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."
Basement windows are a great location for stained glass. The functional aspect of textured glass makes it ideal for obscuring the view, from both outside and in, and a well designed stained glass window also add visual beauty. This recently renovated basement is in the same house where I delivered the window which I blogged about on March 17. While that stained glass window looks out over a beautiful lake, this window, in the front of the house, looks out on the driveway. Unlike with the other window, when designing this one, the focus wasn't on preserving a lovely view. Instead I worked with the homeowner to design something with rich colors, bold lines, and lots of texture. He wanted a strong geometric feel so we went with a herringbone design in the middle and some repeated patterns on either side. This photograph, taken by David Glasofer of Image Up Studios, shows it on a bright, sunny day. In the near future, there will be lighting behind the stained glass which can be turned on at night to cast a lovely glow into the room. I love how each window highlights this homeowner's individual style and brings a bit of artistic focus to the design of each room.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing a gorgeous exhibit at the Morris Museum of work by one of the giants of the art glass world, Lino Tagliapietra. He was born and raised on the island of Murano (Italy) which is practically synonymous with glass blowing; he became a "maestro" (master glass blower) in his 20's. As part of the exhibit, a film was shown of him blowing glass and talking about his lifetime of creating glass art. Although he is in his 80's now, he was described by other artists in the film as just as hard working as ever and I could see that as we walked through the exhibit and saw so much recently created work, including some new fused glass pieces, like this one above, "Monterrey." Knowing that his work is on view at museums all over the world, I was thrilled to see it at such an intimate and easy to get to location. The show at the Morris Museum runs through June 18. But if you aren't able to make it, check out his website where you can watch a video and take a look at his lifetime of creating beauty.
As much as I love creating stained glass windows, the delivery and installation makes me twitchy. I obsess about all the things that could go wrong-- I could be carrying it out to my car and drop it, I could get into an accident on the way and it could get destroyed, it might not fit, the client might not like it, and on and on-- it's torture, all of this craziness is manufactured inside my own head. After listening to me rattle off my worries, my husband just smiled. He's heard it before and knows I will have a sleepless night (or two) in the days leading up to an installation and there's not much anyone can do about it. I delivered this window, and another not pictured, this week to a client who was taking care of the hanging and installation himself and he snapped this picture even before cutting off the extra chain. We took a few minutes to stand back and admire it and then he said to me the thing that I love to hear most; he said, "it's even better than I expected!" Then I breathed a huge sign of relief!
Do you know the ninety- ninety rule? It says: the first 90 percent of the task takes 90 percent of the time and the last 10 percent takes the other 90 percent. Ok, don't think too hard about that. The point is, the end of any project always seems to take much longer than expected. I had finished most of the construction of this stained glass window, a corner of which is shown in the background, a few weeks ago. But then I had to attach the steel rebar to the back of the piece to keep it rigid. And paint the patina onto the metal to darken it. And stain the frame. And attach all the hardware onto the frame. And fit the window into the frame. And then the chain... I spent hours on the chain. Most of the chain I found was very lightweight & decorative but the window that it must hold weighs 30 lbs so that wouldn't do. Some looked ok but was plastic and some was coated with weird rubber in bright colors. I finally decided on this nice, hefty chain but it was extremely bright, shiny zinc and it needed a lot of help. I applied two different kinds of patina to darken it so it matched the lead came of the window. It needed to soak in each patina, then to dry and then finally I hung it outside and sprayed it with clear coat to protect the color. Besides me, I bet no one who sees this window when it's installed next week will even notice the chain. And that's the point, I always want to make a window that feels like it has been in the space forever and is meant to be there. So if it took 90 percent of my time to finish up these final details, it's worth it. I can't wait to see it hanging in its new home next week! As soon as I get some professional photos, I will share them. And you will know to take a second look at that special chain.
A friend of mine, a middle school art teacher, asked me to come meet with her "Master Artist" students. They are preparing to make art windows that will be permanently displayed in the front of their school and my friend wanted me to talk with them about what it's like to be a professional artist. As I was pulling together some photos and "show and tell" items to share with the kids, I started thinking about my "job." Making commissioned work is very different from creating my own art. When I am commissioned to make something-- a window, jewelry box, fused dish, etc.-- the piece must please my customer in terms of size, design, style and color. I listen and collaborate with the person for whom I'm making it and use their inspiration to steer me through the process. When I'm making my own art, I get to decide what and how I want to create. I've been fortunate to have some great clients who have ideas about what they like but have given me artistic freedom to make something really special. By continuing to explore glass and metal, I am able to provide a broader array of options and I was happy to share both the business and the art side of what I do that with this enthusiastic, talented group of kids. I can't wait to see what these Master Artists create!
This Saturday, February 18 from 7-9 pm, is the opening for Enrique Zaldivar, the current exhibiting artist at Transformations Gallery (491 Middlesex Ave., Metuchen). The first time I saw his artwork, it grabbed me with its vibrant colors and energy. As he was hanging his show, I mentioned that at their openings, many artists will give a talk or slide show explaining the process they use to create their work. When he asked if we would allow him to do a painting demonstration, I was thrilled! While I love to hear about an artist's process, watching it live is even better. He explained that he likes to work fast and avoid much mixing of the paint to keep the colors bold and I think this will be fascinating to watch. He also arranged for some musician friends to come and play. The warmth of this show is exactly what a chilly February night needs- I hope you can make it!
A few weeks ago, I bumped into a friend at an art gallery opening. She had taken a photo of someone looking at my sculpture and wanted to tag me on Instagram. Only problem: I didn't have Instagram. A few days later, I was explaining to a customer how I created a sculpture he had just purchased. He wanted to know if he could look at images I posted on Instagram while I was creating it. What? This again??? The truth is I would rather be working in the studio than posting about it on social media. But I understand, I have teenagers! The world is very media focused and with a visual art form, I should probably get over myself and take the plunge. I added it to my list of things to do and then, when a big snowstorm closed schools yesterday, I decided to ask those teenagers for some guidance with Instagram. So after lots of questions (what's with all the "following" and the hashtags?) I am happy to report I am now on Instagram. Follow me for some fun behind-the-scenes images!
From the beginning of my career in glass art, what intrigued me most was how glass appears to change as light passes through it. I love the way a stained glass window lights up differently depending on the time of day, the season of the year or even just changing weather. I started on a quest to build structures to hold up the glass pieces I created so they could capture light. When I discovered welding 3 years ago, I was hooked! I started making steel sculptures with an eye to the future on how I would complete them with glass. This piece (which I blogged about on September 16) started with a glass piece I fused in the kiln and then I went to work creating a steel stand that I hoped would be as interesting as the glass itself. The piece, "Into the Deep," was in my studio during the holiday season when one of my customers stopped in his tracks and stared at it. He said he had been looking for something "blue and interesting" to brighten up in a particular spot in his home. Yesterday I delivered it to its new home and we both spent time looking it as light passed through it. If you are interested in sculpture- both free-standing and wall sculpture- I'd love to talk with you about it.
My sculpture, "Post-Truth Apocalype," is part of Nails in the Wall's latest exhibit, Beautiful & Powerful. I began creating it in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election as I was thinking about the direction in which our country was headed. I wanted to make a flag that represented the polarization of our country as people joined together into homogeneous clumps. In a summer workshop, I had created red, white and blue murrine and realized that ones that had been made at one part of the pull looked very similar to each other but quite different from ones made earlier or later, despite being made with the same material. I started grouping them and got a vision of a flag that seemed to me reflective of our political climate. I created the white glass background of the flag to have holes gaping in it where the pockets of unified murrines could huddle together. The steel portion of the piece started with old pitch forks placed, literally, as Left and Right hands. The steel threads of the flag are twisted and caught around the fingers as they pull apart the fabric of our democracy. Nails in the Wall is hosting an artists reception this Saturday, January 28 from 2-5 pm. I hope you can stop by and take a look at the art work that is both beautiful and powerful.
I am thrilled that my multi-talented cousin, Maddy Weber O'Connell, shared her beautiful artwork which incorporates the calligraphy of her mom, my deceased aunt, Gretchen Weber. Auntie Gretch created it in 1990 and its message rings just as true today. I had it printed poster-size and am bringing it with me tomorrow to Washington, D.C. for the Women's March on Washington. The mission of the march is to "unify and empower everyone who stands for human rights, civil liberties, and social justice for all." I am in full support of that mission and I know my aunt would be proud that her artwork will be there, representing her belief in the value of all people as well. I am also very pleased that when I mentioned to my family that I wanted to go to the march, my daughter, husband and son all said they wanted to go too. Respect for every individuals is a priority to me and I hope we can work together to start making that a reality.
Out of the blue, on Tuesday morning, my 12-year-old Portuguese Water Dog, Olivia, was unable to stand. She kept falling over and when she would try to get up, she would become exhausted and collapse on the floor panting. I carried her in my arms into the vet and he examined her carefully. He said she was severely anemic and he thought she might have a mass in her belly; he uttered the word "cancer" but said he needed to run some tests. Clinging to the hope that we had just been walking around our neighborhood the night before and therefore she couldn't possibly be that sick, I gave her a kiss on the nose and told her I'd see her later. In the afternoon when we spoke, the vet said she was resting and he planned to give her a blood transfusion on Wednesday morning because of the anemia and that he would call to let me know how that went and what the tests results showed. He called as promised except instead he shared the news that she had passed away late Tuesday night. My studio is directly behind my house so throughout the day, I often would stop in to take Olivia outside or get her some water. She always would sit with me while I had lunch and she was thrilled if I gave her a carrot or pepper-- she loved her veggies! For a change of scenery, she would come hang out in my studio just to be close by. Losing her so quickly has thrown me for a loop. While I am glad that she didn't suffer through a long decline, I haven't adjusted yet to her not being here. There's a little less joy in Paradise this week without my girl, Olivia.
My family & I just got back from spending 2 weeks in Australia over the Christmas holiday break. It was a beautiful time to be there-- we took off from chilly New Jersey and landed in the heat of the Aussie summer. Our days were full of adventures: snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, hiking in the Outback desert and exploring a variety of Australian culture. One hot afternoon, my family indulged me by participating in an Aboriginal painting workshop. They might have just wanted a chance to sit in the shade and relax but we all had a good time with lots of fun and giggles. I'm looking forward to translating some of the techniques and patterns that we practiced into future fused glass projects so stay tuned! But we all agree the highlight of the whole vacation was the night we had dinner under the stars at Uluru and then walked through "Field of Lights." It was magical-- Uluru itself is incredible. It's a massive red rock that rises out of the Australian desert and is sacred site for the indigenous Aboriginal people. As the sun set, the warm glow of the land changed to pitch darkness and the night sky was filled with stars. After looking up at them, we walked through Bruce Munro's art installation and looked out at the field of 50,000 solar powered lights that changed colors as we walked through. The photo above was taken by my son. But as with anything really special, photographs can just hint at how amazingly peaceful and simultaneously electric that night was. For that, we have to rely on our memories.
This lady would have been 80 years old today! She was a woman who loved life and, as I was growing up, one of the most obvious examples to me was her zest to travel the world. She taught English as a Second Language (ESL) and was fascinated by cultural diversity. She never passed up an opportunity to try the homemade food of another culture and was always curious to determine where people were from by listening to their accents and looking very carefully at them. When we went on trips to foreign places, she refused to stay in fancy hotels, eat at Americanized restaurants or even rent a car. She wanted to "live as the people live" and was thrilled to be on a bus that was full of people speaking a different language and if they had live chickens with them, even better! She taught in China, visited her brother in law when he was in Russia, explored Turkey, Greece, and all over Europe-- always espousing her belief that people should travel light. When I asked how she could pack everything she needed for a month in a backpack, she said all she needed was "a pair to wear and a spare!" I love to travel too although I don't share her undying love of public transportation and I often pack as many as 4 pair of shoes for a weekend without a second thought. I am thrilled to be getting ready to leave on a big trip next week as my family heads off to Australia for 2 weeks. I know from traveling previously with my kids that we all share a bit of my mom's adventurist spirit. I'm sure the experiences of travel as always will enrich our lives and my art in so many ways; I know my mom will be walking with us as we go (probably teasing us that our luggage is too heavy). Happy holidays to all!
For those of you who saw my studio on Small Business Saturday and commented on how clean it was, here's a more realistic look. Many of you placed orders for custom quote pieces and I'm happy to report I am back in the groove of making them again! I made so many preparing for Small Business Saturday that I ran out of the key component-- glass frit. Frit is basically finely ground glass and it can be purchased in a variety of colors and fineness. For some other projects, I often make my own frit by throwing glass scrap in the blender and running it until the frit it the consistency I want. It beats the hell out of the blade but it's an easy way to make it if I am not concerned about the uniformity of the size of frit. However, in this case, uniformity is key-- it has to be powder-fine. So making it myself was not an option. I thought it would save time if I just ordered it from the glass store and had it shipped. And it should have; my orders usually arrive the day after I place them. Unfortunately, there must have been some major shipping meltdown because it took nearly a week to get here. Although I had many other things to do, I was really anxious to get moving on these and the frit step is the first one in the process-- nothing can happen until the it has been fired once in the kiln. So when the package was delivered late Tuesday night, I was thrilled! The kiln has been running non-stop since then. My studio is a mess but the good news is, almost all the custom orders for the holidays are now on their way to completion. Frit-astrophy averted!