.  You wake up one morning and you say to yourself that an old idea that has been rolling around in your head and heart needs to be embarked on.  For an artist, this means hundreds of hours  of learning this new kind of work and who knows how much money poured into the effort.  When it comes to something like this, there is absolutely no guarantee of any sort of return.  You go by your instinct, your gut, and your wits.  And you want to know something?  My experience has been that many of my most compelling and interesting designs that I personally love often find only a luke-warm reception at least in the beginning.  I have actually shelved what would later become one of my most popular pieces for over a year before returning to it.  When it hit the shelves people looked at it like it was something from another world.  That is to say, they didn’t see it as the unique thing that it was; they saw it as unrecognizable.  This is sometimes the problem with the new.

Before a line of new work is even hot off the presses, it comes under no scrutiny, no flag waving crowds or lines of adoring fans.  Unless you can do something that often strikes most artists as utterly distasteful: you hype the living shit out of it.  You hype it so that normal people who have never bought art before sit up and take notice.  They take notice because, well, they are so tuned into the hype.  I am not talking about what an artist normally does to promote themselves. I am talking about what some people will do in order to bring in the crowds, people who might not have come in the first place.  These people are more drawn by the interest of others, the crowd, the feeding frenzy.  To do this on a large scale means celebrity or the feeling of possible celebrity.  And who doesn’t love a celebrity?  A quiet unknown who is rising through the ranks?  Still, its hype most often, anew form of hype that doesn’t look like hype but still…it is.

The truth is, there is a very small number of people who don’t see the hype, don’t care about the hype and buy with their heart.  And these people are actually the visionaries, the people there when the work was not hyped, was actually affordable, and are often of modest means.  the people who come rushing for the hype are the folks who will put down $40,000.00 for the “next big thing” because, well, it looks good on them or in their house.  What we are talking about is status.  It is also worlds away from authentic art making (unless you create artifice  in order to pander to the rich).

Artists are often caught in this odd cross-fire of authenticity meeting popularity when things take off for them.  The desire to hype can get the better of some art dealers and gallery owners, and artists too.  Look, we all want to prosper, but at what price does this happen?  For those who “make it” there are now funds that allow a person to do so much more than wonder if they will make the bills this month or the next, whether the six thousand poured into the new line of work will yield anything of substance. The number of artists who were obscure in their time is right up there with the fervency of hype.  Renoir would say how he bought his villa with a painting of an empty vase sold ten years previously.  Picasso would sign checks knowing they would never be cashed because, well, his signature. It is indeed a strange world.

But look, the lifeblood of an artist isn’t the money.  It is the excitement over the next new thing, the new idea, the new process, the new way of saying perennial messages that have been born into each generation and recur in slightly different ways from one century to the next.  Our dreams are those of the Romans, the Greeks, the Pelleponesians, the Shakespeares, the kings and queens of Ur, all told now in a recognizable dialect.  Before it is a “thing” we are there in the innocence of the moment in the studio, scribbling on napkins, sending notes to friends, or making the discovery that could change a lifetime.  We were the true believers before anyone dared to even dream it.  It is this piece of our lives that the beloved collector wants a piece of…the early work, albeit a little rough around the edges, but is work that suggests that there are more pieces that will follow, and if the artist is lucky enough to sell enough to fund the next round of work, they do, and the work evolves.  And hopefully, the work evolves fast enough that it stays ahead of the curve so that the artist can turn enough of a profit so that s/he can make more….and survive to make for another day.  This is not an easy proposition because artists have to be both lovers and shrew business people.  I can tell you that it is hard to do both equally well, and as history shows us, artists tend to be lovers over the shrewd type.  This is so because it takes a huge amount of passion just to get your through the 80 hour days, weeks, months, that are required to become good at something.  And for an artist, this can mean remaking yourself with new techniques and ways of working every once in a while.  You don’t get there with shrewdness.  You don’t calculate passion or love.  You simply have to have it in you as a lover.  And like all great lovers, you can’t be thinking about dollar signs when you are throwing yourself into the next big thing.  To do this requires a singular sense of authenticity, passion, and love.  Anything else simply robs the work of the life that animates the work, that gives it that presence that is often unnoticed by the great unwashed but that the lovers of art pick up on and see.  It takes a lover to know a lover, even if one does not make art and the other does.

So it is that yesterday I had this “congealing moment.”  I know how that sounds, but I cannot think of a better term that feels so equal to what actually happens….The moment involved an idea I have had in my head literally for decades that involved a type of work that I have considered doing in glass.  I just wasn’t completely sure how I would do it.  My mind had been putting these pieces together off and on for a long time, but I just didn’t know exactly what the end result would be.  It was a bit like staring at Monet’s paintings of haystacks early in the morning…..they were images that had some shapes, yes, a suggestion of form, but were largely vivid blurs in my mind.  That really is how these kinds of pieces can be in our minds.  I know that other artists do the same thing because I see it in my art students.  They draw a quick sketch and then say, “I will “art it up” Mr. Stafford….you know, I will make it awesome!”

So really what is happening is there is something that is not completely fleshed out for the artist in their mental conception of the work that they just know they will get worked out in the final work. They just know, right? So sometimes that golden moment happens, that bit of genius that flows out into the work, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes we kind of waive our hands in the air, explaining a new idea without really knowing what it will be like.

(“Insert some kind of colorful awesomeness here _____”)

It isn’t that we are fooling ourselves as artists.  In fact, this sense we often have, that it will be awesome, is quite simply derring-do.  It is born out of confidence in ourselves, and it is ballsy.  As a result, I am loathe to be too critical of it. I was in fact in just such a place, parked with my idea for over a decade (at least) while this idea, apparently, gestated very slowly in my mind or creative spirit.  And then it happened.  It happened very quickly, almost too rapidly for me to even notice.  If I had been too distracted, it would have been gone and I might not have even noticed it.  Look, I have hundreds, thousands, of ideas a lot like this fleeting through me.  It is just how it is.  And most often, this happens in a state that is different form ordinary consciousness.  As a result, unless you sit with the idea and hold it there, it can literally just evaporate in exactly the same way that a dream you had last night is  nearly impossible to recall.  Steve Jobs once described all the things he “knew” when he was on LSD that he completely forgot when he came back down to ordinary consciousness….but he knew that it was something and he wanted to add a little piece of that in his work, which he did.  So, yeah.

I didn’t need LSD to get to that moment.  It was all there, fleshed out in the moment clear as day.  It was so complicated that I knew that in order to work it out, I would have to possibly spend months developing enough elements just in order to develop the work.  These pieces depart completely from everything I have done and dip into art.  How they are done is through a series of layers of imagery that are literally carved out of layers of glass at room temperature and then layered into the glass.  On the one hand, I could wind up with a cheap Venetian looking “fish bowl” (you know those….they look like fish in a bowl and are made by layering all these elements in them) or I could on the other, push the idea so far that I come up with the level of complexity I am looking for, which is not unlike a multidimensional “trip” through a dream world that actually is beginning to look a lot like how complex our lives have gotten today.  The trick, I know, as I waive my hands in the air, is to invest the “landscape” of these glass pieces with the level of complexity that keeps them from being cute or quaint and pushes them into new territory altogether.  And that, dear reader, is the hard part of art.  It separates the girls from the women and the boys from the men.  Hopefully in the end it serves to unite us all in a new kind of vision.  😉

So that is what is on the plate for now.  Naturally, I can’t say too much about it right now, not until I develop the work because until I do that it is much too easy for people to take an idea and run with it.  And that is the other side of the coin, but I will spare you that dimension of our work as artists.

The new work will mean that I will do something unusual, which is I will need to create photographs, images, and drawings, all of which will be put down on paper to form the basis of the imagery that will be cast into place with these pieces.  And to do them well will mean that the imagery remain crisp. That will mean selecting certain colors over others.  There will be choices that will have to be made that will be exacting, like building a three-layered canvas made of glass that you will be able to see through.  Some will seem like dreams, some like memories.  Perhaps some will fill the space with a sense of life.  Will they?  That will be up to all of the efforts made in the studio and out of it.  For now, there is a lot that needs to be done in the moment that will lead up to determining whether this work will be worth the time and trouble.  These are the untold hours, the invisible hours, that go to make a new line of work what it is. And this is the life of the artist.  More than money, more than anything else, this is what gets my blood pumping.

American Glass Manufacturers Under Fire

This just in…..this article is from Architectural Glass Arts.  I am including the article in its entirety for all who might be concerned about over reach of regulation from up on high.  Spread the word. -Parker

SOURCE LINK:

http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=6b0adb646b23845dc5f96fed3&id=3a40357fe1


 

Advocate for Glass Art
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If you’ve been following the news in the glass world…

You already know that Spectrum Glass is halting production and going out of business in the next few months. Uroboros Glass in Portland will be picking up production of the System 96 product line. However, the situation in Portland is growing out of control with knee jerk reactions to some sensationalist journalism not based on science, but based in fear and speculation. Production at Bullseye Glass is being suspended with the prohibition of use of the heavy metals necessary to produce colored glass.

There are a handful of glass manufacturers in the US who are being forced to introduce expensive equipment into their manufacturing process without a clear and reasonable timeline for implementing these procedures. If you would like to contact your Representatives in Washington to let them know that the glass art industry is a precious part of the US economy that we don’t want to see disappear due to unreasonable regulations, a sample letter is below. Feel free to change it up. If you’d like to learn more about the situation, there is a group on Facebook dedicated to Glass Artists for Air Quality.

To find your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
To find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Dear Senator or Representative,
This week Spectrum Glass in Washington announced that after 40 years of producing colored art glass they will be closing their doors in July. They are the main American manufacturer of many types of colored art glass. This affects an estimated 30,000 Stained Glass, Fused Glass and Glass Blowing Artists, Stores, Art Studios and Hobbyists across America. Fortunately, arrangements have been made for Uroboros Glass in Oregon state to take over production of some of their Art Glass Product line. But there is still a huge problem threatening the American Art Glass Community.
The entire U.S. art glass industry is now being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with respect to potential new regulations. Spectrum is the first to announce it’s closure, but other glass producing companies are also evaluating their options. Uroboros Glass has suspended production of two-thirds of their glass while EPA re-evaluates their standards. Long-standing interpretations of air quality regulations are being reevaluated, and if new regulations are applied to our industry, it would require substantial capital expenses. Spectrum Glass Company has operated well within existing environmental guidelines and has been the only stained glass manufacturer to employ baghouse technology on furnace exhaust. Still, they have already accrued extraordinary, unanticipated expenses since the start of the EPA evaluation and cannot withstand additional investments of an unknown scale. These business collapses will have a ripple effect across the country.
What you need to know:
  • The stained and colored glass industry is a small, but home grown American manufacturing phenomenon. It’s unique in the world, provides steady manufacturing jobs for American workers, and is an exporting industry as well.
  • This industry of just six manufacturers is facing $2.5-3.5 million of capital investment due to regulatory changes with no advance warning. This investment may prove too much for several of them to bear.
  • Government intervention is needed for them to meet the goals of the new regulations in such a short time frame.
  • The industry is willing to meet new regulations, but it needs reasonable time to do so.
  • The manufacturers are all owned by single individuals and their families, who work daily at their plants. They don’t have the resources of publicly traded corporations to simply pay up and move on.
  • These manufacturers supply thousands of other businesses and craftsmen who depend on their unique glass styles to complete their work. They are now at risk of being put out of work themselves.
  • The very suppliers who have created the iconic glass of the American stained glass legacy are at risk due to this situation.
  • There is currently no actual verification that the glass industry is connected to the detected toxins. EPA did moss testing, a new science, which raised public concern. They retested and found the levels to be safe. The current EPA review and imposed freeze of production is all based in fear not fact.
I want to protect the environment, but I do not want to crush an American Art Industry on assumed causation.

Please do whatever you can to prevent the loss of small businesses, jobs and and entire art form. The American Art Glass community needs your help.

Regards,
Your Name

Copyright © 2016 Architectural Glass Arts, All rights reserved.

 

Insurance For Artists

The market for insurance that caters to the arts community has been shaken up by the economic shocks that have taken place over the last seven years or so.  Many old companies that were old stand-by’s are gone.

As an artist, you can always talk to a conventional insurance provider to get you the kind of insurance you might need for an open studio event, a show, or for ongoing insurance to provide you with the niche coverage you need to protect you from loss. Right?

It is nice to have someone who understands you. This is why I am happy to provide you with a great company that understands the needs of artists from different media.  Many artists are already using this great company and the fees are affordable for event coverage.  The name of the company is ACT Insurance, which stands for Artists Crafters & Tradesmen.

The company has two main choices  the artists can choose from: event coverage and ongoing policy coverage.  And as you might expect from a company like this, they understand that insurance for us often needs to be non-site specific, which is nice.

I suggest that your read through their list of exclusions before deciding on moving forward.  If you do sculpture that is part of an installation process, for example, ACT wont cover you. The nice thing is that their web site is very easy to navigate and you can go through their information quickly.  You can call them at 888.568.0548 and you can click to them here:   Insurance For Artists

Here’s to a great new year!

New Year (Glass) Wishes

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Over the last few years I have been taking photographs of my glass and finding that the more I zoom into the work, the more interesting the landscapes are that I get.  This is a process that believe it or not does not involve any post-production manipulation like filters or special effects. Everything that you see is as the camera saw it.  The difference for me with many of my pictures is HOW I choose to shoot the work.  Again, this is using direct sunlight, no special effects of any kind.  The key has been how I shoot the work, the lenses I use, the light I have and the object that I am photographing.  In my case, I have determined that some work photographs better than others in this way.

As we near a new year, I am reflecting a little on some of the pieces that came about this past year and I thought I would share some with you.  These are just a few of them.


 

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Some of my pictures look like surreal landscapes, maybe even from another world.  This is due to the fact that I am giving people a view into glass that most people do not see.  I am shooting glass objects at a high degree of magnification and under very high resolution.  As a result, I might turn a half-inch square into a 72 inch square.  Under these conditions, levels of detail emerge that the naked eye simply may never see.  In other cases, I am not photographing quit this tightly.  In this case, the glass will most often LOOK more like….glass.

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I like both ends of this spectrum and I have shot thousands of photographs now using my own blown glass as a subject.  You might wonder what I am trying to achieve.  Its a good question. In the beginning, I had no idea where the work was going.  I was photographing my work because a friend had sent me some photographs she took of some of my orbs up close. They were high resolution.  I blew one up and kept blowing it up until I realized that the lens she used continued to give good resolution of the glass surface.  This got me thinking and exploring.  I still am not sure where this type of work is going, except that I like it and I am going to continue doing it.  Something interesting happens when you allow yourself to not know where something is headed; it is suddenly free to go anywhere….even places you had never considered before.

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As I get older, technique does not dazzle me as much as it used to.  Its important, don’t get me wrong, its just that there is more to artistry than just technique. Sometimes our biggest problems lie in what we are unable to imagine….because we have limited ourselves creatively too much.  I see this all the time in school where people want to play it safe and get a good grade. The real fun is out on a limb, never sure when you might plop down on the ground.  Its there, on that limb, that the good fruit is nearly always plucked.

So often I find I am limited by my own biases of what I think I should be doing or that I am capable of doing that I literally squeeze out vast tracks of possibilities in my creative life.  As artists, we have to do this in order to create work that is coherent and focused, but this is a sword with two sides.  I use this work to keep me with something new and different running in the background.  And really, does it need to be anything?  After all, what are most of the “beautiful” materials in the world but a deep visceral reaction to things that are shiny, brilliant and brightly colored? When we say “eye candy” this is what we mean.

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Often “eye candy” gets smeared with a sense of vacuity though, as though this feeds the eye but not the soul. I am not entirely sure that this is so. In fact, I think that our need for great color and brilliance is so total that we could probably look at these kinds of things and be fed at a deep level.  In fact, this is just what we do when we look at a cut diamond, or a shiny metal surface.  What I am saying is that we ought not feel bad for loving the simple pleasure of a brilliant color.  After all, art emulates nature, and what we see in my glass is what we also see in nature, and it is that very nature that has informed our likes and dislikes.

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I find that when I am creating this work, I am an explorer.  I am seeking to see how far into the glass I can go to see what there is to see, to even go beyond the eye and its capacity to see the ordinary in order to pluck something from it that is extraordinary.  These are interesting pieces in their own right, and as they continue to emerge in an ever-interesting array of new forms and landscapes, I remain engaged in seeing where it will take me. Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone!  Here’s hoping that 2016 is a great year!Thanks for all your support!