Exploration and Introspection: a week at Corning

Exploring floral and leafy forms

Exploration

Wow what a week! I was fortunate to be able to attend Laura Donefer’s class Dance Your Glass Off in Corning last week. There are so many things I appreciate about working with Laura…from her amazing talent and knowledge of glass, to her strength as a woman in a man’s world of glass, to her desire to push the limits and ideas with glass, to her empathy and caring nature and of course her fun, lively personality. She encouraged me to push myself and the whole class to try things we don’t normally do at home. To me that said push the limits and don’t try for things that are going to come out perfect because it is the first time you are trying them. I did that and learned tons. I will walk you through some of my pieces, what I tried and learned. I am very pleased with the results and am eager to begin designing new work with these techniques.

Inside of leafy form

I was working on cutting into the hot glass at the lip of the vessel and pulling it into pointed leaf like shapes. I also was playing with contrasting the organized geometry of the feathered patterning on the interior with the loose drizzle freeform design over it on the exterior. (Top photo). I look forward to playing with this contrast more in my pieces.

More floral form explorations…In these I was also working with layering colors and patterns. On the left I tried a double overlay of color for the first time…I would use a larger piece of pink in the future but that is what trying new things teaches you. I like the funkiness of these pieces which fit well with my new botanical fantasies visions.

Hand drawn. I went all out pushing to see how much hand drawing I could do on one piece and what lines etc I like best. I drew a plan first then tried it on glass. I often have my students try out making all different kinds of marks when they use a medium for the first time. This was like an exploration drawing on glass. My favorite are the spiral curves at the bottom.

Color mixing

As an art teacher, it was fun to play with mixing colors in a whole new way….I really grasped the concepts of keeping colors separate with clear layers between and mixing colors by placing them directly on top of each other. The glass on the right is the color straight out of the furnace. The one on the left is Amber with the blue on the right over it to make green. This was mixed specially for my Grandmother who loves green and who I stayed with during my class. Also check out my last piece at the bottom with an opaque turquoise under this same transparent blue.

Hand built. I love the look of hand building in glass as well as the experience itself…it is like making a coil clay pot but at 2300 degrees. I tried a small version of this two years ago with Laura, but this time I wanted to push it further. I went bigger and tried a layer of blue with the clear. This is a soft blue so it was a challenge, so next time I will pick a stiffer color to add to the clear. Again I appreciate how much my knowledge of color expanded and the clearer understanding of it I have from these explorations. I love the smaller holes and how they add to it with an almost woven feel. It was cool to experiment with the temperature of the coils and what I prefer for shaping them too. This is something I definitely want to do more of too!

Guacamole bowl – expect to see this at our deck parties! I used a lot of layers of different ways of adding color…white frit, a spiral this wrap of orange, and a pick up of various colors of stringers. And topped off with an orange lip wrap.

Exploring cutting and ovrelaying colors

Cutting into hot glass…it was harder than it looked and I want to keep trying it more. I was glad I was wearing gloves too. Here I worked with layering colors and contrasting textures…the smooth sleek bowl with the sharp, jagged cut glass. Several people asked for some detail photos of this piece. You can see the interior turquoise with the blue layered over to create a new blue as well as the cut glass up close.

Maybe it is that I have had more experience now that some things just make more sense or maybe it was the very clear way that our TA, Cat, explained some things, but they just clicked this time. I also appreciated the way that Simon, the junior TA, demonstrated things and then talked me through them, especially the partner skills, so that I got them.

Laura also brought along some mixed media to share with me specifically because of my sculptures. As a teacher I appreciate that individualized instruction. I also valued her candid yet supportive critique of my work. I look forward to exploring more of the techniques in glass and mixed media to embrace the whimsy and wild style of my work even more!

Introspection

In addition to learning and exploring with glass, also thought a lot about myself and working with partners. Having spent a lot of time working with a mentor I don’t always get to do the partner skills as much as one normally would. While I enjoy working with one partner in addition to my mentor in MN, I have worked with a couple who were not a great match for me in the past. I have also had instructors who I enjoyed working with as well as learning from and others who stressed me out. I came to Corning thinking about what makes a partner a good match for me and thought a lot about it during the week. I wondered if I could only work well with women or a mentor or was it just the experiences I had had. Sometimes I have pushed myself to keep working with someone to be “stronger” or to prove myself, but I fight hard every day to help my daughter fight her anxiety or to fight to have her needs met and I am not looking for a fight in glass, nor do I want to prove anything. Glass blowing and art making in general, for me, needs to be a time away from the stress and fight of daily life. I want it to be relaxing and fun. Laura says there is no point doing glass if you can’t have fun at it. For me that meant I had to give myself permission to think about what makes a good glass partner for me and seek that out for the future. I realized that some partners or instructors make me feel anxious, not intentionally, but once I get anxious I lose confidence and make a ton of mistakes only decreasing my confidence and probably frustrating my partner…and then it becomes a vicious un-fun cycle. I thought about what it is that makes me anxious so that I can could identify what personality types are a good fit for me. Just because someone is fun to talk to or hang out with doesn’t mean we will be a good match for glass blowing and by contrast just because someone isn’t a good match for me for glass blowing, doesn’t mean we can’t be good friends. By the end of the class, I had the opportunity to work with almost everyone in the class, both men and women. I found that with calm, laid-back people (men and women), I stay calm and when I do, I am more confident, not stressed and make my forms and assist my partner quite well. I also can laugh, relax and enjoy the process as I do when I work with my mentor too. It is funny…as a mom I am great at encouraging my teen daughters to recognize situations that are not good or not a good fit for them and find a better fit, but I wasn’t following my own advice and it was making me stressed and unhappy. It was a great growth moment for me to take my own advice and I will seek out these qualities for glass blowing partners in the future! I also think it is funny to think about the bright, wild style of my work contrasted with the laid-back style I need when I am making it. When I am calm and it is relaxing and rejuvenating, the fun I am having creating it comes out in my artistic style. Taking time to reflect on oneself can be hard in today’s fast paced world, but it really helps me grow when I take that time.

Fun and Funky Earrings

I love color and having fun! Whether I am creating art or going out for the night, I love vibrant color combinations. And a fun, funky pair of earrings can add that final touch to an outfit. Check out some of my latest. You can purchase them now at Vandalia Glassworks in South Saint Paul, as well as at the Waseca Arts Center and FOCI Minnesota Glass Arts in Minneapolis. Or you can also contact me at aprilmalphursglassart@gmail.com

Botanical Parts

I am working on a new series of sculptures that I sketched during the cold months of winter when I wished for warmth and color. These new pieces are inspired by amazing botanicals that are really found in nature. My pieces will have a fantasy twist to them, but the colors, patterns and forms are all inspired by nature’s art. I especially love the way the brightly colored glass wraps look almost painted onto the pieces and the fun forms I am creating to make the various flower parts.

I worked out of Vandalia Glassworks new studio this week for the first time. It is a beautiful space with friendly people and I look forward to working there again. In these pictures you can see me working there with Alli Luhman to create a flutter bowl form that will become flower petals for one botanical sculpture. Other botanical forms can be seen in the foreground of one of the photos, as well. This coming weekend, I will be creating glass beads and assembling the parts into whole flowers…photos to come.

Flames

As I was working creating floral beads at my torch, I thought it would be a fun pun to create a piece titled “Flame Thrower” and create beads that look like flames instead of flowers. Thus the idea was born and I set out to create a base that would capture the idea.

I chose an orangish red and a a yellow orange for the flame colors. I wrapped those over a layer of white to make the colors pop, then rakes them to create a feathered effect that looked flame-like.

Once the base was completed, I picked colors of glass to create the beads. As with all of my sculptures, I use flameworking techniques for bead making that compliment the patterning and color work of the base. Creating wraps, feathering and two tone flat beads are some of the patterns I chose to go with the feathered oranges of the base. Then I altered flat beads to create a wavy look to use as the beads got closer to the end of the armature. The flame beads at the end we’re fun to create… giving a delicate touch to the end of each arm of the sculpture and fully completing my vision of a firery flame.