About five years ago, I became part of a group of women artists who meet monthly, taking turns sharing the challenges of our businesses. Each month a different member is the focus of the meeting (we call it being on "the hot seat") while the others offer feedback and support from their own unique perspective. Some months, the advice and compassion given makes the difference in one of us getting back on track. This month was my turn to be on the hot seat. I am coming to the end of construction of the James Monroe wall sculptures and, fortunately, I wasn't in a place where I needed too much advice. So it basically turned into show and tell! As artists, they carefully examined everything I have been working on, asking lots of specific questions. They understand that even the mundane things, like welding rebar in the photo above, are essential. They focused on the tiny pieces of glass that make up the owls feathers, the pattern pieces that I used to create the river, and asked about the molds that I used to slump the river sections. I have been so deeply immersed in this project that it was fun to step back and share about it with people who really want to know the details. When I am working on something I really enjoy, I can talk about it endlessly and I often see the eyes of the person I'm talking to start to glaze over (sorry, Scott!). So I really appreciate being able to share with other women artists who appreciate the minutiae! Thanks, ladies!
The other day, my photographer friend, David Glasofer of Image Up Studio, came over to take some "work in progress" photos of the commissioned steel and glass wall sculptures I am creating for James Monroe Elementary School. The forecast predicted rain in the afternoon so when he arrived at noon, I was focused. For safety reasons, I weld outside of my studio and since I wanted him to take a few photos of me cutting, grinding, and welding steel, we jumped right in. When we finished, I hauled all my equipment inside and we took a break and chatted. Then he showed me the photos. I was shocked; how had he photographed my mother??? Occasionally, since I have gotten my haircut short, I see her face in mine. But there was something more in those photos: the focus in the eyes? the set of my jaw as I concentrated? With my mom, she was more likely focused on cooking than welding but the look was the same. My mother passed away in 2012 and, in the years since, my own efforts at motherhood have gotten much more complicated as my kids have become teenagers, learned to drive, gone off to college. It's crazy how the circle goes around. This Mother's Day, if your mom is still living, I hope she's close enough to hug. If not, I hope your kids are. But if that still isn't an option, hug yourself. They are inside you too.
The steel and glass wall sculptures for James Monroe Elementary School are coming together in fits and starts. Some days I feel I've made a lot of progress and other days I just chip away slowly. This week I mainly worked on the river which will hang above the school's original sign (the only thing that didn't burn in the fire). I am creating it in 3 steel sections, each measure about 4 feet wide. Attached to the steel will be 3 undulating panels of fused glass-- every panel fires in the kiln twice, first to fuse the glass together and then to slump over a mold. Each firing takes over 24 hours. All of the steps of the process are really important but they are not very glamorous. I spent a day carving the slumping molds that go in the kiln. And I spent another day cutting and welding the steel corners which will give the glass a little extra support when it is finally epoxied onto the steel. It's progress but it doesn't look like much! Hopefully soon it will start taking shape as I put the elements together and I can share some pictures showing how it will look as it gets closer to installation.
photo credit: Judy Weinberg
On one of the cold, drizzly mornings this week, I met at Transformations Gallery with my co-curator, Judy Weinberg, and Jen Kelly, a BIL member who is helping us with a project. We were meeting with the owner and another employee of a Long Island-based company, Marshall Fine Arts, that specializes in services to the art world. Jen had found the company doing some internet research but we really didn't know what to expect. We spent over an hour talking through our project, during which time they shared with us about other projects they had done for the Met, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney, the Newark Museum, Yale University and many others! Our project seems big to us but compared to what kind of work they regularly do, it's small potatoes. Even still, they took the time to talk through all kinds of minute details with us. The wealth of knowledge they shared was incredible and, not only that, they were two of the nicest people! As we finished talking, the owner (whose age I can't be sure of but who started his business in 1972) dropped to the floor in the splits! Apparently, this is his signature move and he does it in front of many of their sculpture installations- how unexpected! I can't remember ever being in a meeting that made me smile more!
This was one of those years that it felt like Spring would never arrive. As a warm weather lover, I often wait impatiently for it and even more so this year as I was eager to get outside to weld. I had done a bunch of prep work on the steel portion of the wall sculptures I am creating for James Monroe Elementary School and finally, just yesterday, I was able to start welding some trees. Two of the wall sculptures features trees and owls-- one has younger trees and baby owls and the other has more mature versions of each. As the pieces comes together, there's a lot of tweaking that happens in order to create balance and harmony. By using steel for the form of the sculptures and trees, I am hoping to highlight the strength of school community; I also love the way it plays off the quirky details of the glass owls. Earlier in the week, I created a design for the thirteen foot long river! But that's a story for another blog post and a project for the days when I relish the heat of the kiln as it fires up to 1450 degrees. For now, I am glad to be outside.
About a year ago, one of the major art glass manufacturers, Spectrum Glass, went out of business. Their departure left a lot of glass artists scrambling, especially when it came to fusible glass. All fusible glass manufacturers put a great deal of effort into creating glass that is compatible-- meaning it reacts to temperature changes in the kiln in the same way as others in the line. A consequence of using glass that is not compatible frequently is breakage. I had a very small quantity of the glass shown above that I wanted to use for my James Monroe Elementary School project. I am making a glass river that will visually join two wall sculptures on either side of the school's sign (see my March 2 blog post for more information). I thought this glass would be perfect but, unfortunately, by the time I went to buy it, there was none to be found. There was nothing that was even close to it with the compatibility I needed. This morning, as I was wandering around the glass store, I saw this gorgeous glass and my jaw dropped. Almost immediately, one of the employees came over to me and said they weren't able to sell it because they only had 4 remaining sheets. I'm not sure what changed his mind but the next thing I knew, he was calling the office to ask if I could buy one. And wouldn't you know it, they said yes! I can't explain how happy I am to have gotten this treasure! I had been waiting to start this section of the project and not really knowing why-- now I know. I was waiting for this!
I've been involved with the Junebug Art festival in Metuchen since its beginning 11 years ago. There have been a number of changes to the event in the past few years-- we switched from Friday nights to Saturday nights and we were also able to close Main Street which allowed for a much more festive feel. This year, the name is changing and, more importantly, instead of being 4 nights, it's one full day. The committee has been working really hard to concentrate our focus to bring high end art and music to Metuchen. We hope you all come down to METFEST on Saturday, June 9 from noon to 10 pm and experience the wide range of live art and music as well as fun, food, and friends. If you are a visual artist and want to participate, applications are being accepted until May 1 through Zapp and you can find all the information here. I am personally really excited about our new and improved festival and I can't wait to see many of you there!
I am a planner! When we book a vacation, I love looking at maps, checking online for places to go, and asking friends for recommendations before we leave. It's great for me that stained glass usually requires a plan. I find it satisfying when I start a project and all the decisions have been made, the options have been sorted through and I get busy creating according to the plan. Last week, "Evil Ted" helped me begin my pattern for this lamp. But I soon realized, I wanted it to develop more organically. So I still used his idea of aluminum foil and duct tape to cover the mold but then I switched gears and started creating shapes directly on it. I divided the mold into sections and used scraps of paper to lay out a pattern, piece by piece. When I had a paper pattern piece I liked, I would cut a piece of glass to see if I still liked it. This technique is the opposite of how I usually approach a project so it feels a bit funny not to have a plan in place as I am beginning construction. But it's allowing me to move things around and make choices as I go. I have changed, discarded, and relocated many pieces already but it's starting to take shape. It's a fun, creative challenge to flip the way I usually work and hopefully the results will support the effort.
One thing I really love about my job is how different it is from day to day. My kilns have been firing non-stop, creating elements for the James Monroe wall sculptures. But I'm running out of room for all the different pieces, waiting their turn to go into the kilns, so I decided to switch gears and work on a lamp pattern. I have a commission to make 4 lamps for a client who wants them to match some stained glass windows that are original to her home. I got a mold that will create the shape of the lamp but decided to create a unique, coordinating pattern. That requires transposing the flat drawings I've made onto a curved 3-D shape and it's something I've never done before. So I turned to YouTube. Despite being a pretty low-tech person, I frequently avail myself of the wide variety of learning there is online. First I watched some videos on how to make a hoop skirt. But after consulting with a friend who is a talented seamstress, I realized glass and fabric are not similar enough for me to borrow those techniques. Then I found it: Evil Ted shares his secrets on how to make a "foam dome" which, in his video, ultimately becomes a Star Trek helmet using aluminum foil & duct tape! No doubt our final products will be very different but Evil Ted took me through step-by-step how to create the pattern. And maybe when the lamp is finished, I'll make a stained glass Star Trek hoop skirt!
The summer after I graduated high school, my family took an amazing trip to Greece. I was incredibly lucky not only to be able to go but to have my older sister, Gretchen, as my traveling companion. We left my parents in Athens and traveled together through the Greek Islands- Mykanos, Santorini, Tinos, and Crete. Pre-internet, we drifted around in search of fun, food and adventure. Fast-forward about 25 years and my sister traveled to Greece again for her honeymoon. Since then, she has become a yoga teacher and, just now, has put together an amazing opportunity-- she is taking a group to Greece in September! She will be teaching yoga twice a day, although participation is not mandatory. Gretchen is a fine art major and has a unique eye for the beauty and history in Crete as well as a deep sense of fun! She has partnered with Stone Arch Travel and this looks to be the trip of a lifetime. Click here for more information about the trip.
I'm really excited to be starting on a new, big project! I have been commissioned by James Monroe elementary school in Edison, NJ to create three glass and steel wall sculptures for their beautiful, brand new school. In 2014, the original school was destroyed by a fire which resulted in the staff and students spending the next three years temporarily using space in other area schools in an effort to carry on. Their school has been completely rebuilt and the new building is huge, modern, and full of light. When I first met with them, I was impressed by the resilience of the staff who, despite their difficult years, expressed a deep sense of gratitude for all the people and institutions who supported them along their journey back to Sharp Road. The only remaining piece of the old school is a name plaque that was rebuilt into their new lobby. On either side of it, as well as throughout most of the building, the walls are white and without any adornment. We discussed how that would be a perfect focal point to add some artwork, both to honor the old as well as celebrate the new. A theme in my art is transformation and I suggested I could create wall sculptures to place on either side of the name plaque that depict the growth that they have experienced as a school community as they returned to their former location. To make it timeless, I also wanted to highlight the students and honor the changes they go through during their years in elementary school. With an adorable mascot to work with-- the owl-- I began to envision it. These two baby owls are the first elements to come out of my kiln but there is so much more to come. Stay tuned! I can't wait to share it with you.
Allow me to confess, I am not a professional photographer! I created this transom for a family in Metuchen who was remodeling their kitchen. They had chosen very clean fixtures and appliances and asked me to create a transom to be installed in the kitchen above their basement stairs with a light behind it. They wanted the transom to bring some color and vibrancy to the space and we talked through a bunch of options-- different flowers, colors, and designs. Ultimately, they came back to the idea they had suggested originally of roses. They were thoughtful about all aspects of the design and I was fairly certain they would love the finished product. So when I sent this photo to them, they replied quickly that they were pleased but it wasn't until I brought the transom to their house that they really got excited about it. They commented that from the photo, it's impossible to see the texture of the glass and solder, the variation in the color of the petals and leaves, and the luminous quality of the glass overall. So I laughed when I suggested that since the picture doesn't tell the full story, I will bring all my potential clients to their kitchen to see it in person. It's nice to work with people who appreciate what I do and also have a good sense of humor!
Lunar Gala is a student run fashion show at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that is held each year around the Chinese New Year. It's a creative feast with students involved in every aspect of the show- producing, modeling, designing and dancing. It brings together students from different majors who incorporate technology and unusual materials into their collections. My son, a freshman at CMU, was selected as a model and walked in three different lines. In the photo above, he is sporting a pink mesh top with shag shorts, created with what reminded me of those hook rugs I liked to make in 1978. The designer described this collection as "irreverent in a playful way" which pretty much sums up Alex. In another line called Stack, the designer utilized foam board and plastic to make sculptural clothing that looked sort of like those balsa wood animals that come in a kit at hobby stores-- except that it was clothing! If Alex hadn't been involved in this, I'm fairly certain we never would have gone to Lunar Gala. But what a fun opportunity for all these creative students and their proud family and friends.
For such a small town, Metuchen, NJ has a really vibrant arts scene. In less than 3 square miles, there are multiple painters, photographers, ceramic artists, fiber artists, and even me! When invitations went out to participate in this latest show, Return to Love, at the Pearl Street Art Gallery, I was happy to submit one of my sculptures because I knew how much fun it would be to see all of these talented people at the reception. There are two components of this show-- an on-going sale of small locally made products (hours are weekedays from 2-5 pm & weekends from 10 am -5 pm) and the artists' reception in the gallery on Saturday, February 10 from 5-9 pm. While the artwork can be seen during other hours, Saturday evening is the best time to visit since many of the artists will be in attendance and the gallery will be buzzing with all the energy of this lively group. Hope to see you there!
Observant readers of this blog may remember lamps that looked similar to this from my October 6, 2017 post. At that time, they were under construction and I posted a picture here as well as sending one to my clients so they could see the progress. Almost immediately, they emailed me back and asked to come over. Despite approving the original drawings, they told me they hadn't really been able to envision the design and were having second thoughts. Over the next month, we re-designed and re-designed until my client referenced that he wanted the cream colored section to look like a leaf. A new design was created with that in mind and I started again. Custom work is all about creating something that feels right to the client so I was thrilled when we turned on the lights today and they both smiled and said they loved them. Because they are the ones living with them, it's always worth it to me to take the extra steps to create something that will bring them joy each time they look at them.
In December, a woman reached out to me about repairing a cherished piece of "flow blue" pottery. I hadn't heard of this style but learned that it was popular in during the Victorian era and is recognizable for its blurry blue patterns. In addition to the actual value of this plate, the sentimental value to her was quite high and she was devastated when she broke it. We talked about the Japanese art of Kintsugi where broken pottery is repaired with lacquer and gold powder. The breakage and repair is honored through this process, making it a part of the history of the piece, embracing the flaw rather than trying to disguise it. I was pleased that she asked me to help her but had to do quite a bit of research to figure this out as pottery repair was not something I knew much about. Hooray for YouTube! I discovered a product made by Swarovski called "Ceralun" which is a gold epoxy clay. After running a bunch of tests on some broken pottery of my own, I figured out how to create a beautiful, thick gold seam which now runs through this lovely cobalt blue pottery. It highlights the break and also brings to mind how things that are damaged can be brought back together again through patience, time and effort.
In last week's blog, I shared about the artists' workshop series, Jumpstart Your Dream, at Transformations Gallery. The first of three workshops was last night and it was amazing! The gallery was full of interesting, creative people and Janna Morishima shared a wealth of beneficial information. If you missed last night, there are two more-- February 15 & March 15. Simultaneously, we have a gorgeous new show featuring the work of two Metuchen-based photographers, Deb Kmetz and Mark Harris. The idea for this show arose when Deb and Mark posted some photographs they had each taken while visiting the Southwest for a photography workshop/ vacation. Although they frequently pointed their cameras in the same direction, what they focused on was often very different. We approached them about sharing their work with this idea in mind and they ran with it! The opening reception is this Sunday, January 21 from 3-5 pm. It's free and open to the public and will be a great chance to explore their dual visions.
Although I'm an artist who works mostly alone, I have a strong desire for community with like-minded people. A bunch of years ago, I became part of group of women artists that meets monthly to discuss our business challenges and to support each other on our journeys. Janna Morishima is one of the members of our group who has recently started diving deeper into her own dream job as a coach for creative people. She is incredibly insightful and always offers great advice and guidance to the artists in our group. When she mentioned that she wanted to run a community workshop, Judy Weinberg and I jumped at the chance to hold this event in Transformations Gallery. As co-curators of this gallery located inside the Old Franklin Schoolhouse, one of our favorite things is when artists challenge themselves in new ways as the result of being part of one of our shows. We thought this workshop series would be a great way to encourage more of that growth. Each segment of the workshop focuses on a different aspect of running a creative business; it's free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!
Bomb cyclone? What??? Having grown up in Michigan, I'm always skeptical when the weather forecasters get really excited about a snowstorm in NJ. Not that we haven't had our share of large snowfalls, just that many times the outcome is substantially less than the hype. I'm even more suspicious when they start throwing around phrases like "bomb cyclone." So when I went out to my studio early in the morning yesterday, I wore my slippers. I had some drawing to do and wanted to be comfortable. My studio door is 20 feet from the back door of my house and I can make it from one heated structure to the other without even feeling a chill if I walk fast. Slippers are a fine choice unless there is an actual BOMB CYCLONE, at which point, after 4 hours, the walk back to the house involves snow far deeper than my slippers care to navigate. I sent up a distress call and my husband shoveled a path out to me. From that point on, I put on some actual shoes when I shoveled back and forth throughout the day. Hope you all stay warm and dry and your path to and from work (or where ever you need to go) is clear and safe!
As we celebrated Christmas on December 25, we also marked 4 months that our Japanese exchange student has been living with us. Over that time, we've been to New York City a few times, the Jersey Shore, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C. And a few days after Christmas, we visited some friends in Delaware. Miu told us one of her family's traditions is eating Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas so we decided to honor that by sharing a few buckets of the Colonel's finest with our Delaware friends. Miu asked if she could make a cake she really likes and she carefully cut strawberries and peaches to make little Santas and a flower; it was adorable! In 4 months of having her with us, we have learned a lot about Japanese culture and I can only imagine what else we will learn in the remaining 6 months. So from our house to yours, we wish you, "Akemashiteomedetogozaimasu!" (Happy New Year!)