Foot Surgery Convalescence Resulted in Self-Pity and then I was Swallowed Whole By GoT?
I haven’t been writing much. Having corrective surgery on my foot put me on crutches and into a foul mood.
Thanks to modern movie streaming, and a friend’s password, all is well at my unproductive studio and the weeks have flown by. I have contemplated the production of Dragonglass daggers, fell in love with fierce warriors and cried for the mother more than once.
And just like that “the girl” is halfway though the healing process.
..It’s lovely, isn’t it? The very possibility of getting lost in one multi season mega masterpiece binge after another, an escape worthy of an eight week recovery. I wallow at times like this, in the choices that I’ve made with the trade I was given, the possibilities I have made and lost, the art I’ve made, and destroyed.
But given too much time, one must look to the art still to be made, the challenges to overcome, and a place to do it.
If asked what is the hardest thing about being a glassblower I would have to say it is having a place to do it. It truly is an enormous undertaking- physically and financially.
Most glassblowers never build a studio. It is an intimidating and complicated project requiring legal thought to permits, and managing dangerous amounts of high pressure propane gas use, by furnace design, and storage of that gas. Most residential areas do not allow industrial glass studios to just fire up due to zoning laws. They are dangerous and best kept under strict rules in safe and monitored industrial space, or out in less populated and thus less regulated areas.
The most financial damage is in the running of the furnace however. I can make 80 gallons of propane last 10-14 days. 80 gallon fill up this week is $3.14/gallon.
The physical damage is the emotional wear of just such an undertaking.
Glassblowers create grand designs that is not pragmatically realized in the actual building of one’s own furnace. I find that there were, and still are, not exact design manuals to build a glass studio. One must be resourceful, adaptable in response to obstacles, and not be so attached to the original plan, to stop and reassess and change course, if necessary. It is not rocket science. Hardly anything is. And due the fact that each furnace is not an exact science and resources are best kept for the purchase of propane, I saw no reason to not scrap together whatever I had or could find, just to have a pot of molten glass at my disposal. But to fire up that furnace? That cannot be solved by stubborn resourceful adaptation alone.
I started performing at Renaissance festivals not because I like dressing in costume, or because I enjoy the spot light and a rugged muddy life style. I started performing at Renaissance Festivals just so I had a place to blow glass, the cost of which was covered by the festival in exchange for the wear and emotional damage of trying to run a performing glass studio and a place of retail while obsessively managing not to burn down the festival in which I’m employed.
When I had an opportunity to work at a co-op studio in Florida in the early 1990’s, I made and carved some masterpieces, but the first couple of years, I set up those masterpieces sitting on my Toyota pickup’s tailgate in the alley of an industrial complex. The studio owner harassed me continuously, hoping I would give in to his advances, and move into his house out of homeless desperation. He was old, (about my age now ..lol) gross, and an unkind wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Graal technique, huge furnaces and the help of a group of glassblowers was worth the span of a decade or so of being involved with this studio.
I made 30 or so masterpieces in the Graal technique and have another 50 or so overlay blanks to carve, and about 20 saturn overlays, to also carve. I have come to own the land to run my portable studio, and start carving those blanks. I hope to get a few glassblowers together to work on more overlays in the nearest future I can make, but we are few and far between, and I do love working alone.
Ironically, as a female glassblower, I do not enjoy an audience while at work. Those first years I was objectified and gawked at, and not for my artistic prowess. Before Zena Warrior Princess, girl muscles were not that fashionable, and I felt freakish.
And the fact that I blow for a living, forgive the common pun, but even now young boys play the “blowing” jokes like I am not but a beast on display, for them. Not the respected master glassblower a male artist would command. Most often patrons anticipating the show on my studio stage assume my male assistants, no matter how young, are the glassblower. To some, I am a disappointment. To some, a welcome surprise. To most I have to win you over.
While performing for the ‘Chihuly across Florida’ at ‘the arts center’, my assistant Sara and I performed a glassblowing performance with my newly built portable studio, the Queen Lula. We performed for schools from all over Florida and all ages. There would be a group of 200 or so kids waiting for us each show, four times a day. We would exit ‘the arts center’ out the back and into the performance area while all those kids waited, anticipating our arrival. There would be different responses in the crowd as to our entrance. More often than not, our audience would be anticipating a man or two and the response when realizing we were the glassblower and assistant was often comical. The best response ever in all the shows I have performed in the past 30+ years was at one of these shows.
As we entered the performance area with approximately two hundred 3rd and 4th graders, a hushed silence set upon the audience for a second or two to be broken by laughter in response to an outburst from the first row. A young boy put both his hands to his cheeks in stunned enthusiasm and exclaimed
” It’s two pretty girls!”
‘the arts center’ St. Petersburg Florida 2004
The Graal technique is created by attaching different colored blown bubbles together and turning one inside out and over the other, overlaying colored layers. The piece is then annealed and later carved by sandblasting, revealing a detailed image in multi colors. The sandblasting is set up cold by masking the entire piece in vinyl and carving by matte knife a hand drawn stencil and sandblasting away the color in the negative spaces of the design, in stages, for each color.
The piece is then brought back up to temperature, put back onto the blowpipe and fire polished or gathered over and blown into the final piece.
It is a very time consuming and tedious process. The pieces themselves were very large due to an overlay bar the owner designed. Much too large for my frame but with the assistance of two other glassblowers, I was able to blow them, but not often to punty ( taken off the blowpipe while hot onto a solid pipe so as to work the lip of the piece).
If the overlay piece became too heavy, I would have had to hand the piece off to a larger glassblower. Stubborn to do as much of the piece as possible, I broke most of the large overlays right off the pipe into the annealer, and cut and hand polished the lips, cold, instead. My friend Pauli helped polish those pieces, and without his help, they would not have turned out so well. The pieces even not molten and cool to the touch were still a bit unyielding and heavy for me to handle at the polishing machines, so I relied on Pauli’s time and strength.
This is one of the first overlays set up for sandblasting on that Toyota tail gate-
Available by the Artist $3,600
GRAAL TECHNIQUE- over 80 hours of hand carving design on this 3 color layered piece, it is then heated back to 2000*F and gathered over
Fairifari II 1998
Available from the Artist $3,600
Donations and art purchases
Working capital and sales
Donations and art purchases
Working capital and sales
I went on to make many carved Butterfly and Fairy pieces, including these lapis overlaid Galaxies of the same name many years later:
Fairifari III-VI 2006
II +VI AFA:$2,900 EACH
Hand carved GRAAL carved on a Galaxy designed base color, then fire polished and blown into the final form
I also started a series I call “The Owl and the Moon” on that tailgate. These pieces are very expensive to make and expensive to buy, making for awkward conversations at some Renaissance festivals.
After about 12 years performing at the Texas Renaissance Festival a local came up to admire one of these pieces and thought $24.00 was a great price and exclaimed “Ain’t that ‘perdy?!” only to to stomp off, when informed the decimal was a couple spaces over making the piece $2400., with an infuriated “It ain’t that ‘perdy!!”
Owl and the Moon IV
OWL AND THE MOON
HAND CARVED DESIGN, GRAAL TECHNIQUE-colored bubbles of molten glass are turned inside out over each creating layers of color. When cool the piece is covered with vinyl masking that is hand cut into a stencil and stage sand blasted into a complex, three color design. The piece is then brought back up to 2000*F and fire polished or gathered over, then blown into the final shape.
My first of this series was inspired and set up for sandblasting while traveling to Arizona for a Renaissance festival in February 1998. I did not perform in Arizona and didn’t make much money, but it was a chance to see friends and get away from the harassment I received at that Florida studio.
My dog Brandy and I had traveled to this show for years, and I wanted some time in the desert with my faithful companion. The faire owner had promised me a performing studio at his new show in North Carolina, as well as allowing me to perform in Arizona, but could not commit and instead gave me free booth space to sell at both festivals. I had to tell him that year, the third he had me on that shelf, that I had been offered and accepted the spot to perform at the Texas Renaissance Festival and am no longer available for North Carolina, scheduled at the same time of year. The tantrum, and cascade of documents detailing our years together tossed in anger, he threw was a monumental moment in my life and the correct choice was validated.
I have never stopped missing those long walks in the desert with Brandy, almost as much as I miss her, but I would never find my way back to the truck without her anyway.
The first of this series I made for her.