Thursday, June 28, 2007

Glass and cloth are so much alike!

When I started learning to work with warm and hot glass, I just kept repeating that to myself over and over. Art is art. The design elements don't change. If I can work with color and surface design in cloth, I can do that in glass as well. The techniques are different, but the ideas are the same.

In fact, I have a file on my computer for some future book on the subject! Starting with a list of processes I knew how to do on cloth on one side of the page, I listed how to do that same process in glass on the other side. If I didn't know how to do one, then I had a research project (and scientist that I am, I LOVE that!). I spent hours on the web looking at how people work with glass, and I took classes from lots of incredible glass artists. As of yet, I haven't dreamed up a catchy name along the lines of Jane Dunnewold's Complex Cloth, but I do spend time thinking about building up layers with glass in the same fashion that she does with cloth.

Incomplete it is, but I'm making a lot of progress. To give you a taste of what I'm looking at, compare a Robert Leatherbarrow powder wafer bowl or shield (his site seems to be down at the moment, rats, try again later) with a Debra Lunn/Michael Mrowka potato dextrin quilt.

When I started this compilation, I was thinking of working in fused glass to yield flat or gently curved panels, with the vision of combining them somehow with fiber. It's not a natural combination because there are real differences that mask the similarities between glass and cloth. But those differences are as attractive as the similarities. What a great juxtaposition of hard vs. soft, breakable vs. yielding, smooth and shiny vs. sculpted and matte.

Then I got sidetracked into beads because of the smallness and immediacy of the work. It's so addictive to make something in an hour or two and have it finished (admittedly it has to sit in the kiln overnight)! The notion of a series takes on a whole new meaning when each piece is that quick. What a contrast to a huge quilt with hundreds of hours of machine quilting that would take me months to finish. And people, including me, adore beads and jewelry. They collect them and hoard them and wear them, which isn't nearly as possible with quilts. No wonder I diverted!

Now I feel I'm finally coming around full circle. Yesterday, while drawing goldfish onto a small tile for a bead, I was frustrated by the limited canvas. I've been thinking about working larger. I've been thinking about cloth again. I've been poking through photos of my quilts and thinking about the connections to glass and looking at all the unfinished work. I've been going through my Book of Attractions, a book of magazine clippings of artwork that attracts me, reading what I wrote about why each piece calls to me. I've been sketching and collaging and painting in the sketchbook I took to Spain and Italy. I've been chatting with my online artist friends about what I should do.

Suddenly I have that feeling I get when some big shift is about to happen.

Glass and cloth are so similar, why NOT put them together?