swimming under the sea is a magical thing. holding ones breath to float, immersed in the soft velvety waters, transports you into another realm of being. one with muted sound and subtle lines. one with dappled light and slow, heavy movement. there is a forced peace in that realm, a tranquility hidden from the noise and harsh nature of the land.
most of my childhood and teenage summers were spent at the beach. one of my favourite things to do when I was there was to dig deep into the face of waves and flip onto my back to watch those walls of energy roll over me. watching the blue tones change in the depths of water and the light stream through where the water was thinnest, made me indefinably happy. feeling the soft, wave-swept ripples in the seafloor with my hands was something else I loved to do.
having just spent a weeks holiday in Fiji, where I swam for several hours each day, reminded me of how much I enjoy being inside and under that great mass of water. watching the fractured light wobble and dance over my skin and being washed by the same ebb and flow of the brightly coloured fish below me was beautiful. it was restorative and life giving.
it also confirmed for me my decision to try to represent that great sea in my artwork for VITAL (#vital2014). artist’s were encouraged to respond to or address the word VITAL and what it means for them. I was immediately drawn to the idea of somehow creating an underwater scene in a piece of glass.
so, I’ve tried.
*3rd and final piece, with ‘failures’ and all.
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if i made my little 1x1cm stud earrings or my 30cm fern bowls all the time, and if they were the only things i made, i would be able to have the same results every time. i plan and write a schedule of every firing i do, taking into account the size of the piece, the thickness of the glass and effect i want in the finished piece. so to repeat something i’ve made, its already programmed for me, i have the past schedules and previous mistakes to show me what i need to do to end up with the desired product each time, every time. it’s quite predictable.
thats a good thing. it’s wisdom, i think. i also know that its productive and not wasteful. but, just this week i’ve found such exquisite beauty in the unknowns and in the unpredictable; in the mistakes i’ve made and the ‘failures’ that occur when i don’t have a program that i’ve already established for such a job. i was working from feel and only a little bit of research and forethought. i threw (figure of speech people – i’m working with glass!) things together and put them in the kiln to fire. it was one of those times that glass has again blown me away with its depth, strength and beauty.
i’m working on a piece for an artshow in Sydney at the end of the month and am working on a larger scale than normal. i knew that what i was making was a ‘test’ but i’m always hopeful that the ‘draft’ will do. i’ve never been good at editing and perfecting. mid-way through the firing i checked through the little kiln window and saw some beautiful (but not ideal) bubbles across the big flat fused panel. bubbles occur in glasswork where pockets of air get trapped in the heating and cooling process – all they need is a passage to escape – they’re not there to cause trouble, per say. i was hoping that throughout the rest of the firing schedule these big boils would find their little passages, out of my glass and into the kiln-sphere.
after two firings and hours of planning and designing, i opened the kiln to find those big bubbling boils still sitting in my glass panel. having pushed glass aside around them, they stretched taught about 2cm above the surface, with skins thin like paper. i was a bit gutted, knowing i had limited days left to complete the piece before i go away for a while, and lamenting the amount of glass i had used in this now useless panel. but as i washed the piece and held it up to the sky – there it was…crystalline light playing amongst the layers of glass and tiny bubbles holding to fragments of frit. this piece was beautiful. it was showing me everything i love about glass and more. never had i seen glass stretched so thin, where it would crinkle under the gentle pressure of my finger. the reflections of a top-layer stringer on the bottom of the panel blew me away with its colourful mirrored imagery.
i’ve been reminded that this is more of what i need. and this is how i will keep learning about this medium. don’t worry though, i’ve kept going with this piece. the 2nd edition is currently warming up to its almost-800 degree climax. i’ve created little passages this time for the air and been more careful about layering the glass. because i am trying to tell a specific story with this panel, one that i want to perfect and one that needs to speak clearly. although, i’m very grateful for the story that the first edition told me.
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