The gals at Magpie & Squid have had an eventful couple of years - both have moved (along with their better halves, into the same house!) and another generation of (soon-to-be) glass workers has joined the mix. Between moves, new jobs and raising the next generation, there hasn't been as much time for playing with glass, however as the rest of life settles down and the glass studio gets unpacked bit by bit, the Magpie is getting excited about all the new glass techniques and materials that the glass fusing community has been working with.
Their most recent moves have landed the girls in Juneau - not only the capitol of Alaska, but one of the prettier settings for a capitol city. With hiking trails and glaciers literally minutes from the house, there is no end to the natural inspiration for glass projects and when new co-workers ask "can you do a devils club leaf?" it's time to start thinking beyond the glass saw (which is still packed by the way).
Glass clay is a mix of glass powder and binders that allow glass powder to be shaped and molded such that, when dried and tack fused, the binders burn out and the glass powder retains much of the original molded shape (though there is up to 20% shrinkage overall). The clay can be sanded and painted using glass enamels after the initial drying is complete making it a great way to add versatility to one's glasswork.
Once the final tack fuse is complete, the framing frenzy begins - in this case three leaves are turned into three different pieces of art.
The temperate rainforest is a beautiful place to call home - especially on a lovely summer day. Below are a few photos that we have collected on walks during our first year in Juneau. Enjoy a short tour of our corner of the world....
Before I get too far, I want to introduce Judy Clement Wall, a new friend and all-around (self proclaimed) “badass, open hearted, hippie, warrior of love” - who has many, many other optimistic, viewing-the-world-sideways, courageous, encouraging thoughts and artworks over on her website: www.judyclementwall.org.
Here's Judy's "Rain Girl" as I see her. I've recently become a fan of 'pen and ink' - not for drawing so much as for coloring. Goulet Pen company (see link under "Where to Find Supplies" at right) is a marvelous place to find fountain pens and also sells these lovely little sample bottles of ink - great for building up a supply without having to house full-sized bottles.
I stumbled across Judy’s work during a Pinterest binge and - unbeknownst to either Judy or I - a friendship was born. I was immediately taken with Judy’s “Rain Girl” - it could have been because I’ve lived in a rainforest most of my life, maybe it was the fun pattern in the umbrella, perhaps it was memories of enjoying the sweet smell of a rain shower after a sticky, hot, summer day – whatever the underlying reason I felt an immediate need to translate the image into glass. What follows is my journey into ‘fused glass art’ and the start of a marvelous collaboration.
In the first iteration of ‘umbrella girl’ (as I began to call her), I had barely begun to use glass enamels - in fact my first shipment arrived after I’d begun the piece. I started by cutting and grinding the shapes which would become the tree, the girl’s boots, and the umbrella, then painstakingly coaxing glass powders into some semblance of a light post, coat, and tights for our gal. Using these powders to detail smaller elements caused me no end of heartburn – the process was too slow and inexact and that was before trying to get the piece, undisturbed, all the way to the kiln (thank goodness for hairspray!). The arrival of glass enamels was a revelation – a real game changer!
Another favorite technique which I’d just started exploring was creating flameworked elements. In this case, the girl’s hair, leaves and the flowers at the base of the tree were all created with a torch and glass rods. While I love this part of the process, it’s not the most cost effective way to create a piece – so it’s a tradeoff between having fun and trying to make things somewhat ‘reasonable’ in terms of cost to those who might be interested in giving umbrella girl a new home.
As you can see, the process takes time although I can now ‘pull’ a head of hair in roughly half an hour. (Safety note: this should go without saying, but here it is anyhow, PLEASE use fire cautiously - my setup is neither ‘professional’, nor particularly safe – and I don’t recommend this setup for ANYONE – myself included!). I’ve never had the patience to quilt (or do piecework) by hand, but I can sit for HOURS at the torch and watch glass rods go from cold, brittle and stiff to warm (okay – blistering hot), fluid, organically curvy shapes. Plus it’s a great way to warm up the house on a cloudy day!
These ladies won both first place and champion at the local 4th of July arts fair - it may have helped that there were no other glass pieces entered in the fair (it was a small event - the photographers had WAY more competition), but it gave me the deadline needed to finish my rendition of the four seasons.
Between the fun of playing with fire, the ease of using the glass enamels, and the ‘encouragement’ (in the form of folks willing to purchase the finished product), I’d become really attached to umbrella girl and had completed a number of finished versions of the piece. At this point my conscience began to weigh heavy on me – here I was borrowing (or, as my conscience said, stealing) this wonderful image without ever having asked permission to use the artwork in this way. I went back to Pinterest and (thankfully) was able to find Judy’s website almost immediately.
Imagine my excitement at finding even MORE images that demanded to be turned into glass….and, more importantly, an email address for contacting the artist. I wrote a quick email – begging forgiveness (and hopefully permission) for the use of “Rain Girl” – and was thrilled to get an answer back that same afternoon. What followed was a number of exchanges leading to a collaboration of sorts in which I get to share with you all of the wonderfulness that comes from Judy’s quirky, positively refreshing outlook on life and she gets (as soon as I can get something finished and in the mail) more artwork for her wall (pretty sure I’ve landed the better deal!).
I’m so excited to get started on this turtle of Judy’s as the next in a line of ‘need to do’ projects, but in the meantime I wanted to leave you with this thought from Steve Jobs (which is a bit ironic considering how rabidly he went after those who ‘borrowed’ Apple’s ideas): "Picasso had a saying -- 'good artists copy; great artists steal’”
The debate about ‘stealing’ (ideas) in the art world is an old one – which has resurfaced with a vengeance in this age of digital piracy, and is a topic with which I’m still wrestling to formulate a solid definition/working credo of my own. (Yes, yes, that was two thoughts – sorry).
What are YOUR thoughts about “stealing like an artist”?
I'm Kris Reed, the Magpie, a lifelong Alaskan, lover of all things sparkly and giddy about glass,
Favorite Resources & Inspirations
WHERE TO FIND SUPPLIES
Slumpy's (forms, tools)
Bullseye (glass, fusing supplies)
D&L Art Glass (ALL the glass stuff)
Mulberry Paper (YES, paper!)
Goulet Pens (It's not glass, but it IS glass pens - and ink)
INSPIRE ME! colors, textures
Judy Clement Wall - Art
Evgeny Hontor Figurines
Hitomo Hosono Ceramics
Jennifer McCurdy Ceramics
MrXStitch ALL Needlecrafts
Rachel Wright Needlework