For the past five years, I have had the pleasure of working with a Metuchen High School student intern. The program pairs interested high school students with local businesses to provide an inside look at how work gets done. Each year, the students who have come to spend a few hours per week with me have been really interesting, motivated kids. They come to my studio after spending a full day at school and often before they head off to other activities at night. I’ve been fortunate that they all have been flexible and willing to work on different projects each time. This year, my intern is a sophomore whose favorite medium is oil paint but she’s had no problem jumping in to learn screen printing, mobile making and cutting glass to make jewelry. She’s enthusiastic, funny and willing to learn and try. For her, I hope the experience is helping her see from the inside that running an art business can be both chaotic and mundane, depending on the day. Ultimately she may not go into a career in art but I think that the same can be said about almost all jobs— some days are fun and crazy and others are more routine. Whether it’s through an internship, a summer job, or a part-time job during the school year, I think the practical knowledge that can be gained outside of the classroom offers valuable lessons for teenagers. And I truly enjoy the opportunity to share my business with these great kids!
Since much of my work consists of residential commissions, I value a good photograph to share with future clients. Unless you’re friends with or family of my clients, you will probably not see this window which is now installed in their home. However, a great photograph allows me to share it. And that becomes my question as I get ready for an installation— what makes a great photograph? I own a decent camera but I don’t have a lot of photography skills or Photoshop knowledge and glass is tricky to photograph. Sometimes I get lucky but other times my attempts fall short. In photographing this window, there’s the issue of the clear glass in the center. Although it’s textured, when you look at the clear glass you see through to what’s on the other side. Sometimes a photograph taken of the window installed looks lovely as you can see through to the outside but other times I like the image to look clean as was the case with this. Also, for some reason, red is a hard color to photograph- it tends to look kind of orange. Additionally there are textures and bevels that are such a big part of the beauty of glass but that are hard to capture unless you know what you’re doing. I blogged about this window on February 1 when it was a work in progress on my workbench; the image I shared then was what I could manage but I’m so happy I decided to take the finished piece to my friend, David Glasofer of Image Up Studio who takes such time and care with photographing my work (and, of course, with all the work he shoots). If you have the good fortune to be friends with or family of my clients, you’re lucky because they are wonderful people. And also because you can see this window in person which is how it looks the best. But if not, thanks to David, you can still see a really terrific photograph of it!
If you follow me on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/paradisecsg/), you might have seen this little bird as she is starting to develop. I have been working on her, off and on, for a few months based on some drawings that were done by a very special little girl (more on that at a later date). I knew I wanted to make her out of copper wire but, as I am still finding my way with 3-D work, I wasn’t quite sure how to translate the drawing into a 3 dimensional form. Using the drawing as a guide, I started wadding up newspaper and taped it together with masking tape until I created a very rough looking bird which became my model. From there, I started creating the copper wire bird. The next step has been to add on wings and a tail which I am shaping out of copper sheeting which I have torch fired with multiple coatings of purple enamel. The tail isn’t quite done and she still needs some copper legs and feet but she’s coming along! Also in the background you can see some red glass cherries that I fused with copper stems so they can be attached to a copper tree that is starting to develop in my imagination. There’s a long way to go— it starts in the imagination but it comes to life in the studio. Stay tuned for more on this project in the coming months!
One thing that really warms my heart is a person who gives a very thoughtful gift. When the giver takes the time to think about what the receiver values and gives a gift that honors and celebrates those priorities, it’s pretty incredible. And I feel especially lucky, as an artist, when I get to be a part of that. A client reached out to me in the fall to create a gift for his mom’s 70th birthday. I blogged about this stained and fused glass family tree on December 6, 2018 when I first began creating the tree and this is a photo I took of the finished product. Her birthday was in January but the weather prevented him from being able to give her the gift on time and I didn’t want to ruin his surprise by posting about it before she received it. As I was creating it, I kept thinking about how happy she will be each time she looks at the gift that came from her son and recognizes her deep love of her family. Happy 70th birthday!
I was commissioned to create a logo piece for a client whose boss is celebrating 10 years with their company. The logo itself is fairly straightforward and they were very flexible with how the overall piece should look. So I started fiddling around and found these really cool beveled squares that I had bought on a whim years ago because I liked the way the dichoic coating lit up the center of the square. The company’s colors are orange and gray and the dichoic coating has a reflective, orange glow— they were meant for this project! The other feature that we had discussed was the cloud. As a cloud-based technology company, this emblem was something they identified with but didn’t have a clear vision of how to incorporate it. Initially I had built up a little cloud shaped pile of frit (think: ground glass the texture of sand) on the surface of the clear center piece. I was planning to put it in the kiln in the morning when I woke up thinking, “I can’t do that! The glass will spread out and it will look like a pile of mush!” (Truly, I woke up thinking this. I’m not making this up!) So I scraped it off and came up with a way to create a cloud shaped indention to hold the frit in the right shape and guess what? It worked! It’s really thoughtful that my client is giving this as a gift to his boss— he told me she’s a very strong leader and she sounds like a great boss. It makes me happy to help him celebrate her— congrats, Rebecca! Keep up the good work!
A little over month ago, I delivered three of the four lamps of this commission to their permanent home. Last week, my photographer friend, the talented David Glasofer took photographs of them in their new setting. This is one of my favorite photos he took because it shows the ceiling lamp lighting up their beautiful sun porch which is almost entirely wrapped in windows. The windows make me really happy because the homeowner often leaves this light on at night and I can see it glowing when I go by the house. I also love that in the photo you can see their sweet dog curled up on the couch. This lamp replaced a very intense florescent ceiling lamp which cast a harsh light and made this room feel cold. As you can see, it’s now warm and cozy and perfect for an afternoon nap. I also really like that one of the glass panels in the doors to the room has a little reflection of the lamp (on the left side at the top). The home owner was really thrilled with the reflections too and one day sent me a dozen pictures as the lamps were reflecting in the window glass! I’m always really happy when I create something I feel proud of but with these lamps, seeing the joy it has brought to this family has made them even more special.
One thing I really enjoy about having my own art business is the variety of work that fills my days. The projects I am currently working on vary widely and it makes it interesting when I get out to the studio each day to decide what I will work on first. Sometimes there are deadlines to consider, sometimes I load the kiln and then need to wait 12 hours for a firing cycle to finish, and sometimes there is paint or patina that must dry before I move on to the next step of a project. And then there are times when I just get into a groove and work steadily on one project. This week I got into a groove on this window which I am creating for a client whose family is heavily involved with swimming. When I brought glass samples to her home for her to look through, I wasn’t surprised that she was drawn to all the “water glass” (in the photo above, it’s easiest to see this texture on the blue pieces of the border) and the heavily textured blue and green pieces that look like ocean waves. A bit harder to see in this picture is the clear water glass in the center. She also wanted to add some dimension and interest so she chose different textured clears and the deep red which is in the center and corners. The effect is both calming and invigorating; it’s going to look really beautiful in her bathroom window. There’s still a lot more to be done; at this point, I have to wait for someone in my family to get home to help me turn the piece over since it’s only soldered together on the front and requires a gentle touch to maneuver it. So I’ll switch gears; the kiln is almost ready to be unloaded!
“I like it! What is it?” my daughter said. “It’s a sun!” I replied. Well, truthfully, it’s an under construction sun. If you look closely, you can see a red piece of tape reminding me of where the top is and on the right side is a pattern piece still taped in— and there will probably be more. At first I had intended to have 3-4 glass pieces but the more I add, the more I like it. The shapes are popping out and the colors look even more beautiful as they overlap. Adding the glass is pretty interesting because the shapes first must be cut from a sheet of glass and ground to fit, then I drill multiple holes in each one, then slump them in the kiln to get the correct shape, and finally, carefully wire them in.
Eventually this will be hung, together with a butterfly mobile I’m creating , in an elementary school in Summit, NJ (I blogged about the butterfly portion on December 21, 2018). It’s been really fun to work on this commission; this portion is unlike anything I’ve done before. I did a site visit to the school the other day to confirm important details about the hanging of the pieces even though I still have a ways to go with the whole project. The staff was very friendly, helpful and nearly as excited as I am for this piece to hang in their lovely front office. More photos to come as it develops further.
When my kids were little, they used to take the bus to both the elementary & middle schools with a group of kids from our neighborhood. One of the girls was the same age as my daughter and was a character from as far back as I knew her. She often arrived at the bus stop at 8 am with her lips stained orange from the soda she was drinking and she would alternate between arguing with her brother and dancing. When they reached high school age, she turned her passion for dance into her school choice as well and began attending a county vo-tec high school where she spends much of her day dancing. She’s even going to college next year as a dance major; her feet never stop moving. Thinking of her in this way, I was a little surprised a few months ago when she reached out to ask if I could help her learn to weld. For an independent study, she was encouraged to learn a different art form and she wanted that to be welding. We’ve had a lot of fun over the past month working on the basics and creating projects with her grandfather’s old tools. A few years ago, I had made a bunch of glass flowers using old railroad spikes as stems. As much as I enjoyed making them, I had gotten out of the routine but working with Molly inspired me to make another. I’m donating this one to Metuchen School’s PT Council for their annual fundraiser so I used the school colors for the flower and added some gears to the bottom as a nod to other typical modes of transportation in the borough. Thanks, Molly, it’s been a pleasure working with you and I can’t wait to see what you do next— a dancing welder, who would have thought?
I’m so lucky to live a short train ride from New York City where I can visit some of the world’s great art museums. I took a day off yesterday and saw the amazing exhibit of Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim. Full disclosure, I’m usually not a huge fan of modern art. I often feel like I just don’t get it and truly, in this exhibit, I’m not sure I “got it” either. But I was blown away. First, she’s a female artist who predated a number of male artists who are credited with “discovering” modern art. So “who discovered what when” is interesting. But she also had seances and felt she was channeling spirits through her work. So there’s that. Then there’s the fact that she foretold the creation of the Guggenheim and described the venue that would ultimately house this exhibition in great detail before it was even conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright. Finally,there were all the stylistic changes in her work. In one period, she covered canvases with large, colorful flowing spirals in oil paint and the very next year, much of her work featured a single water color square on butcher paper. It made for a jarring walk through a building that wraps around itself multiple times. To me, it was a reminder that while we we cycle through the same seasons and events each year, we shouldn’t expect things to always be the same. There are changes and surprises around each turn. Like Modern Art, sometimes making sense of it is challenging. Perhaps a seance might help me figure it out?
Last week, I did something I had never done before: I scheduled an appointment with my photographer friend, David Glasofer to take a photo of a piece I hadn’t even bought the materials to create yet! I had accepted a last minute commission to make a glass mobile for a retiring elementary school secretary whose going away party was yesterday. Because it was something they thought of late and my schedule is really busy, we came to an agreement that I would create a section of the mobile and send them a photo of the “work in progress.” They shared the photo with her and she will come back to the school for a dedication of the piece which will hang in the office that she has run with kindness and care for 21 years. I created a section of the mobile with 7 butterflies— there will be 2 other sections, also with 7 butterflies each, the total representing her years of service to Lincoln Hubbard elementary school in Summit, NJ. I haven’t met her yet but she is described as a warm, loving woman so she will also be represented in the mobile as a sun that the butterflies flutter around. There are some surprise details that will adorn a couple of the other butterflies that I think she will really appreciate. With the photo taken and presented, I have a few other commissions that I am turning my attention back to for now but will finish this mobile in the beginning part of 2019 and will post more photos when it’s complete. Happy retirement, Yvonne!
Back at it! After back to back weekends of holiday shows and making of all sorts of gift items, I am digging back into this commission of a stained glass family tree. My client saw a photo of one I had created a number of years ago and reached out for a custom gift honoring his mom on her 70th birthday. The first step in the process is making the 2-D stained glass tree and sky which measures about 24” x 36” and will be set into a oak frame. Once the tree is complete, I will create glass leaves that have a wire stem fused in and I will paint family members’ names on them. Since his mom is one of 8 siblings, the names on the leaves will be doubled up occasionally for some married couples and siblings; it’s a dense tree! The wire stems of the leaves will be soldered to the branches so they will actually hang off the tree. I really love creating meaningful artistic gifts like this because I know they will be cherished by the receiver and are a joy for the giver as well. As you can see from the drawing, there’s a long way to go with lots of tiny, twisty branches and not to mention all those leaves! But I know how happy his mom will be when she receives this— onward I go.
Every year at this time I get really excited for Metuchen’s annual art party: Eat, Drink, and Buy Art! Transformations Gallery has been hosting it for the past 8 years and part of the fun is that it changes— in location, artists, and we offer a special twist— each year. This year we are back at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse, a smaller venue, which means we had to be super selective with our artists and many of them have been with us since the beginning. The twist this year is we will be having our usual Saturday night event from 5:30-9:30 pm and also a full-day of shopping on Sunday from 11 am- 4 pm. Since the Schoolhouse is the location for picking up booklets for the Holiday House Tour, you can do that at the same time as checking out the art. If you have been to the event before, you know how much fun it is. And if you haven’t, you really ought to check it out. It’s free and open to the public! Hope to see you either— or both— Saturday or Sunday.
As the smell of turkey fades, we are starting to gear up for the next holiday and I am excited to be taking part in #SmallBusinessSaturday with an open studio sale. Tomorrow, Saturday, November 24 is the day we’re encouraged to #shopsmall and support the small businesses in our communities. My studio will be open from noon- 3 pm with a variety of holiday gifts including traditional favorites like jewelry and coasters as well as new items like glass mistletoe! Hope you can stop by and visit!
I’m writing this post from snowy Johnstown, PA. But next to the forge at the Center for Metal Arts, it’s toasty warm! I came here to create metal embellishments for a lamp commission and it has been a great experience. I was looking for a well equipped metal shop and an experienced metal worker to give me some one-on-one help as well as tools I could use on my own. I hit the jackpot! Dan Neville, one of the co-owners, is a wealth of knowledge, super patient, and really easy to feel comfortable around as I make my metal forming debut. I have one final day to work on these pieces and I have high hopes. Stay tuned for more photos and if you want to see a video of some of the work being created, check out my Instagram.
In New Jersey, public schools are closed the Thursday and Friday of election week. It makes a perfect time to go out of town and, since my daughter is thinking about going to college in Washington D.C., we decided to take a little trip. Somehow I forgot that first part— midterm elections just happened. And there is more unsettled energy than usual here. But at the same time that there are big political events occurring, there are smaller, more personal concerns for me. With my son in college already, my daughter potentially leaving next fall means my nest will be empty. It’s a great feeling that she is embracing the chaos of Washington and hoping to get into international relations. But not to see her beautiful face every day or hear her funny stories is a change that gives me pause. The bittersweet of having ambitious, independent kids is they leave to make their own way. Until then, I’m enjoying the moments, even in the craziness that is Washington, because I have this amazing girl by my side.
At Transformations Gallery, our current show is “Doors.” My co-curator, Judy Weinberg, and I have been talking about this concept for a while. We liked the ideas of asking artists what doors mean to them— are they a way to keep things in or out? a difference in how things look and feel inside and outside? do they represent a challenge that they moved through? We were really excited to receive the submissions and are thrilled about the show although most people were fairly straightforward with their subjects. I decided to submit a photograph that is more of a concept; I had taken it in Iceland of a glacier that is melting as the planet warms. It represents to me a door that is closing to many life forms that won’t survive, land that will become covered as the seas rise. Visually, I like how the photograph, printed on metal so it has more depth, gives you a sense that you’re looking into the history of the planet as it was frozen in water. I am troubled by our current administration’s denial of climate change and ultimately I think the roots of this perspective are financial. While we all are responsible to maintain our planet for future generations, this photograph is the reminder to me that we don’t all move through the same doors. And that is a reminder that we all have the opportunity to
VOTE ON NOVEMBER 6!
It’s not the most outlandish need so I’m not totally sure why it’s been such a slog— I’ve been trying to find someone to help me create some cool metal embellishments to finish a commission of three stained glass lamps. My metal working skills are somewhat basic so in order to create what I’m envisioning, I needed to find someone who has much finer skills and access to special tools. Over the past three months, I have contacted at least 15 metal workers and struck out with each for one reason or another. So I am really happy to share that I just booked studio time and private lessons at The Center for Metal Art in Johnstown, PA. It’s almost 5 hours from my studio, a bit further than I wanted to go. But it’s housed inside a historic blacksmith shop built in 1864, they offer everything I could possibly need (and much more!) and the staff seems super knowledgeable and friendly; I think it will be a great opportunity. Often, at the start of a project, I have a pretty clear idea how long it will take and how the evolution will progress but not so in this case. Thankfully, I have a patient client! I’ll post photos while I’m there and of course some final shots of the lamps once they are complete.
There is so much art going on this Sunday, October21 in Metuchen! The “big event” is a Gallery Walk from 1-5 pm where the four permanent galleries— Transformations, The Rotunda, The Library, and Nails in the Wall— will be buzzing with music, art, artists on site and snacks. At Transformations Gallery (at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse, 491 Middlesex Ave.) we will be having a reception for our inside exhibit, Doors, (see top flyer above) featuring the work of 26 New Jersey artists many of whom will be present and some of whom will be selling art. We will also be unveiling our brand new outdoor exhibit space with three historic doors that have been transformed by Enrique Zaldivar, Joe LaMattina, and Kim Adlerman (see second flyer above). Everything is free and open to the public. Hope you can join us to experience some great art in Metuchen!
On my workbench this week are two “works in progress” which illustrate some interesting differences for people considering stained glass windows. I hadn’t planned it that way; I have one more identical piece to each of these to make but I ran out of supplies for both! So before I take a trip to the glass store, I thought I’d spend a minute sharing about the way these two projects are different and how it impacts pricing. The one on the right is constructed in the “Tiffany style” which involves wrapping each individual piece of glass in copper foil. In the next step, lead solder will be heated, it will adhere to the copper and will hold all the pieces of glass together. This technique works well with a design consisting of small pieces of glass. When they are side by side, it’s easy to see how much smaller these pieces are and how much more intricate this design is. This one measures just over a square foot and is constructed of 49 textured clear pieces. The window on the left measures nearly 5 1/2 square feet and is made with only 32 pieces. It’s constructed using lead came which is best when the pieces of glass are large because the lead came is more substantial. It’s really messy right now because I just finished pushing putty (or cement) into the channels to give it greater strength. To help the putty harden, appropriately named “whiting” is sprinkled over the top. Sometimes people ask me to give them a price for a stained glass commission and, with only dimensions, it’s hard to give an accurate cost because design is such a significant part of pricing. With these two, the clear panel has over 8 times as many pieces per square foot as the the other. But there’s another difference that’s hard to see because of the mess of the putty and whiting: the red glass in the window on the left is made with gold! A sheet of that glass costs nearly 10 times as much as a sheet of standard clear glass. But it is so beautiful— I’ll share more photos when it’s finished. So there you have it, a little visual explanation on the challenges of pricing!