Sunday October 17 was the presentation dinner for the Whistler House Museum Distinguished Artist Award, given this year to the renowned Mico Kaufman. It was my honor (seriously, how did this happen?) to be commissioned to create the trophy.
The Whistler House Museum is the oldest incorporated Arts organization in the country and is right here in Lowell, MA. As a commission piece, this was an extremely rewarding effort. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to really get into a particularly New England aesthetic. The board of directors wanted me to develop my own vision of the piece with the only requirements being to match the grey, black and white color scheme found in “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother”. Taking this idea, I had in mind a force of nature, say a hurricane or a galaxy, a force that seems to be present in Mico's work and life.
The evening for me included meeting and getting to know people who have not seen my work up until then, schmoozing and then eating, without question, the best meal I have had all month.
My work of moving from the fourth floor to the second floor A Mill started August this year. Since then I have spent many days and long nights working on, well, everything, all at once. The train left the station for me and making my business work a long time and ago and I'm finding that a steady momentum is the only way for me to keep this as my full time job (imagine me strapped to the front of that train, that to me is my motivation, reasonable fear keeps me focused). Since July 1 I've built out the work space and some display, produced for, set up and worked Art in the Courtyard at the Lowell Folk Festival, had four First Saturday Open Studios (HI to all of you who stopped by and saw my work for the first time, I've been meeting a lot of new people) AND produced for and help spruce up our hallway for Lowell's City Wide Open Studios.
If you were to come to my space this is what you see coming around the door from the elevator.
This here on the left is what you see if you were to come down the hallway from the C/D Mill entrance.
Starting here in October I have some new accounts that are going to be getting some of my focus. My work is now in Downtown Lowell at The Brush Art Gallery and Studios. Super happy about this. It is good to be getting more visible in the Lowell Art Scene.
I also will be an associate artist atCambridge Artists Cooperative Gallery in Harvard Square. Another super happy with an asterix. I am not looking forward to parking ANYwhere in Harvard Square. Just Saying. More than anything, I have been trying to get my toe in the door here since I first started in 2007 so this victory is a testament to my steady momentum theory.
I am deep into production of those designs I should always have a quantity of. Based on my last years figures, lizards are near the top of the list. I had been trucking along for some time on simpler designs like the turtle, knowing I wanted to get going and have some success to look on without a lot of breakage. Lizards are a trial. My lizard design requires mental fortitude and deep concentration. I simply refuse to take a short cut and am very picky about it sitting level and having the graceful curve and perky look I love.
This is the devastation in my scrap bucket from my latest attempts.
This is the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
In an indirect way, this event is responsible for my opportunity to work with glass.
My personal experience with the eruption was as a fifth grade student at R.E. Bennett Elementary School in Chehalis, WA. I had at the time, the emotional paradox of being concerned for the human and environmental toll that was acting out in my close vicinity, juxtaposed with the utmost thrill of getting summer vacation four weeks early. The ratio of excitement versus "oh god what a pain in the ass" was soon unbalanced as it became clear that for some undetermined period, we would all be forced to stay inside and/or wear dust masks while outside. Ash was EVERYWHERE. The world was all GREY. (More so than normal.... this is of course the Pacific Northwest.) One could think that nothing good could come of such an obvious disaster.
Except one Man with a vision.
Hank Claycamp. Hank I'm paying my respect... don't think I have forgotten. For this post I will give you the short form in this legend, only in the interest of brevity and the knowledge of "always leave them wanting more...". Hank was a young man with an interest in what was then a budding industry in the area and the intelligence and the foresight that all the ash blanketing the region was a goldmine waiting to be properly realized. With some experience at the very early Pilchuck School of Glass under his belt, Hank built a furnace, and embarked on creating glass from the ash that was produced form the volcano, Mt. St. Helens. The first few batches were pure ash; I remember looking over the few pieces he had remaining from those blowing sessions in the studio on display when I came on board his operation. Gradually over the years he developed his recipe so he could use glass cullet with a quantity of ash, allowing him to not struggle with the difficulty of mastery that the pure molten ash required, as well as the knowledge that it was better to extend the life span of the material, given that the ash that had fallen was of a limited release, so to speak.
I was hired at his studio in 1991, and after a year of real grunt work I was apprenticed as a glassblower in his operation, thus beginning my obsession.
Periodically in this blog I should revisit some of the stories and memories I have of this time. The people I met (Patrick, Lloyd, Butch, all the rest of the crew, I know you are out there) are all worthy of mention and we sure as hell worked to keep the operation going.
Thank you all for letting me give attention to this interesting anniversary in my journey!
The work is going well these days, I am keeping up on current designs that are selling, I am developing new promising designs, and I am teaching more bead lessons as the word spreads.
One of the new designs that I am getting a good response from is single color hoop earrings. As I develop this piece, I have tried several ways to finish them with a fire polish in the kiln. This has proven tricky; how much heat do I need to do the fire polish without losing the shape I have already created.
That question being asked, this is what I was greeted by when I opened the kiln after my last test.
Of course what this has done is make me wonder if I can't maybe control this effect more and add a kind of tear drop hoop earring as ANOTHER piece for me to keep up on. Hmm...cool.
I want to recommend very strongly that when anyone is doing any producing of glass beads, make certain the lid on the bead release is firmly ON before shaking.
To communicate the most accurate image of the results of NOT having the lid on properly, imagine being on whatever Nickelodeon TV show that randomly dumps goo over some hapless adult. That would be how I appear right now.