In this series, the artists working at AMusinGlass give us a behind-the-scenes look into their current works in progress, inspiration and creative challenges. Today, we look at “Double Trouble,” a colorful diptych project from Pilisa Rainbow Lady…
Believe it or not, the image on the left is the starting place for lots of glass art! We glass fusers call these pieces of glass “part sheets” because we cut them apart to use in many types and styles of glass artworks. By “editing” the glass, we can add interest and depth to our final pieces, as we add pops of color and rhythm to our art, whether it’s final purpose will be a plate, light sconce or piece of wall art like Double Trouble.
Bits and pieces from all of these part sheets you see, with the exception of one sheet, wound up in the final artwork. That one sheet didn’t wind up in the final piece because I didn’t look at the back side before selecting it. It turned out that the back side had been painted and was too opaque for this piece. That’s not to say that it won’t wind up as part of the bottom layer of another piece later!
Another part of this process that is fun for me is that not all of these part sheets were made by me! Some of them were from past studio assistants and one was from an open studio participant who made a part sheet during an open studio event and then left it behind. To me, the fact that these aren’t all mine just adds to the fun, as I remember those parts being made and now incorporated into a very different piece of art that feels incredibly collaborative.
Assembling an abstract work of art from these kinds of parts is kind of like being the one to create a jigsaw puzzle. One by one, I selected the bits of the sheets I wanted to use and laid them out on a piece of blank newspaper with the shape I wanted to create drawn out. Working on newspaper, instead of my worktables, keeps the background consistent, since the tables are pretty badly stained and would add color information that wouldn’t be in the final piece and might throw the rhythm off.
At the end of the first day, I had completed the bottom layer on the right, while the left only had a few pieces laid out, as you can see in the image on the right. I spent a good part of the day just choosing the part sheets I wanted to include. I wanted to make sure that I had enough elements, like the red and black in many of the pieces I chose, that were similar or harmonious that would allow the final piece to feel congruent.
Having done a few of these types of pieces before, I knew that having the contrast of small chunks of plain shades of grey and black work really well with larger pops of color on the bottom layer. Also, I knew it helps to have some of the same part sheets cut into differently sized pieces to help unify the two panels in order to create a good diptych1. It was fun trying to juggle all the variables as I was making and placing my selections! The image on the left shows the completion of the first layer.
Over the next day, I completed the first and second layers, and made a small start on the third layer. The completed second layer over the first wound up looking like the image on the right. Again, I was trying to add bits of both transparency and opacity, plus interesting patterns and washes of color that interacted well with the layer below as I placed the cut up bits of my part sheets and found homes for them that were appealing.
Of course, the second layer is where it starts to get fun for me, as I can place the piece on a light table and get an idea how the layers might interact once they are fired. I can get an idea of how colors and patterns from the bottom layer will interact with those of the middle layer to see if I’m likely to get any unwanted color interactions or I’m covering up spots of interest that I wanted to be sure peeked through to the top layer to be seen by the viewer.
By the middle of the third day, the piece was complete and needed to be cleaned and moved into the kiln in order to fire the piece. If you don’t already know this, glass physically likes to be a quarter of an inch (or 6mm, if you’re metric) thick. When you stack glass up higher than half an inch and heat it, it will try to run out in order to get down to a quarter of an inch. Because of this property, I had to use dams to hold my three layers (almost half an inch) of glass in shape. The image on the left is the glass all dammed up in the kiln, ready for firing.
What you’re seeing here are the three layers of glass reassembled on the kiln shelf and surrounded by dams, with heavy kiln-proof bricks at the top and bottom to make sure the glass didn’t push the dams out of place. There is also a material called “fiber paper” between the glass and the dams. You can see that as the thin white layer between the two, and it keeps the glass from sticking to the dams during the firing.
Once the piece was fired (on the right), I needed to clean up a few ragged edges and corners that in one place went over the fiber paper that separated the glass from the dam material, and in another place slid into a crack that was left where I didn’t get the dams tight enough at a corner. After that, I needed to use the wet belt sander to smooth and polish the sides to a nice smooth finish.
The last thing I’ll have to do is to attach mounting hardware to the reverse side of the pieces so that I can mount the pieces on the wall. The nice thing about all of that layered material in these artworks is that the mounting hardware will be invisible when it’s hung.
I’m not sure whether this piece will wind up going to Creative Gateways gallery in West Sedona, to Kuivato gallery in Tlaquepaque, or to Creative Gateways’ newest gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona located in Fashion Square Mall. If you like Double Trouble and might be interested in acquiring it, you can drop me a line on the Contact Us page and I’ll let you know where it went!
1As an art term a diptych is an artwork consisting of two pieces or panels, that together create a singular art piece that can be attached together or presented adjoining each other. In medieval times, panels were often hinged so that they could be closed and the artworks protected. ~From Wikipedia
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