This was a week of lots of little things. I dug into a steel and glass sculpture commission that I am really excited about. On my blog on June 9, I shared a photo of a railroad spike that I had welded to a base and attached a little glass tulip to the top. After seeing that, a client who was re-doing her kitchen reached out and asked me to make 2 wall sculptures for her. She loved the idea of using reclaimed metal and some delicate glass flowers and leaves to add color and balance. This week, I did a bit of welding on her sculptures, creating vines out of bike chain and attaching them to a steel grill basket. Then I switched gears and started working on the glass. It's fiddle-y work; nothing moves quickly and there are multiple firings to slump the flat glass into satisfying shapes. There's some engineering involved too which is a fun challenge. I am excited about the way the pieces are coming together and will continue to post pictures as they develop.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I installed this window in it's new home. I'd blogged about the process of construction on July 28 (at which time it was held together with nails) and on August 11 (when I had just applied black patina to the metal). Both of those blog photos showed the less glamorous side of a work in progress- the window lying on a piece of plywood with no light coming through. During those times, I often worry because the process isn't pretty! Due to time constraints, I asked my photographer friend, David Glasofer, to take this photo in my studio the day before the installation. As a professional photographer, David's photos are always correctly and evenly lit, straight, in focus, etc. I had hoped to have him take a professional photo of the piece installed but time was too tight then so we settled for the studio shot and I had to rely on my cell phone camera for a quick snap during the installation. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the "action shot" of the installation as sunlight streamed through the glass. When my client saw the window in place, she remarked on how great it looks in her house and that made it all the worry worth it.
Family, friends and frequent readers of this blog know that my 16 year old daughter is obsessed with languages. From an early age, she was a mimic, always cracking us up with her imitations of people's speech. When she was 14, she asked us to send her to a Korean language immersion camp in Minnesota and she has been going ever since. This past year she started teaching herself Mandarin and she will be taking Japanese in a self-study program when school starts. Her love of languages makes my heart happy. My mom was an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher so growing up in a small town in MI in 1970-80's, I think we were the only Caucasian family eating pho, curry, and rau cau. Their shared love of language is a link they never knew; my mom's dementia took hold before my daughter's love of language. But wanting to nurture it, we decided to open our home to a Japanese exchange student who will be arriving this afternoon and living with us as she attends her senior year at Metuchen High School. We are looking forward to sharing our small, multicultural town with her and sharing her with our town. I'm sure we learn as much from her she will learn from us. Welcome to America, Miu!
This has been a crazy summer! Between intense periods of work and then equally intense periods of family stuff, time has passed so strangely that it feels both like yesterday and a year ago that my oldest graduated high school. We always had our eyes on August knowing we would be taking him to college. And so it happened. This past weekend we brought him to Pittsburgh, PA where he will be studying at Carneige Mellon University. As anyone who has ever dropped a child off at college knows, it was bittersweet. Hopefully these last 18 years have prepared him for the next 4 and now letting go is the challenge we take on as we re-balance our family without him under our roof. There will certainly be a lot of adjustments for all of us and, in just 4 days, we have something else major happening. But I'll save that for the next blog post. For now, goodbye and best wishes to Alex!
A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of the beginning of this commission. I have had, just about literally, my "nose to the grindstone" ever since. And while this picture shows a lot of progress, there is still a ways to go. The creative parts of the process are pretty much over and now the dirty work begins. Actually, it began when I finished cutting all the glass and lead and soldered the last piece. At that point, the entire window was covered in gunky flux which is necessary to help the solder adhere to the lead. But it's also a mess and it requires a ton of scrubbing to remove it before the patina is applied. Over the years, I have tried a lot of different products and my favorite without question is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. (Mr. Clean, please feel free to use my testimonial! I love you!) After dissolving multiple magic erasers, I moved on to the step of applying the patina. That turns all the shiny metal (that appeared in the July 28 photo) into the traditional black lead lines. Next I will flip the window over and clean and patina the other side. It will get messy again when I begin the cementing process, forcing black putty under the edges of the lead came to help hold the glass in place. That is followed by a whole lot more cleaning with rags, toothbrushes and even those pointy tools your dentist uses. I'm looking forward to sharing this photo with my client who is patiently awaiting the completion of her window.
In 1983, my older brother died when the car he was driving went off the road and hit a tree as he drove home from his girlfriend's house shortly before midnight. He was 17. The only person who knows exactly what happened isn't around to ask though we know he hadn't been drinking at the time of the accident. He would have been 51 years old yesterday.
A month ago, my 18 year old son was driving home very late after a night of having fun with 4 of his friends. None of them were drinking but at 4 am, they were all understandably tired. All the passengers fell asleep. Eventually, Alex dozed off, waking up just before he hit a guard rail going 65 mph on Rt. 287. Everyone walked away from the accident with cuts, scrapes, and bruises. Our dear friends' son suffered the worst of it with a case of whiplash. The car was beyond repair.
At a well visit at the pediatrician earlier this week, two doctors with no prompting from me emphasized to my daughter who just got her driver's permit that driving while tired is as dangerous as driving after drinking. Having lost my brother in a car accident, I know I made clear to my kids the potential dangers of driving. But before my son's accident, I hadn't shared specific strategies for what to do when you feel tired while driving. We're very lucky that we got a second chance to have that conversation. It's important to talk about; if you haven't, I urge you to do it today.
On my workbench now is this commissioned window for a family in a neighboring town. Because the window is over four feet high, I knew I would construct it using lead came. When I first learned how to make stained glass windows, I learned the "Tiffany style" technique which requires wrapping all the individual piece of glass with copper foil, then melting solder which adheres to the foil and holds it all together. It's a great technique for small, intricate pieces but larger construction requires more strength. Came looks like a capital letter "I" and the glass pieces slot into the sides of the metal. Because it comes in varying widths, I decided to employ that as a design element as well. Often I like to have the lead lines blend into the background so your eye focuses on the beauty of the glass. But for this piece, with all the vines that wrap around the lattice and the delicate elements of the flowers and leaves, I am using the different thicknesses of came to enhance the design. The "horseshoe" nails hold everything in place temporarily while I cut, shape, and slot the glass into the metal. Then I heat up solder and apply it to the joint to hold it permanently. Although the solder joints looks brighter and shinier than the came now, when the whole piece is finished, all the metal will be painted with a black patina. It's a painstaking process but I am really excited about the way it's coming together. If all goes well, it should be completed in a few weeks and I will post photos of the finished window. Stay tuned!
In 24 years of marriage, my husband has never gotten me flowers. And that's a good thing! A vase full of beautiful, fresh flowers makes me twitchy! I am always eyeing them critically for signs of their impending demise. I know that's a bit neurotic and I'm working on accepting impermanence through meditation. But until I get that resolved, I have the joy of being able to create flowers that never fade in stained glass. This stylized flower window is a commission that I installed this morning; it was created for a British couple who now live in the US. The "white rose of Yorkshire" is an emblem that they asked me to incorporate into the design and the finished piece now hangs proudly in their dining room window. They wanted the glass that surrounds the flower to be vivid, jewel-toned colors in order to make the rose stand out. So now, 4,000 miles from England, they have something to remind them of home. It's satisfying to know this window has both beauty and meaning for them and that will never fade.
I'm really excited to be embarking on a new steel and glass commission. Technically, I am not starting it now because I have a few windows waiting to be installed and one that is almost ready for me to start building it. But I had a little gap in time while details were worked through on those so I jumped ahead and started playing around with the components for these wall sculptures. A few months ago, a friend gave me a bunch of rusty steel he had laying around. Then a few weeks ago, a client commissioned me to make her something for her newly renovated kitchen which felt too plain to her. She wanted two pieces that would hang on the walls, she was hoping they would incorporate some re-purposed materials, and she asked me to make them funky! Right away I thought of these two Asian woks from my friend. Fitting for a kitchen, they will provide the structure for some glass flowers which I will attache to curvy vines that will wrap into and out of the holes. I started cleaning them up and as soon as the rust came off, they looked gorgeous. It's going to be hard to set them off to the side in my studio while they wait their turn to become art. Stay tuned in the coming months for more updates on their progress.
When my kids were little, people often used to ask them, "Do you help your mommy with her glass work?" I thought it was kind of funny; those same people never asked them if they helped their daddy with his job but I guess because mine was art, it seemed more accessible. At the time, the answer was almost always no. To me, kids+glass or kids+lead solder didn't seem like a great idea. But now that they are older and, let's be honest, taller, their help is not only appreciated but necessary. Yesterday, Alex helped me install 12 glass pieces into cabinet doors in a lovely, remodeled kitchen. We developed a system with him setting the glazing points that would temporarily hold the glass in place while I applied the silicone that provides the permanent adhesion. This worked for most of the cabinet doors, except there were 2 waaaay up near the ceiling and over the stove, out of reach of someone who is 5'2" but within reach of someone who is 6' tall. Hooray for Alex! He is patient and thorough and our compatible senses of humor made this installation kind of fun. So to him I say, "thanks for helping your mommy with her work!"
I'm not sure why it feels surprising that the babies we gave birth to are growing into fully functioning adults. Intellectually, we all grasp that the toddler that has a crying meltdown in the grocery store will not continue that behavior forever. But somehow it's still shocking to see a group of 150 kids, most of whom I remember from kindergarten, walk confidently up to receive their high school diploma. Having lived in this same small town since my oldest was an infant, I savor this perspective to bear witness to the miracle of growing up. Each new stage of development, starting school, learning new sports, beginning to date, getting their driver's licenses, we adults have watched and wondered over. We have talked about our fears and hopes sitting on the bleachers at countless games and in auditoriums waiting for the start of another school concert. And now this chapter is coming to a close. Most of them are heading off somewhere new in the fall where they will have adventures that will be shared with us over a text message or in a phone call but that we probably won't witness with our own eyes. So for today, I just want to look at them-- these beautiful, strong, smart young adults, full of promise and hope, dreams of their own and dreams of their families. I want to freeze this unbelievable moment in time until the next one over takes it, catching us off-guard yet again as the waves of growth and changes continue rolling on into the future.
This is going to be a great weekend in Metuchen! In addition to the Fuce 5 on Sunday, we have a Junebug that will knock your socks off! As a member of the planning committee, this is the one we have all been working hardest on and it's shaping up to be really special. Main Street will be closed which allows for visitors to stroll more leisurely, partake in Hailey's beer garden or Novita's wine bar, bring the kids to the Junior Bug Zone which will be filled with art activities they can be a part of, listen to David Cedeno's 12-piece salsa orchestra, or watch a painting event that is going to be amazing. Shown in the photo above are painters Easton Davy, Ed Wetzel, Billy Seccombe as they were practicing for their event (not pictured Enrique Zaldivar). They will each start painting on one canvas and then switch after a half hour and then switch again 2 more times until all of them have painted on each canvas. The way the paintings come together with the fusion of styles and colors is unexpected and beautiful. I have truly enjoyed working with these artists and can't wait to see them up on the stage tomorrow night!
Have you ever realized that when you walk a particular way so many times you stop really seeing it? I noticed lately that I have stopped noticing! I think it's a result of being really busy; I find myself thinking more that observing. However, when I came upon this lovely bent railroad spike, I immediately stopped and picked it up. It seemed ironic that a discarded part of the train line that is such a big part of our busy lives stopped me in my tracks! The Northeast Corridor runs through our town, taking millions of riders up and down the East Coast every year, and is the busiest passenger rail line in the US. I decided to create this glass and steel flower and left it on Main Street this morning. I wonder how many people will walk by it, lost in thought, and not notice it there. I attached a note asking who ever finds it to let me know. I hope they enjoy it and realize the beauty around them by staying mindful.
It's hard to believe but next week is the beginning of June and with that comes the Junebug Artfest! This is our 10th year and as a volunteer, committee chair, and exhibiting artist, I am especially excited about this year. Last year, we switched to Saturday nights and that change continues this year as it allows us to close Main St. for the third night-- June 17. With the street closure, there's a beer garden and a wine bar to add to the fun but the main focus is always on the art and music. There is a free photowalk the first week, live glassblowing the second week and a pottery demo the final week. There is amazing music throughout all four weeks of the festival. But do you want to know what I personally can't wait to see? On June 17, 4 painters will be on stage doing a live painting event where they will switch canvases partway through. They will switch multiple times so they end up all painting on each canvas! When I first talked about this event with one of the painters, Easton Davy, he told me he really wanted to do this because "it would be so punk." Hell, yes, it is! Hope you can come see that but you really can't go wrong with visiting any Saturday night in June. See you at the Junebug!
Re-purposing projects are a great way to honor history. I love taking apart what is no longer working and transforming it into something which maintains the spirit of the previous art with new beauty. A client brought these broken windows to my studio; they had been installed alongside a door as sidelights but as you can see from the picture on the left, they were in disrepair. She wanted me to make something new from them-- specifically two new things so she could have one and give the other as a gift. We played around with a lot of ideas and decided on steel sculptures that will incorporate those beautiful rondels, removed and cleaned up in the image on the right. While we were talking, I grabbed a bunch of steel rings and created a design to weld them together into an arc and then I will fit the rondels into the centers of the rings. Both my client and I are really excited for this new incarnation that will re-use this gorgeous glass in an original piece of artwork for her and another that she will be able to give to her mom. With her permission, my hope is to have these sculptures completed by Junebug and have them as part of my display. So these are the "before" pictures, stay tuned for the "after!"
This is the 5th window I'm building for a client with basically the same design, size and clear textured glass. And all straight lines... I've been passing the time as I've been working on them for the past few months by listening to podcasts. One I really like is "Magic Lessons" by Elizabeth Gilbert's (the insightful author of Eat, Pray, Love). She talks with artists to help them reach their goals and she invites other well-known guests to offer additional advice. In one podcast, Neil Gaiman (another incredible author) was offering feedback and he commented that some artists are like dolphins and some are like otters. He explained that "dolphin" artists are content to do the same trick over and over, each time receiving praise and a fish for their effort. "Otters" will do a trick, eat the fish, and then do a different trick, still hoping to get the fish. It made me laugh to hear this because I am definitely an otter- I want to do a new trick every time! But with commissions, it doesn't always work that way; some things come in pairs, triples or more and they have to match. So in the meantime, this otter is plugging away, trying to find the zen in repetition.
Gearing up for Junebug this year, I knew I wanted to make some of my favorite items, like 08840 coasters. But I also wanted to make some new things and I thought about a great local event that also occurs in June, the Fuce 5K. Started 9 years ago as a tribute to Mike Fuccile who was murdered on his way to work, the Fuccile Foundation is a shining star of goodness that grew out of a senseless tragedy. Mike's widow, Nancy, has turned her family's loss into a source of support for local families who are facing their own major struggles. Donna Baginski, a friend of mine and fellow cycling instructor at the YMCA, and her family are recipients of support this year after her husband, Thom, underwent brain surgery last November to remove a tumor. In addition to the financial support from the Fuccile Foundation, the Metuchen YMCA is putting together a team of runners and walkers who will be wearing "The B Team" shirts (some fancy alliteration of Baginski, brain tumor & Batman!) to show support at the Fuce 5K on June 18. The 5K is a fun, community event that welcomes everyone from fast runners to families with strollers out enjoying the day. Follow this link to sign up. I will be volunteering at my usual spot, the 2 mile mark, cheering you all on. I also will be selling these limited edition coasters at Junebug with proceeds going to the Fuccile Foundation. Please join us and support the cause any way you can!
The next show was hung in Transformations Gallery this morning and it looks great! It is titled Three Directions: Patterns and Textures and features Metuchen artists Janice Fried and Beryl Koblin and Andrea Epstein from Berkeley Heights. Although the artists work in different mediums and have their own unique approach to pattern and texture, the artwork looks really beautiful together. This photo shows one section of the gallery with a piece of each artists' work sharing the space; you can see how the colors and patterns play off each other. The opening is Sunday, April 30 from 2-4 pm and all the artists will be there. Hope you can join us!
Monday, April 24 is International Sculpture Day but I began celebrating at the beginning of the month when I went to Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN to take a workshop in Moveable Steel Sculpture. I've been working with steel for about 4 years but most of my sculptures have been stationary so I was especially excited to learn how to create something that moves. I knew I wanted to make a pendulum but one of the special considerations was how to get it home in my suitcase. I designed the components to dissemble for travel although I knew with it's spikey-looking pieces, I was sure to draw the eye of the TSA employees! Since the workshop was just 4 days, I didn't have time to finish everything I wanted while I was there. When I got home, I attached to the pendulum a fused glass piece that I created out of murrine which catches the light as it swings. It still needs a few minor details but I plan to spend some time on International Sculpture Day putting the finishing touches on it. This workshop opened my eyes to a whole world of moveable sculpture which I look forward to continuing to create.
A few weeks ago, I accepted a commission of 5 windows. As we were talking through the details, my customer wanted to know how soon they would be finished. Looking at my calendar, I saw a trip I had planned to a welding workshop in Tennessee last weekend as well as my kids' spring break this week. I know better than to assume that, just because they are 15 & 17, I will be working in the studio as much as usual. It's not that they need me to be around but more that they aren't going to be around much longer and I want to spend some time with them if they are willing. And it turns out they are! We had quite a few adventures this week-- going to the beach, buying tons of candy at a chocolate shop in Staten Island, visiting a Korean Spa and they even indulged me by going to the Tenement Museum in New York City. I have become very interested in immigration issues lately and have been trying to get some information about my family's own immigration; my father & his family came to America in the 1950's. It was a great opportunity to spend some time together and also to learn some history related to an issue I feel passionate about. Hopefully in the near future I will be able to work on my own art related to this. But, for now, I'm happy to be with my kids and enjoy the arriving spring. I think Kenny Rogers said something like, "they'll be time enough for commissions when the Spring Break's done."