BeCON 2011, Day 1

>>>BeCON 2011, Day 1

‘Cause I’m a rover who has crossed over
And if I never sing again
I’m gonna be rich as old Mr. Rockefeller
Just direct my feet to the sunny side of the street
–Frankie Laine’s version of “Sunny side of the street”

If yesterday’s BeCON was about art vs. craft, today’s was about superstars, the rovers who successfully made the trip from glass artist to artist, or who retained an open enough mind to cross into kiln forming for awhile.

Or at least it started out that way, since the opening presentation was Lino Tagliapietra, Dante Marioni and Marc Petrovic talking about the intersection of glassblowing and kilnforming with BE research dude Ted Sawyer.

Tagliapietra approaches godlike status among glassists for really good reason; watch the guy work, and you realize that he’s absorbed the glass into his bones. Or maybe his heart.

And Marioni’s not far behind. I was at Bullseye one day when the guys led me into the back and pointed to a series of cut glass strips, assembled into a leaf. “DANTE MARIONI cut those!” they whispered. I looked suitably awed, and touched one. It felt like glass.

Petrovic is maybe not at the god level, but…wow. His work is lyrical, and informed and imaginative. He’s what I like to call gen3: The first generation innovated the technique, the second explored it, and the third blew it out of the water.

He sets up a patterned, kilncast slab of glass, rolls it up in the hotshop and forms it into a bird. And he’s not just using Bullseye for blowing because someone else insists on the color palette or the need to do roll-ups for fusers, the usual plaintive glassblowing refrain.

Instead, Petrovic sees definite advantages to using Bullseye over softer, traditional blowing glasses. For one thing, he says it builds a core heat that delivers more work time at the detail level.


The three made some interesting points about what glassblowers can bring to the kilnforming table. But Tagliapietra made what may be the most profound observation of the conference: It’s not just what they bring, it’s what they take back. Crossover works both ways.

Alex Hoare also spoke, about glasswork and how it relates to her visual and sound poems in public installations. I’m not always fond of multisense art installations projected onto an environment, but these were compelling.

I need to go back to the Bullseye Gallery and look at her work in the exhibit again. I read her work, which deals with ancient Britons, as far less than it was, and it took the presentation to make me understand the context. It’s not obvious at all in the gallery, though to be fair, I’m not sure that it could be.

Consultant Karen Yair spoke of research she’s done in understanding how creatives work (at least how they work in the UK; I’m really curious about how well the research tracks in other countries). The UK Craft Council hired her to study what happens “when makers’ work takes them beyond traditional craft materials and into the realm of post-industrial, digital manufacturing and communication technologies.”

Or, turning it into a soundbyte: How do creatives make a living without going crazy?

Central to the study: Creatives don’t necessarily make a living at their art/craft, but the successful (or maybe the happy ones) don’t compartmentalize creativity or isolate their art from the work that pays the bills. Everything they do, everything they learn, the way their art evolves, feeds every aspect of their lives.

Doesn’t surprise me a bit; we are the geometric progression, not just the sum, of our experiences. I guess the takeaway here is that not getting out much is creativity’s kiss of death.

Silvia Levenson and Aro talked the value of collaboration, and what happens when you find your media shouldn’t complement each other so well…but do.

Munson Hunt and Bullseye’s Eric Whittemore talked about the massive complexities of glass compared to her traditional medium, wood. She chose two thick, 8-foot slabs, charred them, and made a silicone negative, then cast it in glass. Then she displayed the four massive slabs, charred wood and glass, side by side, propped against the gallery wall. (Propping glass slabs against the gallery wall seems to be a popular approach at Bullseye and it is kinda imposing.)

In the dim light of the reception Thursday night, you couldn’t tell glass from wood without touching the surface (or noticing the coldworked glass sides). In the photos, however, there’s a striking difference in translucency–I thought the slabs were black glass, but they appear to be medium grey and near-luminous. Another trip to the gallery is in order.

“In every project it seems there is a wall…but it turns out it’s not a wall. It’s a gift.”
–Munson Hunt

Last up, the only really technical discussion outside of Marc Petrovic’s presentation this morning: Tom Jacobs detailing the ins and outs of fabricating large, curved glass panels for an outdoor installation. It was conceived by Mindy Weisel, a painter who’s been taking glass fusing lessons from Kari Minnick for a number of years.

Kari is one of my favorite artists in terms of composition, and her color palettes really zing in my brain; they’re richly elegant and saturated. Weisel really didn’t show any of the glass she made under Kari’s supervision so I checked it out online during the talk, and was struck with how the teacher informed the pupil.

But Tom’s discussion of how you go from a tiny fused panel to an 8-layered glass painting with multiple firings per layer, curved across a massive wall arc, was what really held my attention. Concept, it seemed was only a small part of the real art involved, from figuring out how to combine dark and light glass in the same outdoor piece (since the dark absorbs heat faster, the glass can conceivably thermal shock), to translating the fine frit in Weisel’s small maquette into the appropriate coarse size in the full panels.

And now, happy hour over at the technical exhibits, we’ll round up a bunch of new glass friends and hit up a waterside restaurant…then home to bed. G’night, all.

BTW, if you want to read all the posts about BeCON 2011, check these out:

2017-10-07T18:03:08+00:00

2 Comments

  1. Karen Yair June 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the write-up, Cynthia – I’d love to take an international perspective on this research topic, too! Over lunch, there was actually some really interesting debate about the influence of health insurance – or the lack of it – on creative freelance careers in the U.S. And this in addition to the more obvious differences in higher education and public sector infrastructure. More research needed…!

  2. ellen abbott June 19, 2011 at 7:42 am - Reply

    I adore Marc Petrovic’s work. He is astounding.

Comments welcome! (thanks)

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