Much as I love to whine, I won’t; I’m over my quota for the quarter. However, I’d just like to point out that I HAVEN’T SO MUCH AS TOUCHED A KILN CONTROLLER IN A MONTH!! Is there such a thing as glass cold turkey?
Still, it’s given me some time to process the directions my work is taking, come to a few realizations about what I do (and don’t do) well…and maybe make some course corrections. I think educators and HR people call that a “teachable moment,” which is a whole lot nicer than, say, “screwup.”
Lots of reasons for the hiatus: I’d pretty much done nothing but cast glass, non-stop, for the previous three months to get ready for the Guardino show. Client business (by day I’m a content strategist, AKA writer with an attitude) thankfully went from trickle to flood; I found myself dealing with serial emergencies pretty much 18 hours per day…leaving little time for art. Taxes happened. My friend Becky had an emergency and needed someone to babysit her downtown gallery for a few days (a task I love, but it ain’t exactly like I can sculpt clay on the cash register).
Besides, my frantic, last-minute Guardino rush left both studios looking like I’ve had my own personal tornado for a houseguest. For some reason I can’t work in a messy studio, and by the time I cleaned it up I’d have no time for glass.
Happily, I finally grabbed some solid glasshours Wednesday, shoved aside the mess and went back to work. Doing a few pate de verre bowls, a couple of small sculptures, some small-scale jewelry, casts for a few vessel waxes I’ve just never gotten around to making. Hopefully I’ll fill up the kiln with molds today, get a few more ready tomorrow, do a booth walkthrough with partner Terry tomorrow afternoon, and then spend the weekend making more.
I’m beginning to realize that I will probably never be a production glassmaker; I’m talking to a couple of high-end decorating folks about fancy glass tiles but a friend’s casual remark hit me like a cold-water shower. “Wouldn’t it be great if they bought 4,000 of them?”
Clunk. No. That would NOT be great.
And so I discovered that MY idea of selling tile, or vessels or jewelry is maybe a dozen of each design. Three dozen, max. Retailers, wholesalers and architects probably have a different amount in mind. I’m kidding myself if I think I could churn out, say, a thousand of these (left) in a month or three.
It’s becoming clear (and there go those experienced artists, rolling their eyes at yet another of my duh moments) that there could be a reason why pate de verre is not mass-produced. Production stuff needs to be relatively simple to make. Also reproducible.
Pate de verre is neither, especially when you figure in the inevitable and extensive coldworking. Even if you 3D-printed this (assuming someone ever builds a 3D glassprinting machine), and refined it with a CNC coldworking system, it’d being more trouble (and expense) than it’d sell for, at least at this level of refinement.
Plus, now that I’ve got some sales under my belt I’m coming to a second realization: Transparent shiny stuff often sells better than translucent satiny stuff. No matter how many times I point out the beauty, delicacy and difficulty of pate de verre (above, left), the customer’s eye is invariably drawn to the billet-cast transparent version (below, right):
But I gotta admit after this last orgy of totally delightful transparent casting: The customer may have a point. Transparent stuff is luscious. So while I’m not abandoning pate de verre by any means, I’m beginning to understand that it’s probably a better choice for one-of-a-kind sculpture, and small, more easily produced transparent stuff might be a better choice for multiples.
I am working on some ideas in that direction. They are most likely NOT going to be ready for my big debut at an art fair (since that happens next week; I suspect my half of the booth will be the biggest grab-bag of techniques you’ve ever seen). But I’ll work on them anyway and see where they take me.
And yeah, I don’t know why it is that I need to learn all this stuff the hard way when the whole rest of the glassmaking world already knows it and maybe three seconds of concentrated thinking would make it glaringly obvious. But hey.
I’m also working on a proposal to get some kind of cooperative going between kilnglassfolk in the northwest, where designers develop simple products, everyone works on them with their own touches, and we sell through some kind of centralized organization. We’re playing around with the idea of grants, figuring out logistics, and trying to discover pricepoints and general feasibility. But that stuff is months or years away.
For now, I’ll just make glass.