Winding down a week of glass (BEcon 2009)

>, events, pate de verre>Winding down a week of glass (BEcon 2009)

becon3contemplationDraaaagged awake Sunday morning, post BEcon and Saturday night’s Lehr-B-Q. OGG had a pre-daddy’s day demo this morning and if the instructor had been anyone but the famous Marty Kremer (or maybe Keith Richards) I’d have stayed in bed. I was tired.

Fortunately, it was Marty, who’s a pretty bright guy as well as a consummate glassist, so I enjoyed myself immensely. Anybody who skipped that class missed out bigtime; at the end Marty held a drawing for his demo pieces, and several students got very lucky indeed. We ended up at Campbell’s BBQ for nearly three hours of ribs and conversation that ranged from the Israeli glass scene to annealing cycles.

It was the perfect end to a very glassy week.


I’ve been to a few BEcons, and this was the best, IMHO. Of course, it helps that it was about casting, my current obsession, and that BE attracted some of my favorite casting artists as speakers. Gotta give kudos to the BE staff, not only for pulling this off at all, but for keeping a couple hundred artistic cats herded very efficiently.

Lehr-b-que before the onslaught

Lehr-b-que before the onslaught

Biggest surprise: Ted’s whole annealing table bit, of course. Bullseye’s quietly dropping the recommended anneal soak temperature for its glass to 900F from 960F, as I said earlier. I doubt it’ll be a huge deal for the average fuser–the old 960F tables work just fine too, BE says–but there are all kinds of technomarketing considerations that ought to be interesting.

UPDATE: The new thick annealing tables are now posted on the Bullseye site.

Favorite speakers: Dan Clayman. Gotta take a class from, or work for, or maybe sweep the floors of, this man. Ditto for Richard Whiteley–I’m always hungry to talk to problem solvers and these two combine it with a lyrical aesthetic sense. And then there was Ted, backing them up with drily ironic data.

Best gadget: Daniel Clayman’s modular kiln, literally built around difficult or big molds. What interested me most was the smallish, modular lid, which allows you to open only part of the lid of a toploader to work inside.

Best software: An interface that Richard Whiteley’s working on at the Canberra School of Art to connect casters more closely with their kilns. The software–which looks like early-stage Windows development at the moment and I’d love to see webbified and extended in a couple of directions–will allow you to set “delta T” parameters for a zoned kiln and keep all parts of your cooling mold in synch.

That's Brenda, top left, at the lehr-b-que

Best meet-up: Brenda Griffith. I expected her to be an incisively ironic lady of a certain age, about 5 foot 3, shortish pageboy and fond of iPhones. Instead, she was this Morgan Le Fay-like Valkyrie with long, streaming hair and a passion for maiden/mother/crone parables. 😉 Tremendously good fun, too, and she’s (gasp) got a blog where she writes about glass! The lady actually scooped ME in getting the “drop to 900” news online!

Slowest session: Not the one you think, fellow attendees. I’m a big fan of Sarmiento‘s work and I spent hours staring at his encyclopedia, but learning that it’s the product of lingo-slinging grant applications kinda spoiled it for me. The work is breathtaking, the parts of his speech discussing process were illuminating, but I preferred the mystery.

becon3castingkilnBest direction: I was privileged to see this casting kiln setup (left) about a year ago, but Ted’s presentation of it reminded me that I’ve got an old Skutt bathtub kiln with limited height…and an even older 11-inch high Jenn-Ken just about perfect for crucibles…hmmmm.

Most insightful (and wowing): Approached Emily Brock to tell her how much I admired her work, and before I could say anything she smiled and said, “I met you at GAS, I think. I read your blog.” Golly. Then she proceeded to give me some great advice about understanding and dealing with your own art. I’m very grateful.

Best backgrounder: Probably a conversation I had with Claudia Borella at the LehrBQ. Fascinating look into why she became an artist, what she’s up to now and what it’s like to to be an artist in New Zealand.

My three most helpful moments: (1) Couple hours with Marty Kremer; I’m now replete with great suggestions for everything from studio design to artistic merit. The man is a walking brittanica of ideas. (2) Always, Alicia Lomne, who just dives in and solves pate de verre problems with aplomb. (3) Nathan Sandberg, who gave me a couple of new directions to check in my continuing saga of clumping grey powder.

Maxed gorgeousity: The data visualizations of Geoffrey Mann, a Bombay Sapphirist who was also an incredibly engaging (and modest) speaker. If you’ve read this blog you know I’m a sci-viz addict anyway, and his translation of complex paths into works of art is just about the most beautiful process I’ve seen in awhile. (Interestingly, a friend of mine, Carole Turner, sculpts eerily similar work in stone and bronze without a trace of Mann’s analytics–it’d be fun to get them together)

becon3tedrainMost behind-the-scenes fun: Jessica Loughlin, talking about how she casts her negative-space boxes. I’d been wondering why she doesn’t get crack-outs all over the place with that form, so this was a great find.

Best outfit: See right. ‘Nuff said.

Biggest buzzworm: Delta T annealing (those with savoir faire use the Greek symbol for delta). This is a fancy way of saying that you should equalize temperature as much as possible throughout your piece when it’s annealing. Not earthshaking on the face of it, especially not if your primary product is a 3-layer cereal bowl, but it’s something I’ve been playing around with for the past year or so, and it definitely increases my understanding of what’s going on in my kiln and how to plan. Expect to hear a lot more about it.

Biggest gap: Transcripts. The speakers said a LOT that I’d like to have for reference. Conference speakers are notoriously awful at handing over cogent summaries, so perhaps videotaped highlights, copies of the presentations, or… transcripts?

Most engaging: Mary Kay Nitchie and her husband. How those two stayed cheerful and upbeat throughout what had to be an endurance trial continues to bewilder me.

Most resilient: Gotta be Ryan Watson, who pulls lots of this kinda stuff together for BE. I wonder when he eats or sleeps.

becon3colorsamples2Wittiest: Clifford Rainey, who probably deserves an apology from me for reasons I won’t go into. This was just the opposite of Sarmiento: Listening to Rainey made me appreciate his work even more. (And I’m still chuckling over the left-leaning SF committee members–NEVER tick off a smart visual artist)

Biggest regret: That Melanie Hunter didn’t get a bit more coaching on presentation. Only about 20 percent of her talk covered what I thought it would cover–how she casts Nicholas Africano’s gorgeous life-size figures. What was there was educational, but I wished there had been more.

Second biggest regret: The words “pate de verre” didn’t seem to make it into the main conference, although I had side conversations about it all over the place. Pate de verre has considerations over and above (and often exactly opposite) transparent reservoir casting, but the only even slight mention of those issues came from Heike Brachlow, during her discussion of bubbles in glass. More PdV would have been greatly appreciated.

Biggest realization that we’re all different: Conversation I overheard just as I was wishing there was a little less art and a little more tech/process to this conference: “Today was more like it; I actually got to see some art. Yesterday, all that tech stuff, yeeeeeeeech!”

Most delicious moment: Popping out of the bathroom at Hoffmann Hall to discover BE sales manager Jim Jones standing in the trash can. Apparently BEcon attendees generate a lot of trash, and Jim was trying to fit it all into a very small can.

becon3lanilindaryanBest idea: Ditching the dorm food on Saturday for my favorite stops at the Portland Farmers’ Market, including the incredible goat cheese from Monteillet. There’s something delightfully decadent about squishing fresh raspberries on your tongue while Heike Brachlow presents her favorite Libensky/Brychtova sculptures. (which, BTW, was an extremely interesting talk)

Folk I’d like to see as presenters if there’s a BEcon Casting II: Ms. Brychtova (of course). Ann Robinson. Helen Stokes. Latchezar Boyadjiev. The Higuchis.

Biggest thank you: Lani McGregor and Dan Schwoerer, of course. They can disclaim the credit for BEcon all they want (and absolutely it takes a great staff to pull it off) but somebody’s gotta be willing to support the idea with money, time and connections, especially in these sad financial times.

And now…I’m gonna grab a cup of something hot, go sit in my dusty gallery, and process the week. Thanks, all, for reading.

PS. If you want to read the whole BEcon report, here are the links:



  1. cynthia June 25, 2009 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Mostly Facebook is photos and links back to this blog but happy to hook up with you there, too. Thanks!

  2. janet McFadyen June 25, 2009 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Cynthia that piggy backed kiln is a good idea … it’s great to read your posts if there is more on facebook I would love to read that too . please use my email address to befriend me as I don’t know your address for fb. thanks Janet

  3. cynthia June 25, 2009 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Mr. Kervin, hello! I review your book regularly–it has a place of honor on my shelf. (And are you planning an update?)

    Love to meet you sometime, too. And thanks for commenting!


  4. Jim Kervin June 25, 2009 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing all this information. It helps all of us who can not attend such events keep current on what people are up to. I love your blog and hope to meet someday.

  5. Kathleen Krucoff June 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed all of your posts on this and the photos you put on Facebook. Thanks for sharing the experience with those of us who were unable to attend.

  6. cynthia June 23, 2009 at 12:13 am - Reply

    Thanks all (and welcome, Steve–I think this is your first time posting…)

  7. Brenda Griffith June 22, 2009 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Yeah, you’re shorter than I expected too–but then just about everyone was :-0 Now you have to come play in Atlanta! We can be very hospitable down south (I have a spare room with your name on it).

  8. robin g June 22, 2009 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the wonderful notes from your weekend.. Really wish I could have attended but at least was able to read your writing. Maybe next year, I did attend (I think it was called) Portcon ’77 and loved all of it but have not done so since. thanks again!

  9. Steve Klein June 22, 2009 at 3:17 pm - Reply


    What a wonderful recap. I was sad that I could not attend and even sadder after reading your blog. I appreciate your indepth, honest and positive recap. Thanks

  10. cynthia June 22, 2009 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Hey–I didn’t know you’d be willing to do it ’cause I don’t think I’ve ever met you at a BEcon, but yes. You would be on the list–you’re on my take a class from this artist list. There’s a gorgeous bird’s nest of yours in the RC gallery, BTW. I’m about to post a bunch of pics on Facebook, and it’s in there…

  11. Ellen Abbott June 22, 2009 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the synopsis Cynthia. I wish we could have gone but we were committed to teaching a six day workshop. I wish I was on your wish list for a BECon casting 2.

Comments welcome! (thanks)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: