This post is of my personal experience with intuition and art. My current medium is glass and this story is about making art from nothing; a totally intuitive, visionary process. The creative process is highly intuitive and filled with faith in both the internal vision and the materials and science with which I work. Finishing this project involved magic, intuition, emotion and was one of the most important pieces I've ever done. My intuition guided my skill (or lack thereof) every step of the way.
One day, my dear friend Mark brought me a Kate Bush song, Sunset, asked me to listen and then interpret the music into a piece of glass art. As the music flowed through the air, my mind's eye filled with colors and swirls and textures. For many months, that's how the art lived... floating twirls of light and tint and color not quite taking shape or form. I sat with the music, did some drawings, and listened to them both. I asked the muses for an impression of how the music wanted to live in the glass. Did it want to be a textured wall piece? Sculptural? Square? Round? Vertical? Horizontal? Everything and anything was an option. I checked in with Mark for a little assistance with the design, he said "You're the artist. It's your project, create what you hear." So much for external input on this one! Hah!
So, as a few more months passed, I went on with the stream of projects in the studio, prepared for a gallery show, created other commissions and let the ideas about Sunset flow through my conscious and sub-conscious mind. I made notes, folded paper into interesting shapes, noticed color blends in my other work, all the time working on the piece without yet putting it into shape or form.
What my intuition had given me: red, amber, rust, light, texture of bubbles and sand and swirly flow, fluidity, honeycomb and the feel of the air moving. In glass.
In the studio, I played with the random inspirations that came to me.
I did a screen melt, where you pile pieces of glass on a screen and heat it up til the glass oozes through the screen and makes all kinds of fun swirls. I cut the piece up into strips and put it aside, not knowing where it would end up but these things always find their way home.
In December, a shape and form came to me. I made a model out of cardboard: found a box, cut it up, taped it; finally we had a home for the Sunset vision. I liked the shape and could see it holding a fluid pattern.
Next step, more technical/less intuitive, create a mold from the model. A combination of silica and hydro-cal makes a heat tolerant, ceramic mold. This type of mold is usually good for just one firing but hey, this was going to fly on the first time so no worries, right?!
The mold is complete and dry and I have a clear visual of the finished piece. Time to pull together the components.
Ah, some of those baconstrip-looking parts from the screen melt had found a new place to live.
I imagined the sea of honey in the base... amber ripples through clear space, bubbles, above a red, sandy floor. Time to cast a small block inside the walls of kiln bricks: red opal strips on the bottom so that red will reflect up into the clear and amber, clear strips and frit (crushed glass) in varying levels crossed with stripes of amber to bring a wave and flow feeling. A little more frit to create bubbles. (more surface area inside the construction creates more opportunity for bubbles).
Above the flowing amber sea, I envisioned a swirly twist of sand and fire and light rising. This evolved as layers of frits (crushed pieces of glass in varied densities, from the size of small pebbles to powders) patterned on clear pieces of glass.
Clear glass was cut to fit in the mold and then a design built in layers. Each layer was tack fused (warm fired) to hold the small pieces in place so I could put them in the mold face down. For a reflective touch, I added a layer irridescent glass that formed around the texture of frit to bring a little glow around the colored pieces.
On the sides, the honeycomb texture wanted to live. But how was I going to work that into the mold? All of a sudden, I saw honeycombs everywhere: on the grocery cart, in corrugated cardboard, Styrofoam containers, real honeycomb wax... all of them were pretty but not quite the texture I was seeking. SO, I rewound, paused, and looked at my materials. What have I created textures with in the past? Fiberpaper! Fiberglass paper that you can cut into any shape or design. So, I put on a good movie and spent two hours cutting out half-inch polygons. OK, maybe it was two movies. There was a lot of cutting. Fiber paper pieces was cut to fit each side of the mold and to them the polygons were glued. This created a honeycomb texture on both sides into which the glass would melt (fingers crossed) and provide a lovely impression and a tactile experience beyond the visual.
All components complete, four firings, how many months later? and time for final assembly:
In what was to become the base, I laid two bacon strips with lots of clear to let the light through.
Resting 'above' that, the amber sea block.
Filling the diagonal top portion, the layers of clear and frit swirls, and the balance of the space filled in with clear billet (chunks of a 1 inch thick glass block).
The Bullseye Glass app for iPhone is handy for checking annealing and firing schedules. It told me that this 2.75 inch thick baby was ready to spend 84 hours in the heat! (After each component spent at least 18 hours in the kiln already.)
The mold is leveled on the kiln shelf, the programmer is set to delicately adjust the glass temperature throughout the fusing process, the lid is closed, opened again to check one more thing, closed, opened, closed, and a prayer is given up to Pyrexia for her to watch over a successful firing. And then we wait. There are times in the firing process where we can peak on what's going on. And times when it is forbidden to flex the temperature the 10 to 50 degrees an opening might cause. And then we wait some more. This is a time for faith... imagination may fuel the fears so stick to faith in the process and the intuition that brought us to this point.
Three days later, it's time to open up. At first glance, I check for cracks. Cracks in the glass. Did the temp ramp up or down too quickly and cause the glass to fracture. No. No cracks. Are there cracks in the mold which might have caused the glass to seap from the mold shape? No cracks in the mold.
Because the firing process weakens the mold material, caution is needed when removing the piece from the kiln. I test the plaster to see if it will break, which it does, and end up removing the mold in pieces around the 10 pound hunk of glass in the center.
The surface of the glass is rough, an exact duplication of what was on the mold. It will need polishing but a good squirt of water on the surface tells me it is very close to what I had envisioned.
The polishing process is a whole different dimension in glass art. After a couple of hours on the belt sander and another bout with the lapidary wheel (which resulted in an ugly scratch on the face - repairable but still NOT wanted), I opted for enlisting the aid of
professionals. I'm fortunate to know few polishing masters who just finished polishing several 7 foot pieces of glass, surely they could help me out with my little mess. Sure enough, the geniuses took over and presented a highly polished, glowing piece of my work.
This project was important to me on so many levels.
It was for a friend for whom I wanted to create an amazing visual and tactile sculpture. (Which brought up all kinds of anxiety about my work not being good enough.) I was trusted on a completely unguided opportunity to take what was in my heart and my head and move it through my hands and into glass.
Technically, it was a challenging piece, to build a thick piece and have all the components stay in place and allow movement of the glass only where I wanted it.
The polishing process took me to a new level of frustration until I remembered that, although I work in the studio alone, I am never alone in my creative endeavors. I find glass artists to be so generous with their talent and expertise. Thanks to the guys at Spectrum for saving my gl-ass on this one!
Sunset feels like a pivotal piece for my body of work. I took the project more seriously through the whole process. Sometimes that meant digging in and working til I got it right and sometimes it meant walking away completely until the next step presented itself. It brought me to a new level of both trusting my ideas and expanding satisfaction in my ability to create.
Now, what comes after Sunset?