I recently received a really fun email which began...
"Let the happy dancing commence!! ... we're excited to include you in our artist lineup for the Slumpy's 2017 catalog! "
Squeal and happy dance!
As a 'new-ish' glass artist, I'm still collecting things like slumping forms and tools and have become a fan (and ardent supporter) of a number of glass art supply companies (none of whom are providing compensation to me or to Magpie & Squid for mention here, but some of whom I'll add to the growing list of "Favorite Resources and Inspirations" found beside this blog*). Slumpy's has become a go-to favorite for forms so I was excited when I stumbled across their call for submissions of glass art for their new catalog.
As a self-proclaimed ambassador for Southeast Alaska and our lovely rainforest, I've enjoyed capturing the lacy frothyness of yellow cedar, the fat, round harvest of blueberry branches, spears of deer fern punching through the rich carpet of moss - and translating them into pieces which forever memorialize our lush flora using the fossil vitra technique. Naturally, when it came time to chose pictures for submission to Slumpy's, I couldn't resist doing a little 'advertising' of my own and sent them a number of fossil vitra pieces featuring Alaskan flora.
"Fossil Vitra" has been around for a few years - the first mention of the technique, that I have found, was in a tutorial by Paul Tarlow on FusedGlass.org (which is also an outstanding resource for fused glass artists) and was one of the first that I began playing with after getting the kiln up and running. It requires the sacrifice of whichever frond or leaf one is using in the piece, as part of the process 'burns out' the organic matter, leaving just a faint imprint of a stem and the 'ghost' of the leaf as defined by the glass powder.
The process of creating a 'glass fossil' begins with the harvest which, for some reason, nearly always happens in the pouring rain - at the end of the summer when I realize that my supply is low and I'll not get through the winter if I don't rush out RIGHT NOW and gather in the leaves. It's also important to note that all of the harvest takes place on our personal property - there are laws to be followed when harvesting items for sale from the Tongass (our nation's largest National Forest at 17 million acres) so, even though we can see the Tongass from our house, the plants we use are our own.
After the harvest, the leaves, fronds and branches are layered between paper towels and pressed. Making glass fossils is easier with dry, stiff organics - which not only hold their shape better, but are less likely to dump their load of glass powder on the kiln shelf before they're properly arranged. Dry material also burns more quickly and cleanly in the kiln.
The Slumpy's catalog pieces begin with arranging fronds and branches on the kiln shelf after they've been coated with glass powders. When layering (as in the upper corners), the pieces closest to the kiln shelf will be the ones in the fore-front of the finished sheet of glass.
White and icy blues are the theme today. Don't the white branches look like they've been visited by Jack Frost?
One can just see the fronds beneath the cobalt blue sheet glass. With the layers in place, it's time to get this load cooking.
The finished sheet after being scrubbed free of remaining ash from the leaves. Note the white cedar branches are now 'in front' of the fronds which had been layered on top of them in the kiln setup.
From this angle one can see the imprint of the deer fern and the 'ghost' of the glass powder behind the imprint. Depending upon the final product and subsequent firings the actual imprint may be lost but the glass powder will remain forever, a fossilized" snapshot of Alaska's mighty rainforest.
After the initial sheet has been cut to fit a mold, capped with a piece of clear sheet glass and re-fired, the images of the leaves and branches seem to 'float', captured within the glass. These 'blanks' will return to the kiln a final time to be 'slumped' into their final shape - in this case a trio of serving pieces that will be featured in a Slumpy's catalog! Stay tuned for those pictures sometime in the spring.
One final shot of the blue glass - still in the kiln - with a reflection of a cedar tree growing just outside the studio on it's surface, and the early - winter snow, which was the inspiration for the color scheme, in the background.
As winter sets in and the holiday rush becomes a distant memory it's a comfort to know that I've a pile of leaves to play with - the memory of summer's bounty to use in creating pieces which will bring the beauty of our Tongass to homes across the country, perhaps even around the world!
What are YOU looking forward to doing in the new year?
* The fine folks at Slumpy's DID send me three slumping molds as part of the process for making pieces for their upcoming catalog - but it was in no way a payment for mention in this article (worked out well for them, though, didn't it?).
Hello and welcome!
For my first-ever blog post I wanted to share a little look into the process I used to create a recent commission (because after months of sweating over "how do I start this blog?" I decided that sometimes it's just easier to jump in feet first, then worry about form later so here we go).
Many of my commissions start with a question, "have you ever...?", and while often times the initial answer is "no", it is always followed by "but let me noodle on this a bit because I'm sure I can figure it out." In this case, the question was about peacocks so, being a fan of all things peacock blue, I was excited to start playing with designs.
I should mention that, as it's also nearly winter here in Southeast Alaska's temperate rainforest, I'm looking for every excuse to break out the torch (any reader who is a serious flameworker, or my insurance agent, should just skip past the next few pictures).
Hand-marbled paper, collected on a trip to Venice, Italy, is the perfect foil for the finished artwork. I really enjoy colors and textures so it's a thrill to be able to dip into other collections around the house - fabric, beads, paper, etc.. - and incorporate those into my glass art (which also means that adding to those collections can be considered a business expense, right?).
If you'd like to see a couple of professional flameworkers in action, this video from the Corning Museum of Glass captures Eric Goldschmidt, Properties of Glass Supervisor at the museum and artist Wesley Fleming who are exploring the lampworking techniques of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. A functional, traditional Bohemian lampworking bench of the type used by Rudolf Blaschka is featured at about 6:10 in the video (and I thought MY setup was low-tech).
Thank you for joining me on this new blogging adventure! I hope to share not only the artwork coming out of Magpie & Squid's studio, but some of the sources of inspiration (cake anyone?) behind our glass art and the eccentricities of living, playing and working in Alaska's temperate rainforest. If you'd like to be included when we post updates and new blog entries, please send us your email (I promise we won't share it!) and/or like us on Facebook (someday I might even figure out how to share things on Instagram - stay tuned).
In the meantime, what's the 'coolest' thing you've ever seen made out of glass?
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