Welcome to A Hot Piece of Glass!

WELCOME to my colorful corner of the world! I write here about the things I make, in glass, fiber, metals, and whatever else I can find to play with!

**And if you want to read more about me, check out Adventures In Living!, my personal blog, or The ScooterMom, where I write about my adventures on two wheels! If you're interested in medieval, ancient and Renaissance glass, check out my history blog, The Medieval Glassworker!**

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Green Man

I received a request from a friend of mine to create a Viking knit bracelet that has some beads shaped like the Green Man on them. This friend has an affinity for this Celtic motif and uses it in her home and even has a Green Man tattoo. Of course, I love a challenge and I also love to sculpt in glass. Some of you who read my blog entry from October 7, about soul-filling, have already seen the beads.

The finished bracelet looks like this:

It's on the way to my friend in Illinois right now. Enjoy, Katie!

Edited to add: The lovely wirework endcaps are a creation of the brilliant Kerry Bogert. I want to be sure to give her credit for the design of those!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Travelogue, Day Four: My Hometown

The shore of Lake Ontario

I was born in, and lived in, Rochester New York for half of my childhood. My extended family still lives there, and I have many, many fond memories of that city. It's fairly rare that I find myself able to travel "home" very often, so I knew that a trip to Corning (only an hour and a half from Rochester) would mean a definite side trip.

On Saturday, the weather was beautiful -- sunny and slightly chilly and just perfect for looking at all the gorgeous fall leaves along the way. We made good time getting up to my grandmother's house, which is in a suburb of Rochester, literally right on the shore of Lake Ontario. It was great to see my grandmother, who is 85 and getting along in years. I brought her a photo album stuffed full of pictures of my family. Her memory isn't what it used to be.
The great thing about my family (well, one of the great things, anyway) is that we all live fairly long lives and most of us maintain our ability to be physically active long into our 80's. That makes me happy. Gram is doing great, and I wish I could see her more.

Kitty and I also spent some time on the lakeshore, which was incredibly windy and blustery!
I have such amazing memories of this beach, from childhood and from college years. I have always loved it, and always spend time skipping stones and looking for beach glass and heart-shaped rocks. I found both, plus some shells tossed up by the nor'easter.

On our walk, I discovered that the house I have coveted since I was a little girl is for sale. It's a beautiful 1907 house with incredible views of the lake and a loooong stretch of property that includes a portion of beachfront. It faces the lake and it just breathtaking. Alas, it is only 3 bedrooms (not enough for my family) and it's way out of our price range. Still, it was fun to think about.

After time at Grandma's, we met up with the wonderful Kerry Bogert for an afternoon (and evening!) of antique/junk/thrift shopping, the BEST margaritas and Mexican food I've ever had, and general hanging-out fun. I got to meet her beautiful children and terrific husband, see her house (I know, you are all jealous after seeing her pictures), and take lots of pictures.

Oh! I forgot! I took a quick side trip on the way to Kerry's house...I drove through the neighborhood I lived in when I was a kid. Seeing my old house is always fun. It's even red again (it has been red and brown over the past 30 years)!

227 Albemarle Street

I even remember our old phone number there. Isn't it funny how some things just stick with you? Of course the house looks smaller, and the driveway much less steep than it did when I was riding my bike down it as a child, but overall the feel was the same. The Japanese maple I climbed, the brick steps at the neighbor's that we all used as "base" for endless games of tag, the carriage house that was the garage...all there, and all the same. I wish I could have seen the inside and the yard, but I was polite and didn't want to intrude on the current owners.

But. I digress.

Back to the shopping! We visited Antiques and Old Lace, All That Jazz, and Rehouse, then went to Maria's in Webster for food and margaritas. Yum!

It was a fantastic day, and I was so happy to hang out with great friends and scour some really outstanding shops for great old stuff! I only bought a few vintage Rochester postcards from the early 1900's, but I was happy.

That night, we stayed at my aunt's house in Webster, and then got up really early to begin our trek back home. It was the end of a terrific, soul-filling trip, and I was happy.

Thanks for sticking with me through my travel stories! Back to art and jewelry in a few days, I promise!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Travelogue, Day Three: More Medieval Glass and the Tour De Nostalgia

On Friday, Day Three of our Upstate Adventure, we woke to some pretty typical mid-October weather. Cold, rainy, windy....yeah, it was a nor'easter blowing in. Thankfully, I had the forethought to make sure we brought real coats and umbrellas and gloves and scarves with us, just in case. We needed 'em.

In the morning, I had signed up for a lecture in which we were to learn about the comparison of medieval material culture with ancient material culture, and the importance of glassware in relation to other table utensils. Unfortunately, the scheduled speaker had some travel issues resulting in his being stuck in Philadelphia, so a change in the lecture was made. Fortunately, once again, I had the distinct privilege of listening to a joint presentation by Dr. David Whitehouse and William Gudenrath on the specifics of making blown glass vessels in period. Dr. Whitehouse discussed a variety of different objects, how they were used and what they represented, and then Mr. Gudenrath showed specifically how most of those objects were actually made. He showed several videos in which he himself was creating a replica claw beaker or enameled beaker or carafe. Unbelievable! I just cannot truly express just how exciting it was to go over the actual process by which a modern glassworker was able to exactly replicate a medieval object using pretty much ONLY the tools that were available in period. And then see it happen before your eyes. Seriously. I was a total fangirl and managed to sneak a photo during the lecture...

That's William Gudenrath on the left and Dr. Whitehouse on the right. I found out, by surfing the Museum webpage, that Mr. Gudenrath has two degrees, neither of which have anything to do with glassblowing or history or the Roman period. They're in MUSIC, of all things, and one of his degrees is from Julliard. He gives me hope. :)

I also wondered how totally ridiculous it would be to ask for a photo with the both of them...I was too chicken to really do it, but I wanted to.

After my lecture, I took a few minutes to do some souvenir shopping for my children (kaleidoscopes for everyone!), and headed back to the library to finish up some research there while my friend Kitty went to another lecture right before lunch.

As a short aside, and for your viewing pleasure, let me show you some images of 19th century lampworking paraphernalia:
The sign on the door of lampwork artists, Rudolph and Leopold Blaschka in Dresden, Germany

Their lampworking lamp

Nineteenth-century jars of frit!

Any of these tools look familiar?

At lunchtime, we hopped in the car and drove up to Geneseo, which normally is just barely an hour from Corning, but in a nor'easter, it takes longer than that. The wind and rain were pretty impressive, actually. Thankfully, my college friend, Ken, whom we were meeting for lunch, was patient and waited for us. It was terrific to see Ken again -- it's been nearly twenty years since we had seen each other -- and the turkey subs at Aunt Cookie's Subs in town were still as delicious as ever. It was great to walk through the Brodie Fine Arts building on campus again -- it looks the same, it smells the same, it feels the same, except in some ways it seems so much smaller than it was when I was in college. Still, it was nice to just steep myself in the nostalgia for a while.

After our visit, we drove back to Corning and spent a little while longer in -- you guessed it -- the library! Crazy. I know.

Then, back to our new favorite restaurant for dinner:

After yummy burgers, we dragged ourselves back to the hotel. Saturday, the last full day of our trip, promised to be just as packed as the previous days.

Next up: A day in Rochester, NY, the Flower City!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Travelogue, Day Two: Dipped In History

Corning, NY, on Thursday morning, right outside the museum.

I should preface this next installment of my travelogue with a few remarks about WHY I made this trip and WHAT the heck the big deal about medieval glass is, anyway.


I have long been an enthusiastic student of medieval history. I didn't study it formally, as I have both of my degrees in speech pathology, but I have always loved the material culture of the period between 300 AD and oh, about 1600 AD. A huge span of time, to be sure, but there is something to really like in each identifiable period. I learned to make some of the clothes, did some medieval re-creation, and in particular, studied glassworking of the various times. Along about the time I learned to flamework, I began getting more and more interested in glassmaking and how people with FAR less technological and material knowledge than we have today could really do this type of stuff. I've been researching certain topics for years, finding out information and making some replica pieces, but I hadn't had a chance (or the resources) to really delve into it all. Then the Corning Museum announced it's Seminar on Glass with a medieval focus, and well, there was no way I *wasn't* going to go to that.

That's the basic, short version. :)

SO! On to Day Two, Dipped In History!

We arrived at the museum early in the morning, and of course I couldn't resist taking a couple of shots of the outside of the building.
It really is a beautiful piece of architecture, even if, like me, you are not a huge fan of contemporary design. We registered for our conferences and received conference badges on museum lanyards (squee!), and a huge folder of information and brochures about the conference and museum. There was a little time to kill before the seminars started, so we took some time to go through the GlassMarket and check out the amazing things for sale.

And of course, we could not miss seeing the world's largest glass pumpkin! It really is an impressive piece of glassblowing -- it's something like eight feet in diameter!The video for how they created it is here. If you understand anything about working with hot glass, you'll totally get why it is such a difficult task. Check out the guy in the flame-retardant suit who moves the piece to the kiln and puts the stem piece on once it's in there. HOT!

Our first lecture was an hour on what is currently known about the glasswork of the medieval period, complete with excellent slides of pertinent pieces. It was titled, "Glass and Glassmaking in the Middle Ages", and was presented by Dr. David Whitehouse, the executive director and curator of ancient glass for the museum. He is a fantastic speaker and possesses a huge depth and breadth of knowledge of glass. It was a fangirl's delight, really. I was so thrilled to be listening to a lecture by one of the most prominent scholars in this area. My notetaking skills were definitely tested, however, as I wrote and sketched at lightning speed to capture everything he said.

After a coffee and pastry break, our second lecture was provided by William Gudenrath, historical glassblower and adviser for the glassblowing school at Corning. He discussed glassblowing techniques in the context of actual medieval pieces that are in the museum's collection. What was mindblowing about this particular lecture was the videos he showed of himself actually reproducing museum pieces because he has spent time figuring out how the medieval work was made by experimenting in the hot shop. SO. Cool. Plus, he teaches in the Museum's glassblowing school periodically. I dream now of taking a class on period glassblowing methods with him someday.

If all of THAT weren't enough, after lunch, Kitty and I headed into the museum to see the exhibits, especially the newest one on medieval glass. I have been to the museum once before, but Kitty had never been, and really it's astonishing to someone with a deep love of history to be as close to some of these works as we were. I took about 200 pictures of items in the galleries, which I will post on Flickr this week, but here are some highlights:

A cast glass dress and evening shawl by American artist, Karen Lamonte.

The huge Dale Chihuly sculpture in the lobby of the museum. There are a couple of Chihuly pieces at Corning.

Roman amulets and beads. SO interesting to look at! And such amazing detail, given what they had to work with.
Roman glass vessel.

Medieval prunted glass beaker -- very common style during the medieval period.
Sixteenth century enameled glass. The detail on this is incredible!

There is so much more in this museum, I can't even begin to show it all to you, but this is a start, at least. After we were completely saturated with historical glass, we headed down to the hot shop to the Make Your own Glass studio, where we got to blow glass pumpkins. Both of us having hot glass experience, we hoped they would let us do at least some of the furnace parts -- dipping from the crucible, or doing some benchwork, but really we only just got to blow the glass. Still, it was unforgettable, and the closest I'd ever been to a glass furnace.

Our glassblower guy was Bryce. He was so much fun to work with!

(Sorry for the blurry picture; I had my flash turned off for the museum, and forgot to turn it back on.)

The pumpkins went into the kiln for annealing and we picked them up the next day.

Following the glassblowing, we went to the Rakow Research Library to do some work on finding sources for period glass. I started with a general overview of Roman glass, but quickly got sidetracked into Roman small objects, jewelry, beads, rings, and cameo glass.

Having never worked in a research library, I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to use some reference material I had only heard about. The librarians were more helpful than I have ever known a librarian to be, and actually asked us about our topics and went and found amterials and brought them to us. !!!!! And photocopying was free -- color AND black and white -- so we went nuts copying pages and pages of material we knew we'd almost never have another chance to get our hands on. It was amazing. A-maze-ing. I even had a question about something that the librarians could not find an answer for, so they offered to ask the museum's research scientist the next morning. And THAT gentleman didn't know definitively, so he referred me to someone else! I don't think I've ever known people to share their work so readily, especially with people, like us, who are not affiliated with an institution professionally or as a student.

While there, we met several other people doing research for their jobs in museums; one was an American woman living in Qatar who was planning an exhibit at her museum on ancient glass along the Silk Road. It was all so interesting and so very overwhelming; when we finally left the library when it closed at 7pm, we were drained, but in a really, really satisfying way. I was in heaven, truly.

That night for dinner, we found a wonderful local restaurant, Holmes Plate 54, in the Gaffer district in downtown Corning. The burgers were phenomenal and they had sweet potato fries that were truly to die for! Service was outstanding and so friendly (we met the owner, Kim Holmes, who seated us), and we loved the atmosphere so much, we went back Friday night too!

Friday was promising to be a very busy day again, with museum and lectures and library, and a side trip up to my alma mater, SUNY Geneseo!

Stay tuned!

Travelogue, Day One: Pilgrimage to Mecca

On Wednesday last week, my friend Kitty and I set out on a long drive to upstate New York. The destination? Corning, NY and the Corning Museum of Glass. We were going to attend a lecture series on medieval glass, and make some side trips further upstate to Geneseo and to Rochester.

The drive was fairly easy, all thing being equal. It's about seven or eight hours from here to there, and I don't usually stop that often for very long. We got on the road around 8 in the morning, and pulled into our hotel around 4:30 or 5 that evening. Not bad.

All along the way, the leaves were changing, and as we drove further north, they got more and more brilliant. It was gloriously sunny all the way up, and perfectly chilly (for ME, anyway!) when we got out of the car in Corning. The company was excellent, and we really never ran out of things to talk about the whole way up there. It made the more boring parts of the drive much more tolerable, that's for sure.

Beware of sloping parking lots and partially full baggage carts. You might find yourself running when you hadn't intended on doing any such thing. Just sayin'.

Even though the drive was long, we were beyond excited about what we had come to do, so the intensity of this trip started the minute we arrived in town. If Corning, and the Corning Museum, the Rakow Research Library, and Corning Industries are not Mecca for the glassworker/artist/historian, then I don't know what would be. It's an amazing place, really.

After checking in and getting our stuff upstairs in the (really nice!) room, I introduced Kitty to the wonders of Wegman's, the best grocery store chain in the world! We got dinner there Wednesday night, and lunch on Thursday, and I was happy. Their food is so yummy!

Upon returning to the hotel, we did the girly thing and discussed outfits for the next day's lectures, and how much makeup to wear or not wear, and which shoes to wear with what. I arranged and re-arranged my tote bag and purse, trying to decide what I needed to carry with me. I settled on just my large purse, with my camera and a 5x8" spiral notebook, and a few pens.

Finally, I tried to sleep, not really realizing just how significant the next few days would be.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm BACK!! (sorta)

I got home from Corning, New York, this evening. The trip was unbelievable! I will have many more photos and a whole lot more to talk about after I have hugged my kids more, spent more time with my family, worked at my day job, and sorted through my photos and memories and travel stories.

More to come, I promise!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting Out of Town!

It's Monday, and I realize I have two full days to get all my stuff ready before I leave on a road trip up to New York state! Yikes! I should probably pack a few things in a suitcase, huh? (or a 'soupcase' as my 3 year old son calls it...)

My friend Kitty and I are headed up to Corning, New York, to visit the Glass Museum and take in a few lectures on medieval glass and it's historical context. This is very excited for us, as we are both big fans of the medieval period of history, and we are both glass artists. Her medium is more kiln-fired glass, stained and leaded glass, with a little bit of flameworking thrown in. While we're up there, we're going to do a little glassblowing (YAY!), a little shopping and sightseeing, and a trip up to my alma mater, SUNY-Geneseo, and to my hometown, Rochester.

I'm looking forward to immersing myself in nostalgia, learning some things about glass, visiting family and friends, and just generally having a good time in a place I love. I'll definitely be coming home with tons of pictures, and I'll share when I get back.

Right now, I've got to get the family up and moving on this fine Columbus Day Monday. If you don't hear from me before I go, enjoy your week, and I'll talk to you all when I get back!

Oh yeah....how do you like the new blog header?

Thursday, October 7, 2010


A few weeks ago, I was sitting next to a colleague in a meeting at the company I do some work for, and he was talking about treating patients (we're therapists), and he was saying, "My soul is filled by working with these people. I love it. I can't imagine not doing it."

My soul is filled by...

I wrote it down in the margin of the pad I was taking notes on, because it struck me so significantly.

It occurred to me that I did not really know how to complete that sentence. Not that day.

It's an interesting and necessary concept for me....this filling of one's soul...because I believe that all of us are creative people, and that creativity is drawn, like water from a well, from your soul. Granted, it's difficult to make water appear in a dry well, but your soul can be filled up again when it goes dry, if you just allow it to happen. How? By paying attention and being present to what and who you are, and how you live your life, and to the million little things that go on during the day around you.

Be present.

Be mindful.

Observation can bring knowledge and insight when you need it most. But I think the hardest thing is for us to be still and listen and see and just be.

So I realized, over the course of spending time with creative people and going to classes and learning things and trying new thing out and experiencing new ways of thinking and seeing, that MY soul is indeed filled, too.

Not by treating patients, as my friend's is, but by the act of creating.

I think I've known this for some time, but I tried so hard to narrow it down. Creating? Just creating? Why couldn't my soul be filled by a specific thing, like flameworking, or making jewelry, or baking bread, or sewing? I do all those things; why doesn't ONE stand out?

Well, because it's ALL of those acts together that replenish me. I live my life as a large creative event, I've noticed, and if I actually am mindful of what I am doing, it can ALL fill my soul.

Elusive, this knowledge of self, isn't it?

Kind of like the Green Man here, hiding in the oaks....

So.....how is your soul filled?

Monday, October 4, 2010

On a Roll!

It's been a couple of days since I talked about the Hard Candy class at ArtBLISS. I promised at the end of that post to talk about the second class I took with Melissa, her evening 'Roll Playing' class, which was all about learning to use a rolling mill and trying out various textures on metal.

If I wasn't a total tool junkie before, I sure am now. Must. Have Rolling. Mill.

Oh my goodness, so much fun!! I had no idea that you could put such cool textures on metal just by running it through a machine that looks like a pasta maker on steroids!

For those of you who are uninitiated, this is a rolling mill:
The picture doesn't show the arm of the mill, but it's long, and physics is your friend here, because this sucker puts some *serious* pressure on stuff! Pretty much everything that gets run through here is destroyed (except your metal sheet!) when it comes out the other side. About the only thing that managed to not get totally obliterated by the rolling was a spiral of 16g bronze wire. It survived at least my two rollings, and at least one other person rolled it. Even still, it got really flattened.

So, Melissa explained how to use the mill, and what and how to put through the rollers. Then we were off to the races, annealing metal sheet, and running it through with all kinds of added "stuff". I LOVED this! It was so amazing what you could do!

Here is one of my favorites, a piece of annealed bronze with a skeletonized leaf impressed on it:

After I milled this, I punched holes in the top for linking into a necklace, and then I hammered the edges and background area around the leaf. A dunk in some liver of sulphur and done! Nice, huh? I already have a vision for the necklace that goes with this. :)

Next I rolled some sheet copper with a piece of plastic onion bag, and some small leaf stickers, and got this:

I love the onion-bag texture! And I was amazed by how thin something can be and still make a really good impression! Amazing!

And here is this, one of my very favorites:
Some leaf stickers and a piece of tulle! I had to burn the stickers off with a torch, they were practically embedded in the copper!

And finally, the bronze wire I was talking about:
I actually ran both these metal pieces through with the wire sandwiched in between. one piece of copper had some wallpaper on it, which is how I got the texture on the piece on the left.

Cool, huh?

I can think of about a gazillion ways to use the patterned metal, and it's just so much fun to try different things! And because I certainly AM a class-A tool junkie, this new tool has gone on my wish list. Santa probably won't be bringing it to me this year, because I have need of a few other things first, but definitely next year, my goal is to get one. Contenti has one (the one in the picture at the top of this post) for about $200, which really isn't bad when you think about how heavy and massive a tool this is.

Oh, and tomorrow, my hole punch and soldering stand should be here! I have some enamels, some copper discs, I got a small torch at Home Depot, and look out, it's gonna be ON this week!

I can't wait to make some cool stuff!


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