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.