New Year (Glass) Wishes

Orbit Slice Copyright

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.


 

Deep Orbit 2 Copyright

 

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.

Orbital Landscape Copyright

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.

Vertical Orbit Full resized Copyright

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!

 

The Promise Of The Creative

©Parker Stafford

©Parker Stafford

Many years ago I had a series of dreams where Picasso would show up and teach me something related to art.  I don’t fully understand why I would have Picasso of all people showing up in my dream landscape except to act in a symbolic role as a creative catalyst.  Picasso casts such a long shadow on so much, and from a historical perspective, I get it.  I just never connected with his work that much.  These dreams though ran the gamut from technique to content concerns in art.  One of them helped to cement a notion that I probably had rolling around in the back of my head which I managed to bring more to the forefront of awareness, which is how as artists, we take nothing for granted.  It is this sense that birthed the modern movement in art, breaking away from sheer representation of objects as had been the way for centuries, to a complete departure from what all of that entailed.  It has given birth to Pop, Op, Surrealism, and a slew of movements within modernism.

In this dream, I am looking out across a grass-filled yard and I see a figure down on his knees looking at the ground.  There he was, and he was beckoning me to come closer.  I walked up to him, wondering what this was all about and he looked at me with these wide eyes and said, “If you look at the surface of things, you wont see it.  Don’t take what you see for granted; there are worlds right in front of you!”  He then nestled his nose down into the grass and urged me to stick my face down in the grass, which I did.  He pushed me to nose down deeper into the grass.  As I looked, I saw how the grass became a canopy, and that canopy opened up into a dense realm of life beneath seeing.  He urged me, “Look deeper!” and as I did so, I saw ants, which had been nothing but specks, explode into view.  Small mushrooms that were growing beneath the grass loomed into view.  He kept pushing me, telling me how everything was animated inwardly by a life of its own.  It was this life that artists seek to bring to life, to show the inside of what life is about.  As I did this, I noticed how the mushrooms began to glow with something, a kind of light or life within them.  It was in some ways indistinct, and yet, what it told me was that what I normally would pass over, had its own reality, its own importance if we could stop long enough to just see it.  We miss these things because we simply do not take the time and focus in a very particular way to soak this life up.  This might seem “woo-woo” to you, but it is widely known amongst the mystics and inner seekers that a part of all seeing is only possible by looking within.  There is a reason for this, but that is a story for another day.  This is where the realm of the ordinary doesn’t just transform but is revealed, perhaps for the first time.

For the last two years I have been slowly but surely studying glass in a way that is not too differently from that day in the grass with my Picasso.  I have begun to take my camera and use its power of magnification to get closer and deeper into the material in a way that most people do not see into.  Glass is itself not animate in the way ants or grass or mushrooms might be, but it is nonetheless a material that responds to the environment around it in fascinating ways, in ways that we might not always see simply because of the vast amount of information that our eye takes in and that our brains filter out.  I have begun this “close look” with no notion of just what I will find, and like an adventurer, have gone looking to see what is there.

Artists often pride themselves in how much control they have in their craft.  It is most often what makes artists what they are.  What they do is called art because they are able to transform the mundane until it becomes profound.  Whatever that means, it most often entails a technical capability to lay paint onto the canvas, or to push and shape raw clay into a myriad of amazing forms.  In my case, it is glass.

What I have been doing is filling folders with visual information, snippets, pieces, parts, and more.  I am like a woodsman gathering wood, thinking he might light a fire only to find that he is actually building a house.  Where this leads is already taking shape, and begins to form the corpus or body of a whole new direction creatively.  And it wasn’t really intentional, but the possibilities are so exciting that while it moves me away from my familiar 3-D orientation as an artist, it also moves me into realms that I find are marvelous.  In this way, the material I am gathering suggests certain directions. I am making decisions all the way, but it feels far more collaborative a process than has been the case in the past.  I like this.  I like tricking myself into thinking I have no earthly idea what will come next, because in truth, my intuition has built a realm of possibilities all floating in front of me, or just behind my eyes and sometimes behind my awareness.  I LIKE working this way for the simple reason that when I work so rationally and intentionally as I used to, the results are rarely as good or as exciting as when I let go and allow something a little broader and perhaps beyond the scope of my rational to take the reins.  Again, that might sound woo-woo to some, but it is in truth what all the great thinkers and mystics down through the ages have been pointing to as a hitherto lesser known part of ourselves.  Its less intending as it is letting go of the vast filtering and biasing effect that take place within our minds every single second of every day in order to touch on another aspect of who and what we are.  Mind you, I am not saying that I am relying on accident.  Accidents can sometimes suggest new directions simply because you never had thought of it and some random movement or event in the studio results in such an outcome.  Certainly Jackson Pollock looked down at the paint dribble that had landed on his canvas and decided to try a little more, then more, and then wound up filling canvases with it.  This is less accident and more suggestion.  But the suggestion exists simply because I am so open to it.

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Orbital #4

The images that you see are copies of images that exist in high resolution taken in certain kinds of lighting and at just the right angle.  I am seeking to get the glass to show me how it can look different as I move it around in the light.  From one single three-inch swath, I can get five completely different results based on the angle the glass has to the light and what lies behind the glass itself.  I am investigating just how interactive glass is in its environment.  It offers up some amazing possibilities.  Many of the images that I am showing here came from just a couple of pieces of blown glass from the studio.

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I call these “Orbitals” partly because the forms that the glass pieces take.  They are round, and they suggest environments, worlds, planets of some sort, perhaps.  Some beg to be scanned, and some have no focal point.  This is where I come in by using these images as the basis for assembling a new form with these images as part of the material from which I will draw.  This work is in its early stages, even after two years of doing this close up work.  It has grown and developed from a series of photos taken from some of my pieces by a client and friend who found them fascinating up close.  I do too, and I have taken this and run with it, although in the beginning I had no idea where it was leading.

To be clear, though, the images aren’t manipulated in post production hardly at all.  The most I ever do is to adjust lighting and adjust sharpness.  Everything else, though, is as I saw it originally, which are amazingly rich and fascinating landscapes, environments, and even worlds within the one we normally see.

Orbital Landscape 2

Orbital Landscape

Certainly these will lead to painting on large shaped canvases of some sort, but exactly how this all comes together is a work in progress.  And really, this is what I am doing, giving you a peek into this early stage process and hoping that perhaps in some small way, it can serve as inspiration for you in your day to day to see things differently.  Sometimes, looking beyond the obvious is all that it takes!

For A Snowy Day

For the last month I have been busily making ornaments (done!) and small Gaia lamps (done!), and am now doing the grinding and drilling of the vases to light them.  I have begun making the large pieces now, and have two of eight made.  Over the last week I have had two people claim their perks for blowing in the studio.  One was a family who had a series of pieces made; two paperweights, a small drinking glass for a delightful little lady, a  small gold ruby ruffled vase, and a large pink and purple Nautilus bowl.

Once the pieces have been drilled and lit, all items will next be packed and shipped.  The weather has been glitchy the last couple of weeks, resulting in the family that came recently to reschedule due to a power outage that sent the furnace to a temp that was too low to gather the glass.

©Parker Stafford

©Parker Stafford

Today, with snow coming down, I hope to get out to the studio to get more large vases made before the weather gets so bad that we have another power outage.  Fingers crossed!  Unfortunately, in the area where the studio is located, power outages are far too common.  It makes me wish I could afford a large diesel generator that will kick on so annealing ovens at least can stay on so no work is lost due to too-rapid cooling.

So before I head out I am including these pieces that were made recently in an effort to use up some of the colored glass that was used for the recent perk-claimers who blew ornaments and suncatchers.  These pics are all from the same piece, which goes to show just how much variety that can be packed into a piece such as this.  I hope it helps brighten your day, especially if you hail from our neck of the woods, which is facing as much as a foot of snow in the next 24 hours.  Enjoy!  Stay warm!

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Diary Of A Crowfunding Effort

Brie Jackson & Parker

Brie Jackson of WSLS News in Matrix Gallery after the interview

 

In early December after considerable thought, I decided to begin a crowdfunding effort on the site indiegogo.com.  I arrived at this decision based on two main factors, both which converged together into one main stream.  First, I had been contacted by a number of people beginning in October inquiring if I was going to have glass blowing classes in the Fall like I had done every year for the last four.  My studio has opened its doors to the public for an event/class that I call the BYOB which stands for “Blow Your Ornament Ball.”  It is an opportunity for the person right off the street to design and help make their own Christmas ornament or suncatcher. Besides being a lot of fun, it is also very educational.  It has been so popular that by October and into November of this year, I had to put off close to 20 people about whether I would be able to do this event.  This is just how popular the event has become.  These were all people coming to me, inquiring.

I teach part time at Radford University, and for the first time since I began teaching in 2010, the classes which I was assigned did not have enough enrollment for the courses to go forward, which meant that I was without an important part of income.  Teaching made it easier to be able to open the studio for key periods during the year.

At about the same time, I had finally gotten the supplies I needed to make good on an old promise to a friend and colleague about turning a vase she had bought into a lamp.  As it turned out, her request was something that fit neatly into something I had been wanting to do for YEARS with the particular line she had inquired about which was converting a hand blown vase into a usable lamp.  It was one of those perfect kinds of matches.  I even had a picture from another client and friend from California who had put a candle in a piece from the same line in order to show me how how her piece looked.

The bottom line was that these vases would make a perfect side-step into lighting, and I already had people already interested. I set about making the alterations necessary to make this vase into a light feature.  The glass wall was drilled out and a light kit with an online switch was added.  It was a simple yet elegant solution.  I finished the fabrication at 3:00 one afternoon in November and couldn’t wait to see what it would look like in subdued light. The effect that it had on my foyer and my study was…..magic.

The Birth of a Campaign

When I went online with the new lamp picture to share with friends, the response was strong.  People were asking when they could get one of their own.  The only problem was there wasn’t a way that I could see to get the studio operation quickly enough to capitalize on all of the interest that had been stirred as a result of my initial reveal.

After some consideration, I decided to do the one thing that I had not done before, which was to FIND a way to raise the funds to bring this product to market.  The added benefit would be that, with an open studio in the winter, people would get to blow their own glass like they had become accustomed to over the years.  This was how the campaign was born.  With about a week worth of working up a budget, I arrived at a target cost for this project, which would enable me to open the studio and launch this new product, now called The Gaia Lamp across the nation with galleries that sold handmade American craft. I learned very quickly the ins and outs of crowdfunding and once I felt like I had learned enough, I began sketching out the beginnings of a campaign.

I decided to run what is called a “fixed” campaign.  In simple terms this is all or nothing.  Meet the goal by a given deadline and you are funded.  Miss that goal amount by the deadline, and you don’t get funded. People urged me to do a flex campaign, explaining that anything was worth something.  As I thought about that, I found that for me, it was beside the point to do that.  I wanted to be able to DO the project, not a PART of it.  Flex meant doing only a part of it (and really, who knew what part would get done, right?).  It also meant that the project might not even get done!  Now tell me, who wants that?

Flex funding is good for people who are raising funds for medical expenses where ANY amount is appreciated, and for nonprofits seeking to raise funds for their cause.  If people were going to give to MY campaign, I wanted to be able to have something to show them for it.  I wasn’t ready to compromise on this point; I wanted my donors to feel a sense of accomplishment in their efforts just as I also wanted to feel accomplishment and the knowledge that I now had the opportunity to move forward with the project.  I wanted it to be a win-win.  The heat was on, the clock would begin, and the race was soon going to be on….

The campaign began on December 1st and went until January 7th.  There was a consideration made for this being the Christmas season, which extended the original date times by an extra week.  I am glad I did this, but as it turned out, the campaign goal of $5,600.00 was met nine days before the deadline.  My concern was that we would have a dead zone for about a week straddling Christmas.  That was the thinking that drove the strategy in terms of time.

The first week was nothing short of a scorcher.  The campaign achieved 42% of its goal in five days.  This put the campaign in the fourth spot prior to being on the main page for Indiegogo in my design category internationally.  That meant that there were only four other projects that were performing better than mine in the world.  This boosted my visibility on the Indiegogo platform and resulted in people giving to the campaign who did not know me or were outside my own personal network or community.It is worth to mention that when you can achieve a given amount of donations in a short period, it will boost your visibility on most of the crowdfunding sites.  Your ability to hustle and get returns winds up boosting you on the site, which further helps your campaign by getting you attention you might not otherwise have.

Media Coverage

There were two newspaper articles written after the goal was met. I also had a news channel interview on WSLS with Brie Jackson about the effort which was very helpful.  I learned that all of the coverage I was getting was showing me just how important it is to be doing this kind of promotion as a matter of course in a business. The effort pushed me to do more than I had done before, and I think that this helped me to dust off some of my skills at self promotion that had gotten a little dry and maybe even stale with complacency and time.  I figured that even if the campaign was not successful, I would have put a spot light on what it is that I do and the products and services I offer, including the design dreams I have. I know that this might sound beside the point, but this effort taught me some important lessons that I needed to revisit, which was to learn how not to be resistant to tooting my own horn.

The Metrics

In the graphic below I have a screen shot of the campaign once it reached 104% and was very close to the deadline.  I have since gotten just over 109% of the goal with the campaign today, which is its deadline.  You can see the first week as the big surge forward followed by a lull that then went on to slowly grow over time.  The trend line was always upward, even if the angle of that line made me nervous at the time.  Would I make it with this kind of line?  Well, as I can tell you, ANYTHING can happen, and did.  The campaign went on with this up and down for a few weeks before the “big bang” took place, which had the effect of rocketing the campaign within shooting distance of the $5,600.00 goal.

indiegogo campaign final

In my case, I used Facebook at the main means of getting the word out, with newspapers and television news helping out a lot.  Since I was unable to properly track traffic from my newspaper and television exposure, its hard for me to say whether it had a material effect.  For those of you out there curious about running a campaign, indiegogo does have some good tools that help to track traffic and donations coming from a site that has a link to your campaign.  While I did not have any donations coming from the link on indeigogo for the tv news story, for example, that does not mean that someone didn’t bookmark my campaign for consideration later.  These tools do help, though, to show where donors and activity is coming from, and its important that you provide your campaign link because it will help you track where your contributions are coming from.

Another metric that indiegogo uses is logging the domains where traffic is coming from, not per isp, but by country.  As a result of this, I was able to see what visitors indexed by country were visiting my campaign page.  In the screen shot below you can see the first page of the most numerous page views for the campaign and where they were coming from.

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The Power Of The Tweet…Blog?

While I was told that Twitter was king (or Queen) for campaigns, I only had about 30 followers (really) when this all began and had not had much luck finding out a suitable way to get people to sign up to get tweets from me.  Instead, again, Facebook was my most used social media outlet.

I blogged and found that there was very little sharing of my blog posts, which was largely due I think to both my level of followers as well as the type of followers I had. This is not a criticism of them at all, and is likely more about how I have chosen to write on the blog. I was not “plugged in” to the entrepreneurial universe with my blog, that was not its main focus. Perhaps my blog posts are too long and might not encourage people who are action-based to read and participate.  They might be too cerebral, too thought-based, I considered. I did have a platform with my blog, but when it came time to begin making some noise, I am not so sure that it was that helpful for getting the word out.  To break out of my own limited circle of readers, I needed to have outlets picking up my posts and sharing them or leading traffic to them.  In the end, my blogging was not a significant factor in garnering donations.  It did, however, serve to inform people who came from Facebook, for example, who wanted to read more about the campaign and saw the link on my page.

Perhaps if I had galleries following me, perhaps if I had crowdfund enthusiasts following me, then perhaps I would have been able to use this tool better.  Note to self; this is something to work on.  And really, to be truthful, my blog is a way to provide content about my business to people who are interested in hot glass and the studio in a more expansive way (instead of the short quips of twitter and Facebook).  It is an opportunity for me to discuss issues that may even be tangential but connected to making art, design, and hot glass.  I also use it occasionally as a tool for informing my art students where I work part time, and it may be that this represents a sudden shift in my content and might even put readers off who follow my blog, I don’t know.  Its been something of an experiment, and is one I will keep working on.  It may be that in order to gain more interest my post will become more trimmed down to meet the growing shortening “quips” we see on the internet.  Sadly, our world is becoming more like this as we are presented with content nonstop that all seeks to grab out attention.  I must admit that my interests with the blog are more along the lines of reading a chapter in a book, something to think about, delve into, to consider.  Perhaps I need to think about expanding my content to include more about my field, people in my field, and about how global influences are at work.  And really, anyone with ideas, I am all over it.  I have long thought that a trade of posts would be great….interviews with other artists….a round table….or posts that include gallery owners about who what when where and why.

The past week has been a busy one for me with ordering the supplies needed for the project as well as getting ready for a donor party at the studio, which I am hoping we can swing by the 24th come heck or high water.  Finishing first and early has its benefits.  And if you are reading this and you shared the news or gave, you did good!  You really did do a great thing that goes beyond just one simple campaign.  It gave me hope back, it gave me a place to create again and to launch a new product.  It has also made it possible for many people to come out and see what their own creativity has to offer them.  And that is a really wonderful thing.  ❤

Onward and upward!  A village did it!

HERE IS THE CAMPAIGN LINK

It Takes A Village

Ornaments@Matrix GalleryI am in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to raise resources to make repairs and get my studio operational so that I can make and launch a new product, which is a fusion of art glass with lighting.  This is a grassroots effort with national reach.  The Gaia Lamp which this project funds will get works into the hands of galleries of fine craft all across the United States.  The campaign is a fixed campaign, which in crowdfunding lingo means that this is an “all or nothing” effort.  I have a goal of $5,600.00 for this project.  If I fall short, donations, which are being held by the campaign platform indiegogo.com, will be returned. That means I am under the gun and on the clock.

Getting the word out is huge for campaigns like this.  I have tried to impress my family and friends with the thought that I am less concerned with donation and much more with their being willing to share updates of the campaign to friends.  When I have three friends that share my news on Facebook, for instance, the views of my posts will double and triple.  Imagine if I could get twenty people doing this on a regular basis!  This is something I have termed “Virality” and is what makes small things become big things.  And not a penny is spent; it is leveraging the power of the internet.  So to do that, let’s talk about what is so cool about all of this….

I am a maker of fine craft in the American Studio Glass Movement. This is one of the newest establish craft movements in the U.S. which began in 1965 when Harvey Littelton taught the first graduate program in glassblowing.  My teacher was one of Harvey’s students.  I was lucky to learn with Bill in the sunset of his career teaching at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  This movement has brought new ideas, new forms, and new energy into the craft movement.  It continues to grow, too!  This is really something for a medium that is sooo ancient!  I am also part of the American Craft Movement, something built on small studios that are keeping the old traditions alive in a world soaked in machine made objects.  Cheap and useful, these objects lack the human touch, the sense of design and delight.  Have you ever felt what a blown tumbler feels like in your hand? Okay, you have never felt one of MY tumblers.  I make them ergonomic and intimate to the touch.  Everyone notices the difference.  Customers speak of my tumblers always sitting dirty in their sink; they are the go-to object.  It is easy to just say that American Craft is overpriced stuff, and it entirely misses the mark.  We have been dumbed down by cheap goods.

Lana & Parker 12:20014During my campaign I have partnered with a local gallery to help spread the word.  After a reporter had been to my studio last year to blow glass, she caught wind of the campaign and spread the word to one of the reporters where she works and I got a call about doing an interview for the campaign.  That interview happened yesterday and aired on the late news.  Being able to get this kind of coverage is big and has the potential to push the campaign forward.  Every eye, every voice, every heart who wishes to extend the reach is what is needed.

 

 

Right now the campaign is at 53%. THIS is very good!  I am very pleased with the progress so far.  Surprised, actually.  But this is also the point where many campaigns lag or slow.  We are also coming up against Christmas, too, which is probably going to be like a week-long dead spot.  And I anticipated this, which is why the campaign is going until January 7th.

The interview went pretty well, all in all.  I sought to emphasize the grass roots effort, howBrie & Lana 2 this campaign will happen by every person willing to share a status or reblog a post.  Perhaps in a bid to grab attention and raise awareness, the threat of a Grinch was added into the mix. Times have been hard this year, no doubt, but its not something that brightens hearts.  What does, is my willingness to be as resourceful as I can be and continue to move forward after difficulty.  Triumph of the human spirit.

So here I am and I am reaching out to let you know that this very cool thing is happening.  You can be a part of it.  If you want to share, that would be great!  If you want to write, I am all over it. If you want to give, I would point you toward the campaign site to decide if you would like a perk. There are lots of them!

Glass GuideI have an E-book I call “The Guide” which is a compilation of all of the tips and hints I have given my customers over the years about how to clean and care for glass. This includes things many people don’t know, like how glass cleaners aren’t even used by many glass workers.  Wanna know that secret mix?  Or how about a way to clean glass that uses NO cleaning compounds at all and is highly effective?  The Guide also shows you how best to light your artglass for a variety of situations.  I show how you can decide and size a room for your glass without having to plunk down the money for a contractor.  I show you ways that you can do this in an exact way, simply and with a minimum of expense.  I include historical facts about glass and I also go into the chemistry of glass in plain language in order to help you to better understand why blown glass IS different from other commercially made glass.  Includes diagrams and photos.  27 pages.  Available for a $2.00 donation.

There are many other perks that include glassblowing.  I had someone today asking if they could come blow glass for a day class.  I suggested we settle on a price for it and that he consider paying for it by donating to the campaign, explaining his  perk would be a class that he and three others would set up.  If the campaign made it, great.  We would look forward to a class sometime in the next two months.  If not, he would not be out anything.  In fact, giving to the campaign would move me ever closer to my goal.  This is how a crowdfund is a win-win.  It is the kind of thing that doesn’t just give for one person.  It can give a multitude of times.  I would urge anyone thinking about a day in the studio blowing as much glass as humanely possible and learning more stuff than you could ever believe, to contact me before donating so we can work out the details.  If you are out of state, I can also arrange to have you picked up from our local airport in Roanoke.  The possibilities are endless.  You can quite literally make your own perk; it is worth it to me, but let’s talk to make sure we are all on the same page.

So this is why the recent interview was a big deal in my area.  The local news did it, and I

Brie Jackson in Matrix Gallery taking an obvious selfie.

Brie Jackson in Matrix Gallery taking an obvious selfie.

am incredibly blessed that they did!  Newspapers have been contacted, press releases have been sent out.  For now I am relying on the power of the press and media to help me. So far, though, half of the effort has come directly through the internet and by sharing emails and links with friends and even family.

So if you would like to see the interview you can go HERE.  To go to the campaign itself you can go HERE. You can use indiegogo’s share tools to share the campaign.  You will discover and learn and find out if this is something that this is something you want to get behind.  It could be something that you could crow about; you got to be a part of it!

And whatever you DO decide to do, my thanks in advance!

 

~Regards,

 

Parker

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.

Lamp 1

©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

image

©Parker Stafford

VMFA_2

©Parker Stafford

 

 

image

©Parker Stafford

 

round vase sized

©Parker Stafford

 

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

“The Glass Garden”

IMG_3455

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

GlassGarden.13.0279.0