I always get nostalgic around the holidays but it's hitting me in a bigger way this year. Perhaps it's because I already have one kid in college who we missed as we decorated the Christmas tree this year. I look back on the days when they were little and used to put out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. After they went to bed, my husband and I would chomp up and spit out the carrots on the front lawn. For some reason, it seemed more believable that the reindeer were messy eaters so we wanted to leave behind some evidence that they had enjoyed their snack. The cookies, on the other hand, we gobbled with no crumbs left behind. If you're a cookie lover and looking for a way to support a great cause, check out the Metuchen Cookie Walk which is a fundraiser for the Fuccile Foundation. This charity embodies the spirit of the holidays--family, love, and support for our community. There will be over 14,000 cookies for sale, over 250 different types, made by 145 bakers. Enjoy the cookies and do something good for others. Oh, and spit out the carrots-- keep the magic alive!
A welded steel and glass sculpture of mine is part of a show called "Light" which is running through January at Gallery U in Westfield, NJ. The piece was originally a prototype for a sculpture I was making for a client. But then when it was complete, I decided to turn it into its own thing by filling it with dichroic glass. Depending on how the light hits it, the glass in the piece changes color. It was great to be selected to participate in this show which highlights our need for light and hope during dark days.
A few weeks ago, I shared that we were in the planning stages of this year's Eat, Drink, and Buy Art. I am pleased to announce that our artists have been selected and we are eager to share this year's venue-- Metuchen's own Whole Foods! The artists span a broad range of media from an encaustic painter, to photographers, a soap maker, a fiber artist, a ceramic artist, and me too! Come get some holiday shopping done, support local artists, see your friends and neighbors, and enjoy some great food and drinks at Whole Foods. It is the art party of the season- Saturday, December 2 from 5:30-9:30 pm. Hope to see you there!
I'm happy to announce I will be hosting a studio sale on Small Business Saturday which is November 25, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, from noon to 3 pm. It's so much fun to open up my studio and have people visit! It's a great chance for me to share my work that's "under construction" as well as gifts that are ready to take home with you. I also enjoy personalizing holiday gifts- from ornaments with photographs and names to coasters and wall hanging with specialized quotes or customized information. I love helping you make your gifts unique! But since good things take time, the last day to special order is Saturday, November 25! So I hope you can make it to the Studio Sale and I look forward to helping you make this a great holiday.
The holidays are just around the corner which means so is my favorite event: Eat, Drink & Buy Art. Every year we put a different spin on it to keep it interesting and this year is no different. We have a very short turn around time for artists to apply-- the deadline is this Sunday, November 5. We will be sharing more information shortly but if you are an artist, you might want to apply. And if you're not, make sure to stay tuned for more news about this event- the art party of the season!
What does it sound like inside my studio? Most of the time there is music on. And often there is the sound of breaking glass. It's usually only a single break at a time since I hand cut everything. But about a month ago, I saw a call for submissions to an art show at the Monmouth Museum. The theme was "hope" and I had been thinking a lot of about things for which I am hopeful. I thought about my concern over how fractured our society is. And then I thought about glass and it's ability to "heal." I had a vision for a sculpture that includes a piece of glass that was shattered and then fused back together in the heat of the kiln. I wanted the breaks in the glass to be apparent but I also wanted it to be whole. My first step was to create a platform out of two sawhorses so the edges of the glass were the only parts supported. I looked around for something small and heavy and found a steel star that I was given at a welding workshop. Then I put on my safety glasses! After shattering the piece, I recruited my husband who has a zen-like delight in putting puzzles together and we reassembled it. My steel and glass sculpture, titled "(Un)crossing the Rubicon" was just accepted into the Monmouth Museum's, "Hope for the Holidays" show. It depicts my hope that even though the US society may be fractured now, with hard work and time, we can pull back together and become cohesive again.
It feels like every day lately I have walked outside and said, "I can't believe it's October!" This is partly because time is flying but mostly because the weather has been amazing! Leaving the issue of global warming to the side for a moment, it has been stunning to feel the cool of the morning warm to a sunny 70 degrees by mid-day-- perfect weather for grinding metal and welding! In the beginning of the summer, when I was commissioned to make these wall sculptures, my client showed me two places in her newly remodeled kitchen that she wanted to liven up with some glass and metal sculptures. I have been working on these off and on since then and had 2 steel woks that were a good stylistic match to each other and also to their future home in a kitchen. And then recently I got inspired by some giant sunflowers and decided to take advantage of this great weather to make one more sculpture. Attaching the glass flower onto the steel colander, it begged for just a little more. Knowing that my client likes twisty metal, I attached some coils of copper as well as a copper leaf to off set the large central flower. I was also able to make a few more leaves from that smashed scotch bottle (see the blog post from Sept 29) so it is all coming together. Professional photographs are next and then installation!
For reasons I don't quite understand, sometimes I get a number of similar commissions in a row. For example, this spring/ summer, I did 3 flower-themed windows in a row. They were all different styles but for each one, the subject was flowers. In the past few months, I have gotten 3 commissions for lamps. Again, the execution will be very different but for some reason, lamps are all the rage! The photo above shows one of a pair that I am currently constructing. Often glass artists build lamps on plastic molds that come directly from a factory with patterns already plotted onto them. In this case, my clients wanted to replace shades on hanging pendant lights in their kitchen. The plain, clear shades had broken but they never really loved them anyway. They envisioned something colorful and unique so I designed the pattern and created a custom mold. Then I started the process of cutting and fitting all the pieces together-- attaching them onto the mold temporarily with tacky wax to be sure they all fit correctly. The next step will be to wrap each piece in copper foil and then to solder everything together. Since the mold is solid, no light is getting in, leaving a very flat looking lamp. But when they are finished and light shines through, the jewel-toned glass that they selected will glow and create a beautiful artistic focal point in their kitchen.
Moving along on these wall sculptures! I was inspired by some flowers I saw while out for a walk one day. While those were bright purple, my client asked specifically for oranges and yellows so I created these little lovelies. I had previously welded together a sort of "flower skeleton" with stems (made out of large drill bits) and flower tops (made from steel washers). Those create the forms to which the glass attaches. I had some fun smashing apart an empty bottle of scotch so I could flatten it into a leaf-- that's the more transparent one on the left. Then to give it a bit more of a leafy look, I painted some veins onto it and another leaf I made out of opaque green glass. I have some more glass flowers in the kiln right now, slumping into and over molds to get a bit of shape. And earlier this week, as I was digging through my metal, I discovered a steel colander which has a similar shape and holes like this wok and I am working on a design for a large, glass sunflower that will go into that. I love the way the delicate glass flowers contrast and play off the solid steel upcycled parts. To be continued...
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.