So it begins

The view from the Pilchuck Lodge, it's situated on a 15,000 acre tree farm.

So I arrived at Pilchuck yesterday... a day early it seems.  When I had scheduled my travel plans, being able to read a calendar well didn't seem to be part of the equation.  No worries though, I helped out by doing some gathering of supplies from point A to point B, and some minor shop upkeep to earn my dinner.  After that, it was getting settled in and going to bed around 9-9:30.  I know... I'm such a party animal.  Truth is I was so tired from starting my travel plans at 3 am yesterday morning that going to bed early seemed the prudent thing to do knowing that today, when the other students get here, that is when the fun starts.

I will confess, I'm a little anxious, and by a "little" I mean a lot.  Kiln casting is not something I'm particularly versed in.  I know some mold making basics, but that's about it.  So I'm really out of my element, the hot shop.  I do think this will be one of the best things for me, for the reasons stated above.  Going outside what I am familiar with will help push myself both technically and conceptually, broaden my knowledge of glass in its capability as a material and it's history, and give me a strong knowledge base to bring back to my students.  And really that's who this is for, my present and future students.

As far as expectations go for the class, I don't really have any.  I think it's foolish to have expectations in a technique(s) you know next to nothing about.  One thing that I am interested is the notion of incompatibility of different glasses in the same piece.  This can lead to stress and fractures in the piece and can be looked as a different form of mark making, much like making ones own drawing tools or brushes.  Another thing that interests me is video and glass, how I can use one to augment or contradict the other, since I feel my "art" is going more towards video these days anyway.  Given these interests, I am excited and nervous.  As I stated above.  My line of thinking is that the class is more experimental, and in that vein will be something that can help add to the dialogue I'm trying to have with my students about Glass Secessionism(GS).  The GS is the idea using glass a narrative driven medium and pulling away from studio glass(i.e. functionality) as the main form of expression.  Much the same way art photography seceded from it's almost purely documentation aspect.  In fact, GS uses photo secessionism as the main influence of it's framework.  You can find the full document... manifesto?, mission statement?... whatever you want to call it on their Facebook Group page. As well as an interview with Tim Tate by the American Crafts Council here...


This is some of the reading material that I have my students go over in Survey.  I think that this thought process combined with the lower skill level needed for entry level casting success as opposed to years of study to be "good" at glassblowing, will allow the students a greater visual vocabulary in what they can produce in glass as a whole.  That is my hope anyway.  We'll see how it goes.  After all, class won't truly begin until tomorrow morning.  Once that happens, I'll have a much better idea of what I can actually accomplish in have time that I have here.  Everything up until that time is wish-listing at best.

Here's to the future!

P.S. I apologize for any formatting issues, but all blog posts from the field are on my iPad.  It's not the most ideal  platform once picture ps are involved, but it works well for getting my thoughts out quickly.

P.P.S. Edited for some clarity.


Just over 3 days and counting...

So, it's all come down rather quickly to actually leaving for Pilchuck.  I will be gone for 18 days, so it's a 3 week session and will feel different than the 2 week session I TA'd for earlier this summer, or the 2 weeks of Poleturners before that.  Like any good class, I did receive an email from my teachers asking me to think of themes to explore while I was there.  I was also asked to experiment, and to expect failure.  Which I'm down for, you can't learn unless you stretch yourself and have some failure in the process.  Learning from your mistakes, it's been the best way for me so far in life, it's only natural that it should apply to my art/education.  

Anyway... here's what Aimee & Anjali want us to be thinking about before we get there...

(a). Keywords. Essentially, a rumination of concepts that you understand our world by, or that fascinate you in the universe. These could be borrowed from any “field” of human comprehension of matter.*  Consider how the keyword you have chosen could figure in the creation of an art object. Could it possibly lead you to an object that creates itself when subject to the forces of this keyword? .... Any information or preliminary research you bring with you in this regard will assist you immensely. And do not worry; you will not be bound or beholden to your “keyword” if you lose interest in them midway.  There will be plenty of other phenomena for you to discover.
(b). Key-images. Textures and composition (i.e. surface and structure) that you loath or are swooned by. We are interested in your intense reaction, or long-standing fascination of something, not the indifferent “nice” response. These will provide as a visual, tactile database for your experiments.

So some of the things that I have been thinking about since reading this have been...

Container (contained)
Reliquary/Alters/Shrines/Sacred spaces

As far as images go for influence... I haven't got that far yet.

Out of all of these... the process, light, and time seem to be the ones I'm drawn to the most. I mean all of these are things that interest me, however looking over my slides to take to Pilchuck I noticed that a lot of what I'm bringing are photographs of glass during or after it's been finished.  The objects themselves seem secondary to the situations they're creating.  In that regard, I'm more interested inn capturing those fly by moments that happen during the vessel making process, or the "action of making an artwork" (a la Serra; Pollock; or La Va), or studio upkeep.  For example...

From my thesis show.

These 2 hellish pictures from bailing out the furnace for the summer.

Bailing out the furnace again, but onto ice during winter break.  I would like to do this again this winter but set it up better.

Sometimes, it's all happenstance.  The sun coming through the window just right and I notice this after I hit my head on the lamp above the kitchen sink.

A more personal picture, never mind the gif I'm trying to finish up that deals with this.

So far all of these are residuals of action on glass of some form, wether I directly manipulated it a hot shop or I interacted with it to some extant as a readymade.  Technically the sink is coated in glass since it's a glaze on a ceramic sink.  Ya dig?  Even the opening photo at the top of the post is indicative of this.  I'm more interested in the refraction of light from the tool marks on the table than the actual bottles themselves.

I think using this as a starting point will free up a lot of mental anguish as I screw up my molds, fusings, and slumpings.  Looking for the art in the process and not in the object has been a major point for artists such as Pollock and Serra.  If I keep this in mind as I make mistakes, but take good notes about what worked and what didn't, I can bring this back to CCAD to flood the students with casting knowledge.  Being the interim head of the glass department this upcoming semester, I'm trying to have the kilns all up and running so we can accommodate as many students as possible.  Also taking this class can help me problem solve with them on their projects.  In the process they can make more glass "art" and not so much glass "craft".

PersonalIy, I think where I can go with this is a combination of castings and kiln-manipulated blown work and video.  I love glass blowing.  I will always find a way to do that until I can't hold a pipe anymore.  It's a meditative process for me.  However... it's not my "Art" with a capital A.  That seems to have fallen to more video work, more specifically... mundane actions that have been important to me, or became important, and that I'm trying to loop as seamlessly as possible.  I know everyone has these moments, but I don't want to forget them.  Ever.  So being able to loop them is like re-writing my notes... so I don't forget.

My good friend of 14 years, we had to put him down in February.

It was such a tender moment for both of us.  My dog, Smoke, really couldn't sleep due to an enlarged liver with complications.  Anytime he laid his head down flat on the floor, he had trouble breathing.  At that moment, his head was propped up and he was able to get 20 minutes of sleep.  I was just glad that I was able to get him some rest before his appointment.  I'm tearing as I write this... I still miss him.

I'm in the process of trying to make this as seamless as I can in video.  I'm also realizing that I might have to upgrade my video software, iMovie (I know, I know...), to FinalCut Pro for more control.  I just have a hard time swallowing $300 for a download, but I'm getting closer to getting it.  I think getting more RAM for my computer, and bumping it it 16G, will be the biggest help. 

I have some video of leaving for Pilchuck earlier this summer with some great 6 minute vids of the plane taxiing and taking off out of, and then landing in fog.  I want to combine those vids for an endless loop of taking off and landing.  I suppose I "could" farm the video editing out, but I want to have a direct hand in the final version.  Call it a hold over from being a craftsman, but that whole idea of me making the final piece is important.  I just can't see any other way of doing it to be honest.

So after two paragraphs of rambling, I guess my work is heading to a more ephemeral stance with the beauty in the mundane.  I guess that's a good a start as any for an artist statement.


So far, so good

So the first part of my "Summer of Pilchuck" has been nothing short of amazing.

Being there pre-session for pole turners, I was able to learn more about cane techniques than I had previously known... ever.  It was such a crash course in how to pull cane in several ways... like using a drill to twist cane all day, or how to pull flat cane by oneself.  The terminology... now I know the difference between filigrana, ballentini, nostri, and some of the history behind these patterns (Scott has written a book at some point I want to track down).  The nuances of the different colors... or example white Duro pulls different than enamel white, while both are stiff colors the duro is so stiff it's set up is completely different.  Now the thing to remember is that the pattern and minimal color of the centerpiece was the most important thing.  The beauty in understated color shifts, and offset patterns on top of each other.  The picture below is the mock up Scott sent to Pilchuck for the proposal this years centerpiece for the Pilchuck Auction.

Having this explained, and shown, to us by Scott Benefield, Tyler Kimball, and DJ Benyosef was like having three free classes in two weeks.  Some of it was note-taking, but most of this was observation and practice in the hot shop.  That's not including all the people I was working with.  Being on a few different teams, I was able to live that mantra I'm always trying to tell my students... "Work with as many glass people as possible, since we all do it differently, there's always something to learn."  So it was a great educational, and I will readily admit humbling, experience to be able to work with so many talented people in one location.  I learned so many new tricks of doing things, and like always, it's the real subtle things you might miss otherwise.  For example, if you're using a 3/4" punty, if you super chill the first 1/2" or so of the pipe before the gather, the core of the punty is super stable.  This comes in handy in a production environment where speed, and success, are key.

So like this for 2 weeks... loud, hot, and wonderful.

So the logistics of it all... there are (I believe) 100 tables at the auction.  Each table needs a centerpiece.  Each centerpiece is comprised of 5 cylinders, 4 of which are a cane technique and one which is a solid color.   So we needed to turn out 500 cylinders, in about 9 days.  Now given the amount of people working in the hot shop at any given moment, it was amazing no one got hurt, and that we lost as few plates as we did.  The 500 vessels also doesn't reflect the two different benefactor gifts that also had to be made as well.  In short it was a huge production run.  The 9 days also doesn't include the 2 days of cane pulling, and 2 days of documenting, packing, and transporting the centerpieces to storage as well.

The first groupings of finished, signed, centerpieces.

One of the benefactor gifts that Scott was making every morning at 6:30.

It was a great experience overall.  It wasn't a residency, I knew that going in, however the amount of information that I was bombarded with for those two weeks will help my practice down the road.  By seeing these techniques that I had previously thought were pretty difficult, I can know try these things out myself as I saw it wasn't necessarily hard... it was just practice and pushing oneself to try something new.  I can also pass this knowledge on to students that show interest in techniques such as this.  In a way it has been a good jump start for the casting class I'll be taking later this summer at Pilchuck.  That trip is right around  the corner, the 28th of July, and will be for 3 weeks.  I'm super excited to see how that type of technique will inform my work, but having the information to pass along to students will be the best part.