Bit o’ Honey ~ the little things that please

The little things that please . . .

Posts Tagged ‘stained glass

Work of the Hand

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Recently I was invited to take part in a show called “Work of the Hand” at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, Maine.  The exhibit showcases the work of fine craftsmen from all over the state and I’m honored to be a part of it.  Over this past week I was able to complete two new small panels to include in my “Leaf Series”.  As I mentioned in my last post, I want to focus on emphasizing the black lines, to make them a more prominent element of the design.  Much of my interest in this was sparked by my work on an early Tiffany window at the studio where I do restoration.

 

The studio is on the 4th floor of an old mill just outside of Portland.

 

Here’s a detail of the original lead used in the Tiffany window.  R. and I are the first to handle it since its creation over a hundred and twenty years ago!  The layering is most unusual and adds an interesting dimension to the window.  

 

 “It’s like the original craftsman is looking over our shoulder while we work,” R. said.

 

So inspired, I took the idea another level, layering up as well as out.  Here’s the result in reflected light.  

 

 

Only on close inspection do you detect this sculptural element in the window.  

Here’s the same piece in transmitted light:

 

 

 The result is a strong graphic quality, an effect I want to continue to explore.

In preparation for the show, I had to come up with prices for my work.  I’ve struggled these past few days trying to decide on just how to do that.  What is the value of my work?  It’s a question every artist faces, never easy to answer but one worth returning to from time to time.  I consulted friends and family, and that helped somewhat but ultimately I had to make the best decision for myself.  I want my work to sell but not at the lowest possible price.  As R. would say, “Underpricing is just a race to the bottom.”  I can charge a good price for my materials and labor but that covers only part of its worth; there’s also the spiritual and emotional value, which may resonate with one person but not another.  Yet how does one place a concrete value on an abstract experience?  

The night before I had to deliver my work to Rockport, I took these pieces down from where they hung in my home.  I’d been looking at some of them for nearly a year, waiting to find the right venue for display.  So many evenings I’d return from work to find the 6:00 sun had thrown their colors on an adjacent wall, where they shimmered for a few short minutes before their colors vanished with the shifting light.  So many days I woke to the pieces glowing against the morning sky.  So many afternoons while I pondered a nagging question about my future, my eyes wandered along their lines until I forgot the question at hand.  I’ve grown to love these windows.  I took such care in their making, in every curve of the their lines and with such love for the color and texture of the glass.  Now that I’d cut them free and packed them for delivery, the windows in my home seemed so empty.  I would miss these pieces if they sold.  But I certainly hoped they would.  What’s more, I hoped that whomever might purchase them would find their own comfort in the designs, their own pleasure in the hidden details.

Suddenly finding the right price didn’t seem so hard.  To experience the value of my work first hand, to honor the time and energy I’ve spent in its creation is key to understanding its monetary worth.

The opening for the show is this Friday.  Even if nothing sells, I’m happy to have had to opportunity to display them and I feel better at having answered by own question of “What’s the value of my work?”

 

Three pieces in the stairwell of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art.

 

 

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Written by Janie

October 9, 2008 at 9:17 am

Fun with Lines

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“The hand is the window on to the mind.” Immanuel Kant, from Richard Sennet’s book, “The Craftsman”.

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.”  George Dorsey

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Wanting to step back from glass after finishing my last project and needing to bring a fresh approach to the medium, I decided to dabble with the left over watercolors I used to create the many mock-ups for my Tree of Life images.  

Save for childhood forays in tempera, I’ve never been a painter.  Painting always seemed so unbound to me, so wild.  The stuff seemed to have an oozing, dripping life of its own.  Frankly, I found it intimidating.  There were too many choices with painting, too much white paper to contend with, too many ways to apply the paint, too many chances for things to turn to an ugly mess.  Not to mention the plethora of brushes.  While stained glass can be a frustrating in its rigidity and inability to blend, I’ve learned to appreciate the restrictions it imposes and the ever-present black lines that serve to join each piece of glass.  But painting?

Fortunately, the watercolors I made for my last project introduced me to the idea that I might use painting to explore design ideas for glass.  So on a rainy Sunday afternoon, unable to face the mess still waiting to be expunged from my studio, I took out the paints and commenced to play.

I began with the simplest of lines using two different brush widths, the only two I had, just to get a feel for things.

 

I never grow tired of green.

 

I found the activity to be surprisingly meditative and intimate, much like writing a letter.

 

 

 

I quickly slipped into my modus operandi and began simplifying the lines even further.

 

 

 

 

And further still . . .

 

 

 

Until I was left with a single line.

 

 

I found the mood of this line appealing.  It struck me as somewhat calligraphic.  

 


 

I was then reminded of the gorgeous nameplate on a Tiffany window from 1887 that I recently helped restore.  Here’s a close-up photo of the nameplate in reflected light:

 


The leadwork is mindboggling.  To accommodate the letters, the craftsman cut the glass in the most challenging of ways, in some cases working with pea-sized glass.  Note the little scroll details in the curves of the 6’s.  Astounding.  This image is not far that from its actual size.  Truly the work of a master.  Set against natural light this delicious lavender glass becomes a phenomenal, firey wonder:

 

R and I have not stopped going ga-ga over this window.  

 

It would be easy for me to go on and on about the glass, but Iet me return to the lines in this nameplate.  Most interesting are how the black lines serve as an integral part of the design itself and not merely a structural element to the window.  Though more compact and blockier than my watercolor lines, they too look calligraphic, not so unlike the work below:

 

See what I mean?

 

While I experiment with color and shape using paints, I’m also trying to find a way of giving the black lines more significance in my designs.  I’m not sure where this exploration is going, but I plan to continue this watercolor play in hopes of bringing a new dimension into my work.  

At the very least I’m producing my own line of original greeting cards . . .

 

 

 

Written by Janie

September 18, 2008 at 8:09 am

Tree of Life ~ The Installation

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It’s done!  

 

The metalsmith, A, made an exquisite frame.

The steel was darkened with “gunmetal blue” patina.

 

After a few last minute changes (the overlays had to be removed . . . darn!) we delivered the window at 6 p.m. the evening before the hospital’s opening ceremony.

A and his wife were a great help!

 

 

There was no lack of pomp and circumstance on opening day.

 

 

A circus too?

 

Governor Baldacci and Barbara Bush were there!  

How sweet of Barbara to come just to see my window!

 

The meditation room of the Infant’s and Children’s Wing.

The new home.

 

This has truly been the most challenging job I’ve ever attempted and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.  That I’ve completed it to the best of my ability gives me a great sense of accomplishment.  Despite some misgivings over particular aspects of its design, I’m thoroughly honored to have the window reside in such an important setting.  To know the public may find hope and comfort in the work at a most stressful time in their lives is the most meaningful part of the whole experience. 

Finally, I leave the window in its new home and turn my attention to other projects.  Thanks to all the support I received from members of the committee, from R whom I work with who gave me so much good advice, from A who made the window complete with the perfect frame, from bloggers who responded so positively to my posts.  And thanks to my family, who answered all my late night phone calls and cheered me on.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

Written by Janie

September 7, 2008 at 8:55 am

Tree of Life ~ Pt. 10

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I’ve finished soldering the canopy and have moved onto the lower half of the window.  Since I sadly had to abandon the delicous gold-pink glass that I’d planned to use in the “sky” I needed to find an alternative.    I frantically searched through my stock of blues but they were jewel-tones, too dark for the window.  It was too late to order more glass, so I absolutely had to find some way of using something from my inventory.  After much digging, I found two fractured pieces of the palest blue glass I hadn’t used in years.  I managed to alter the design to fit the odd shapes I had to work with, just enough to do the trick!  

 

 It always surprises me how the addition of the simplest lines create expression.  

 

Before soldering, I added these copper foil overlays.  I felt the larger pieces of sky and ground needed some simple embellishment.  Overlays allow me to add lines without cutting the glass. The beauty of overlays is that they’re easily removed if I don’t like the results.

R. offered to fire my name on the glass, so it’s there for good.  I carried the piece sandwiched in cardboard to and from my house on the bus to get to the studio where R. helped let me use her paints.  That I made it home without breaking it is a small miracle.

 

Thankfully, my parents valued good penmanship.  

 

The window just fits my work table.  Thanks again to my dad who made the table sturdy enough so that I could crawl around on top to reach the center of the panel more easily.  

And stand on top to take pictures . . .

 

All that’s left is my nameplate.  

 

It’s nearly 11 p.m.  I spent most of the day holed up in the studio to complete assembly, giving up a night of salsa dancing (sigh) to be sure I make the August 29 deadline.  It was worth it — I’ll sleep well tonight!

 

Written by Janie

August 24, 2008 at 10:52 am

Tree of Life ~ Pt. 9

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I’m making good progress on the window, but it hasn’t come without glitches.  The gold-pink glass, though lovely and vibrant, simply overwhelmed the rest of the glass. I had concerns about ordering glass I’d never used before.  Each sheet is so unique and so difficult to assess from a catalog photo.  It wasn’t until I began cutting the glass that I realized it just wouldn’t work.  The color competed with the bright greens in the leaves.  In a fit of panic, I contacted the art consultant, who made a last-minute visit to the studio.  She agreed that the glass wasn’t right, then said the words I’ve been wanting to hear through the whole process: “Just do what you need to do to make it work.”

It was a disappointment not the use this glass – I spent $200 on this single sheet – but now I have an exquisite piece of glass to experiment with for future projects.

 

Here’s a peek at my progress so far:

 

 I redrew the entire image to fit the new dimensions.  Using a pencil allows me to adjust the design as I go.   

 

 

I deliberately left gaps between pieces to create a more interesting solder line.

 

 

I added a few pink leaves to break up the green.

 

I’ve laid out the entire canopy and have begun soldering.  I wanted to see how this looked before I moved on to the earth and stream.   At the last minute I found a pale blue for the sky below the canopy in place of the goldpink, which would have overpowered it all.   

I should have the front of the window soldered by the weekend, then comes the task of flipping the whole thing over!  Here, my father’s carpentry comes in handy.  He built the work table with a hinged top that opens up vertically for just this kind of challenge.  Thanks, Daddy!

Written by Janie

August 19, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Tree of Life ~ Pt. 8

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The glass has arrived!

 

Like Christmas in August!

 

It’s The Streakies!

 


Goldpink will become the Hopeful Sun.

 

 

Turquoise Streaky will become the Stream.  

 

 

And Green Streaky will become the Ground.

 

Nothing gets me geared up for work like unwrapping new glass!

All I need now to begin cutting are the final dimensions.   I’ll mull over the glass for a few days to get a sense of what details each sheet offers and how I might use them.  Then it’s me alone in the studio to meld the ideas from so many meetings with the best of my aesthetic and skill.  How it will all come together is still unclear, but I’m more confident now that I have the glass.  

 

Written by Janie

August 6, 2008 at 8:43 am

Tree of Life ~ Pt. 7

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You may want to sit down for this news . . . 

 

The design has been approved!  

It only took six weeks and four revisions.  

 

More leaves!  More green!

 

I cranked out this watercolor in record time to make a last-minute meeting this morning.  Not the quiet, subdued image I’d originally envisioned for the space, but it is a fair translation of the requests to make the design more vibrant and hopeful.  At this point I’m tired of looking at the darn thing. 

I still have to revise the final sketch to fit the new opening, but within a week I hope to begin cutting glass!

 

Written by Janie

July 31, 2008 at 9:20 am