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!
Over the course of the past few years, I have mostly stopped engaging in political discussions with people I don’t know well. With the polarization of our country, it seems people aren’t interested in a conversation as much as declaring that they (and their side) are correct. So while I follow politics, for the most part, I keep my opinions to myself. Earlier this week, I had watched a clip of President Trump mocking Christine Blasey Ford prior to going to the YMCA and was still thinking about it while I was working out. I saw an older man I know strut in with his “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hat on and I said to him, “I can’t even see that today.” I know; I should have just looked away as I have been doing. But that day I couldn’t and I didn’t. That’s all it took— he started in and it was clear he was looking for a fight. After realizing I had just poked a sleeping bear, I tried to ask him if we could just keep the gym a safe space. But he wouldn’t let it go. He launched into how Brett Kavanaugh was falsely accused, how his life has been ruined… if you’ve been watching the news, you know the rant. I kept trying to let it drop and he kept trying to get me to “Answer the question!” which was: why do I believe “her.” So, as much as I was trying to disengage, I also really felt I had something to say and that is this— I know “Brett Kavanaugh.” I went to school with lots of wealthy, white, entitled boys who were great students, excellent athletes and I know, first hand, that at least one of them also committed sexual assault. And as I finished saying that, he said this, “Well, I don’t understand it…that woman… she kept going back to the parties. She went there 10 times! I think she wanted to get raped.”
I haven’t stopped thinking about it since he said that to me. I am beside myself. I guess knowing people believe this bullshit is one thing. And having a man say it to my face is something else. My call to action is this: we have to come back to treating each other with respect. This isn’t ok. We can’t be so blinded by our beliefs that we have conversations that are verbally violent. And we have to vote on November 6. America has not been Made Great Again. The swamp has not been drained. And women do not want to get raped.
Did you know if you try to open a scanned image of a hundred dollar bill in Photoshop you will immediately get redirected to the Central Bank’s Counterfeit Deterrence Group? Despite making me feel a wee bit like Big Brother is watching, the website is a wealth (ha!) of information about how you can reproduce currency for artistic purposes; the good news— you can! But only if you follow the specific guidelines for each country. With US currency, it has to be either less than 75% or more than 150% of the size of the bill, you can only use one side, and you have to destroy the negative when you’re done. This all started the other night when my husband, our daughter, her boyfriend and I were chatting at dinner and I mentioned I had an idea to make $100 coasters. My daughter’s boyfriend said he heard that “something happened” if you tried to scan money so, of course, we tried it. And it scanned just fine. But Photoshop was not going to allow me to go any further until I followed the rules. Which is why Ben Franklin is pretty large on this set. I’m also thinking about making sets with a $100 bill on each but I’ll have to do the math to make sure that’s legit. Thinking about it, there are so many other options—it would be fun to print them on a fused rainbow coaster or to fuse little party hats onto our founding fathers’ heads. The options are endless!
Two weeks ago, I posted a photo of this lamp as I was finishing up the majority of the soldering. At that time, I was waiting for some hardware to arrive— primarily the tear-drop shaped vase cap & the socket contraption into which 5 light bulbs will be set. As you can see by how dark the glass looks in this photo, the sockets still haven’t arrived! But the vase cap did and, using that color for inspiration, I created a patina which I applied this week. Patinas are chemicals that change the color of metal and they comes in a variety of shades. Looking back at the photo from 2 weeks ago, I feel the way I do when I look at photos of my kids as babies: awww! how cute! But with the solder lines darkened, I feel like the lamp has really grown up. The shiny silvery solder lines are no longer a distraction and the focus shifts to the beauty of the glass. It will be even more beautiful once that light socket arrives and the glass can be illuminated from inside. But that’s is a story and photo for another day, I suppose. Today, I’m appreciating the patina.
Lately I have been really fortunate to have commissions lined up. I like being busy so it’s a great feeling knowing that I will be steadily working on jobs at least through next spring. Because of that, I often can’t accommodate projects that have really tight timelines. There’s just one of me and custom work takes time! So when I got an email asking if I could make a stained glass family tree for a client’s mother’s birthday, I took a deep breath before reading the date he needed the piece to be finished. And I exhaled when I saw it was January! That seems like a really long time from now and don’t be fooled by the fact that I started working on the leaves already. I have a few days between the arrival of some necessary supplies for the current commission I am creating so I decided to be proactive and make these now. After I take them out of the kiln, they will be waiting in my studio for a few months until I am ready for them. The leaves are one of the last components of the family tree as they are where I paint the names of their family members. Then the leaves dangle from little rings that I solder along the branches of the stained glass tree. I will share some photos when I get started on the main part of the project, at which point the actual trees outside will have all dropped their leaves.
You know when you have one of those "works in progress" and it seems like it's been "in progress" forever? I'm living that! It's not that I'm not making progress, just that, to almost anyone's eye, not much has happened. Looking back at the photo of this lamp that I posted on July 27, you would be forgiven if you said it doesn't look too much different from this photo above. But it is very different and that difference is solder! Solder is the silver-colored metal visible in this photo but not in the other one; it is the metal holding all the pieces of this lamp, and any other Tiffany-style stained glass piece, together. It adheres to copper but not to glass which means that if you wrap each piece of glass in copper foil, the heated solder will stick to the copper, joining the whole project. It's an amazing metal because it becomes practically liquid at around 400 degrees. The "practically liquid" part is what has made this work in progress move very slowly lately, that and the curvature of the lamp. Because when the "practically liquid" solder is heated onto a curved surface, it wants to run down the sides of the curve. I'm not exaggerating when I say that each night as I've gone to bed for the past week, I've seen solder running down the curves of my eyelids. Truly! But the lamp is now off the fiberglass mold and I am able to start attaching the hanging hardware. There's still a long way to go but I'm really looking forward to what comes next: decorative metal work!
If you've been at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse lately, you've probably seen the 3 signs that advise that "more art is coming." Inside Transformations Gallery, we are getting ready to hang our next show, "Doors," featuring the work of 27 artists in a variety of media. And while we are really excited about that, we also can't wait to share our brand new outdoor exhibit space! The first pieces of outdoor art will tie in with the indoor show and this photo shows the "blank canvases" that will be transformed by 3 artists interpreting their vision of what doors mean to them. We are days away from revealing the selected artists for the outdoor exhibit and, I can tell you, you will be impressed. After these humble doors are transformed by the selected artists, they will be mounted in the exhibit space to allow visitors to walk through them as our first pieces of sculpture. This project would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of my co-curator, Judy Weinberg, and BIL president extraordinaire, Tyreen Reuter, who secured a grant from a the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Much more info to come as we prepare to unveil this outdoor exhibit space.
I have a confession to make: I am addicted to podcasts. I spend so many hours each week with my hands, feet and eyes busy-- in the studio, running, driving-- and podcasts which are free, diverse, and entertaining are how I roll. This one, Getting Curious, is one of my favorites. Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye has fascinating ("gorgeous!") guests and is a amazingly good interviewer who gets deep but stays funny throughout each episode ("cute!"). Some weeks, I listen to him every day. Depending on my mood, I have another 20 I turn to. These are my go tos:
When I want someone to tell me a story, I turn to: The Moth, This is Actually Happening, This American Life, Strangers, Snap Judgement and Story Corps
When I want to get some perspective on history, I love: Slow Burn
When I need some inspiration, I tune in to: Inflection Point, Trained, The Science of Happiness & Magic Lessons
When I feel like getting smart: Hidden Brain, TED Radio Hour, Invisiblia, Stuff You Should Know, 99 Percent Invisilbe, Fresh Air, Note to Self, Radiolab and The Drive
When I only have 15 minutes but want to be entertained: Song Exploder is perfect!
and because I still am a criminal justice major at heart, I can't get enough: Ear Hustle, Convicted, Caught, Atlanta Monster, In the Dark and S-Town
I'm sure it's annoying (sorry, family and friends!) but I am constantly recommending particular podcasts to people I feel they would resonate with. And I would LOVE to get your feedback! Do you love podcasts too? What are your favorites? Wait, I can't hear you! Let me take my headphones off...
This seems impossible; my baby is a senior. It's amazing how time flies- when Abby was starting Kindergarten, I was getting my business established. I remember how fast I would try to move during the hours she was gone (12:12 to 2:49 pm!) because I still wanted to spend the time she wasn't in school together. I feel so lucky that I was able to be sort of a hybrid stay-at-home mom/ home-based-business mom because I could work around (sometimes literally) my kids. Now my son is hundreds of miles away in college and my daughter is busy with her life more than she is hanging around the house, asking to go to the park. The hours I have available to work have expanded greatly and I still love the flexibility to stop work when necessary. But more than anything, I feel so truly grateful to have gotten to spend so much time around some wonderful people- I can hardly call them kids any more- and to have been able to watch them grow up. Time is a crazy thing- when it's a 2 1/2 hour Kindergarten "day" it can feel really productive if you get it together and make every minute count. But some how 17 years seems like the blink of an eye.
I'm so grateful to have gotten to explore Storm King Art Center yesterday. It has been on my list of "artsy places to visit" for years. My husband and I took the day off, drove up to the Hudson Valley, rented bikes, and peddled around the 500 acres seeing so many thought- provoking pieces. This sculpture, Three Legged Buddha, was one that got us talking but there was also an amazing exhibit: Indicators, Artists on Climate Change, which showcased the diverse work of 11 artists and their thoughts on this really important issue. Their approaches couldn't have been more different but that's what made it interesting. Climate change is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, especially after having hiked the glaciers in Iceland earlier this summer. Despite the serious topic, we still had a great time. Then when we were hot and tired, we went to the oldest continuously operating winery in America (history!) and finished the night with a Cold War Kids concert. I'm glad to be back in the studio today so I can rest! Hope your summer adventures are getting you exploring and thinking.
Most of the time, I have multiple projects in various stages of completion in my studio. It's helpful because sometimes there are delays in the process and, to stay productive, I like to switch gears to work on something else. Back in March when I originally shared about the hanging lamp which I blogged about again last week, I mentioned there were a total of 4 lamps I was making for my clients. This is one of two pedestal lamps that are part of that commission. I had worked on the glass panels for this lamp over a month ago and finally had the opportunity this week to create the steel frame. Truthfully, I'm a fair-weather welder and it has been really hot and rainy in the available days I've had lately to work on it. So the stained glass panels have been waiting patiently for a morning that didn't have a thunderstorm threatening and was less than 80 degrees at 9 am. I was able to construct the base and get started on the sides, although you can see that I only got so far and then clipped the whole thing together with binder clips, awaiting the next clear, cool morning. But it's a start! And in the meantime, I have been looking at it and pondering the ornamental metal portion that will be constructed to add interest to the top. And now I switch back to the hanging lamp. Or maybe the six sided pedestal lamp that will be similar to this one. We'll see! Stay tuned...
Back in March, I blogged about the process of beginning to make this hanging lamp. At that point, I was starting the design and thinking about how to transpose images from flat stained glass windows onto this curved shape. My clients have two lovely, historic stained glass windows in their home and wanted those existing designs to tie in with the lighting that I am creating. We decided on this shape and size and I got a mold onto which I would build the lamp. And then the fun began! (One note: this is actually upside down-- the finished lamp will have the larger circumference at the top but for building purposes, this is the most stable way to construct it.) The tulip shapes and the triangles are featured in their existing stained glass windows and were my main focus in developing this design. Then, in order for the flat glass pieces to be able to create a curved final shape, they had to be divided. I also wanted to incorporate a variety of complementary shades of amber and yellow since the lamps would coordinate with, but not exactly match, the existing windows. There are 352 pieces in this lamp and every one is hand cut, shaped, wrapped in copper foil (which the solder adheres to), and then soldered together. The pieces on the left side of the photo have not yet been copper foiled and, if you look closely, you can see little bits of silver solder on the right side where I have started tacking them together. It's a work in progress and there's a long way to go. But it's starting to take shape- literally!