All drinking jokes aside, this week was one that was kind of big in one of those perfectly understated sort of ways. It made a big splash, though, as people began contacting me about this new idea I was working on. It has been….gosh…. maybe two years in the making? It seems that this happens a lot with me. It isn’t always because of laziness, but just how things seem to happen. But the funny thing is that they almost always wind up as amazing for some reason, these back-burner ideas. The really popular ones…In 1999 I came up with an idea for a galaxy inside of a rock, which I made the first prototypes for that year. The pieces I made were interesting, but they were not worth writing home about. Not for me. Not for a business that set up shop in fairs all across the country whose success was necessary in order to support a business as well as a family at home. For an artist, this is an order that is tall and is something you are always having to make strategic decisions about in order to keep the business solvent. One or two flops can result in wasted time, lost revenue, and a sputtering business.
So this piece was put on the back burner and after a couple of years were pulled off the back burner during a slow summer. This piece has evolved, though, from a time-consuming glass piece that took 40 minutes to make each, to an awesome design made in six minutes with an assistant. This goes to show how things can change in ways you could never believe could happen. When you are blowing glass at 40 minutes per piece , it is hard to believe you would be making them one every six minutes. So that is the backdrop behind this next piece I am going to show you that got made this past week.
The story on how this piece came to be is an interesting one and shows that good things come to those who wait.
It was about two years ago during the holiday rush when I was hosting a long line of people who were coming into the studio to blow ornaments and suncatchers for the season. This is a huge amount of fun for people. I have figured out a way to help people to make beautiful glass ornaments with just a few steps done by me with the bulk being done by the customer. When you consider that it literally takes years to master this art/craft, this is kind of big thing for people to have access to glass. It was during this that an old family friend, Ann Roberts, who teaches at Radford University and who I worked with the Glass Garden (see the archives) came to the studio with a group of people she put me in touch with who blew glass at my studio. While she was at the studio one day during the holidays, she was looking at this one vase I had. It was priced as a second. I explained that it had not turned out right. Everything about it was technically right, the colors were off. The colors had been laid on too dark and this made the piece….well….kind of muddied and dark. I held it up to the light and saw that it looked fabulous with light shining down into it. Pity it was not a lamp, I said. Ann then said something about maybe turning it into one. I had actually had this idea for years about making my vases into….LAMPS. Beautiful stained glass windows of lamps…custom creations unlike anything you have ever seen. And the idea for this project was born!
We talked enough about it that day when she was in the studio that it was decided. I would hold onto her vase and would drill into it and try to light it from within. Ann was game and so was I.
Things have been up and down and up and down since then in keeping the studio open. The economy has not been helpful, but it is true that hotglass is one of the most expensive fields to go into next to jewelry. It takes a lot to get a studio operational and keep it operational. It is a challenge. But I like challenges, and it is one reason why I was able to run the studio full-time for over 12 years until my shoulder injury shut the studio down for a full year, with efforts after that resulting in sputtering. Penny-wise and pound foolish. Yeah.
So even though the studio has been in hibernation, I was able to afford a special diamond bit that would allow me to drill out this vase for Ann. Then, a couple of days ago, I headed to my hardware store with vase in hand and got the materials I needed to light this piece up.
The result? I took pictures. Its an amazing piece, a wonderful idea, a great concept. But one thing that the pictures don’t show is how the lamp affects the space around it. THIS is the really cool part! The same warm feeling that you get when you start a fire was the effect that this vase had on the space. It created a warmth and a feeling of peace. Cool, too, that the bulb was a fluorescent. Normally, I would not use these for glass. I have this love-hate relationship with fluorescent. It is cheap, but it’s also not a full type of light. It is a gas that gets excited. There is something wan about this light, I have always felt. However, moving through THIS glass, the rules seem to have changed. And this is good because it makes this design efficient.
The vase shot a brilliant white orb from its interior up on the ceiling and the walls were bathed in its golden glow. This was something I was expecting, hoping for actually. There was a great satisfaction standing there looking at how the ceiling was washed with this nice white orb on the ceiling. It created the kind of diffuse light that I have ALWAYS liked. Maybe it comes from my days working in a painting studio with northern light. This kind of light always strikes me as festival lighting. You know what I mean when I say that? In the waning light of the winter, we have these festival and feast days. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. And having candles out and the fire burning bright just feels….cozy, right? This was the effect this piece had. Perfect! I have some final shots of the completed piece at the end of the post.
Highlights of red, orange, yellows, and browns helped to seal the deal as I surveyed the effects this piece had on its surroundings. The pictures are dramatic, but they sometimes can look more like a piece that is being lit really well from the outside rather than something that is lit from its interior. This is being lit, obviously, from the inside, but if I had not told you this, you might not have noticed. The effect on the space was magic. It was even better then I had expected.
So lets take a look at the results and I will try to get some pictures from my phone over here to look at so you can see a little more about the project. I will warn you, my phone pics are not the greatest, but they work for field work…
The first part was drilling out (near) the bottom of the vase. This is done with a wet feed drill bit embedded with diamond so the glass does not crack from the heat of the bit cutting the glass.
Then after this, I had to work out a solution for running a wire through this hole in a way that was secure and visually pleasing. This is the bare wire I had stripped, ready to be wired into the light kit…
I had to come up with a custom solution for fixing the wiring in the glass. The solution that I came up with worked the first time, which was nice. Sometimes these things wind up becoming a hunt for just the right thing.
The wiring was pulled out enough so that once I installed the light kit the light bulb could be pulled out of the vase to be changed (not everyone could get their hand down inside the vase).
So the wire length is set in the pic above and the light kit will be attached to these bare wires. Vase drilled, and the wiring fixed in the bottom of the piece.
Now its on to wiring the light kit. But before I do that, let me show you a shot taken in the afternoon light on my living room floor as I worked on all of this that shows how the wire is secured in the piece.
So the fixing of the wiring will keep the wire from being pulled out from the interior of the vase. This is an interior view, below.
Okay. So now for the lighting kit!
I chose a heavy duty ceramic fixture that would give the light kit weight in the vase. Being a prototype, there are more improvements that I will make, but all of this is entirely workable.
Once all of this was done and I tested the light for proper operation, I installed an inline switch that will allow the user to turn the light off within a foot or two of the fixture itself. This is a heavy duty light switch that is the best on the market. It will last for years and is a nice safe switch to use.
Okay, so the rest of the pics are of some quick pictures I took with my other camera!
What is cool about how I do this design is the dimensional quality that I can achieve, which is to say that when I combine colored glass powders with the other glass colors the effect has depth. The effect is different from most anything else I have ever seen in glass (that is blown thin like this piece). It comes from my relentless drive towards creating effects in glass that no one has yet done. No one taught me this, I had to develop it through trial and error, through what large corporations call R&D. I have been lucky in that most of what I have attempted has tended to yield really good results (even when tinkering).
There are, currently, about three different applications of this glass design that I am thinking about using for lighting. One is a torchiere-based lamp with a large sumptuous glass feature expanding out from the center. All of it, though, including the hardware, will have to be built from the ground up. the stuff coming to us from China is simply too light weight for something of the kind I will be making. So yes, expensive, but yet, one of a kind. Unique. There are people out there who value this kind of thing still. Something so visually arresting and unlike anything else that it makes a statement in the room. This is what winning design is about; winning designs help make a room. Take a lamp like this out of its space and you are left with a visual vacuum. Being custom, it has a look that is just….different. The knobs to turn it on are heavier, made of better materials. the knobs do not wobble in their normaly cheap housings. They are sturdy. Being the Rolls Royce of lighting, everything is built to last. This you know you will hand down to your children, to your grand-kids. People will talk about it, noticing it upon entering the room. “Where did you GET that?” are the words so often said.
The other design is a more traditional table-sized lamp that includes a base that is lit just like this vase, but that also includes a lamp shade made using the same color design, but with a bowl/shade that it inverted over the upper portion of the light to create its sumptuous glow. This one will have at least three high intensity lamps up inside the shade with a dimmable feature. The base will be broad, made of a sculpted bronze fitting that will give the entire design a nice stability. It will have a masculine warmth with a cast bronze central shaft but with a verdigris patina (which is blue-green) to contrast and compliment the warmth of the glass. The result will be striking and fabulous. Interested in Art Nouveaux, I would design the base to have an organic effect, but not a rehash of the wonderful but now-overplayed Tiffany era bases which we have all grown to know. Maybe I will call this Retronouveaux. It will have a heavier build, which gives it a greater balance between the feminine undulating forms and a supportive solidity which will give these works something that the originals did not. They didn’t need to.
This, though, is how these things go. They often are the result of a number of interesting events that all combine to create something that is not always anticipated. Now that this is out there, the question is where will I be able to take this…
What’s next? Well….I need to get the studio running again so I can make some of these pieces. That means ordering the glass, getting propane to run the reheating furnaces and paying for electricity. Then after that, I have to work up waxes to use for the forms that will be cast in bronze. Then after that, there is the investment casting that has to be made (this is making the heat-resistant mold that will hold the 2,000 degree bronze once it’s poured). That, though, is enough fodder for another blog post!
Perhaps what is in order is a crowd funding effort to raise the funds to bring this design to market. Now the question is, do I keep this on the back burner or strike while the iron is hot?