|Kim Webster, The Glass Gardener||
Well, I've always thought the most difficult thing about the Autumn Lights Festival (and don't get me wrong, I love this event and the Gardens at Lake Merritt which the Festival supports) was setting up the art - packing and unpacking the van, running miles of electrical cable and positioning all the glass - but this time it is the challenge of zooming in from the out-of-doors! Tonight Barry and I did a tech check with Tora Rocha the director of the Festival and her tech advisor Steve Tiffin. Originally we were going to use Barry's Lumix camera and connect it via wifi through a cell phone to the zoom call, but after half an hour of (to me) mind-boggling app downloads and bluetooth connection failures, we decided to simply do it on the cell phone! Barry will operate and I will try to tiptoe through the tulips (or shall we say peacocks, bleeding hearts and agaves) while talking about the work in the dark. Wish me luck! And be sure to tune in on October 18 at 7pm PST with a free link from Eventbrite.
I can hardly wait to show this to Robin. After the Autumn Lights Festival this weekend, I'll install it in her garden!
And now, just to show you where my idea came from, below is the image that inspired my glass fern (and the little blue flowers among the fern leaves). This is a photo we took in our Canadian garden over 20 years ago. I love how the forget-me-nots are encircled by the fern leaves - an image of spring that I've never forgotten!
We worked late into the night - Barry finishing Bumble Bird's eye sockets and me, grouting the base for the Fern - the last step in the process after sand-blasting all the blown glass leaves, setting the tiles on the base and preparing the wiring. I bought some green grout colorant on-line and mixed it in with the grout only to see an insipid mint green appear in the grout bucket. We tried adding some yellow and then some blue and then some more green... to no avail! I grouted it anyway and today I'm going to try staining the grout with a slurry of charcoal-colored grout that I had left from the peacock. Fingers crossed and latex gloves on... Set-up starts tomorrow with laying down all the electrical cables. And today I finish wiring the birdhouses - Alphabet Coup and Pear Palace. I hope bumble bird doesn't try to sit on these... Maybe next year I'll make him a bird-hive!
Still life with Neighbour's Fig. The fig was part of yesterday's lunch. Yummy!
Well, now the Bumble Bird is in my studio getting his skin on (and taking up its fair share of space, I might add - but I don't what to sound churlish!). Barry just stayed up half the night adding more sections of paper and he took this photo before he came to bed. Bumble Bird is going to be marvelous flying overhead in the garden - or at least rotating on a ball-bearing mechanism he has made!
As I write though, I just heard the saddest cry.... Barry punched a hole in Bumble Bird by mistake... The paper is so very fragile, even after several coats of "dope" to make it waterproof. Fortunately, Barry has time to do repairs! Poor guy.
But isn't it fabulous? Barry's English friend Dik Quarrell asked Barry this morning what the creature's name is. Barry replied, "It is Bumble Bird", to which Dik said, I know that! What's his first name?" And Barry replied, "Jolly." So "Jolly Bumble Bird" it is - except when he gets a hole!
A couple of months ago, Pamela Phippin invited me over to look at photos of my pieces and she decided to purchase the Pyro Plant for her second home in Tucson. I made a new lightweight mosaic base for the piece and as I packed up the glass, I felt like I was getting little Pyro ready to go to camp. Today amid the flurry of getting ready for the Autumn Lights Festival, I got these photos from Pamela. Pyro looks so happy!
One of the fabulous things about being married to another artist is that the fever to make things is shared... This summer, when we were up in Toronto, Barry and I were invited to a Fire Festival on Toronto Island where some 200 residents of the island put on a sweet night-time parade swinging home-made paper-coated willow lanterns on long poles to celebrate the height of summer. The parade ended with a lantern-lit shadow puppet show that explained the rebirth of the forest after a lightning storm caused the trees to burn and the animals to flee. Eventually the trees grow up and the birds and foxes reappear - such a hopeful message and a relief in its simplicity. The whole event was enchanting and Barry came away enthused about the idea of making a paper lantern for this year's Autumn Lights Festival here in Oakland.
Lacking a willow tree that he could raid for flexible shoots, Barry made a visit to the cane shop on Gilman Street in Berkeley and came away with some basic instructions from the owner, some spools of waxed thread about the size of thick dental floss and several coils of cane in different diameters. He's been beavering away in his little workshop at the front of our house ever since.
Well mostly... as do most of our projects, this one finds its way into the house a various points. I must say this species of Bumble Bird is quite invasive. There have been several evenings when I've gone to have a bath before bed, only to find my tub full of canes having a leisurely soak there instead! The soaking makes the canes flexible enough to bend around forms that Barry has made using sets of screws on a board. Periodically the "Bumble-Bird" appears in our living room while Barry meticulously binds and knots the thread around the canes while watching the A's or Saturday Night Live (while I knit or lately, stick vinyl on the fern leaves).
Here are a couple of progress shots. Lighting and "skin" yet to come. Hopefully Bumble-Bird will fly over to the Autumn Lights Festival and get out of my tub once and for all!
Robin Dean of Oakland first spoke to me about making a piece for her garden in December of 2018... and I'm now trying to finish it for her and display it at the Autumn Lights Festival. Robin says she's excited to be able to see it lit up at the garden and say "That's mine!" As for me, I've once again taken on an almost impossible deadline.
As Robin's back yard hosts a woodland garden, I thought I should make an appropriately shade tolerant plant in glass. I decided on a fern, but in order to light it, I've made hollow leaves upon which to sandblast a fern-like pattern. That way the light will come through the opaque glass and the fern image will be silhouetted against the light. My blowing partner Patty Garrett and I made some sample leaves, and on a couple of them, I masked the glass with blue painter's tape and then used an exacto knife to cut out the leaf motif to use as a resist. It took ages to cut each little leaf. I'd seen a vinyl cutting machine called a Cricut at Michaels and decided to plunge in and buy one! Doing all that cutting by hand would take me til Christmas. (And it's a pajama year, so I have to get out my sewing machine after the Autumn Lights Festival to make 7 pairs for my Canadian nieces and nephews... but I digress...)
I hooked up the Cricut, scanned my fern drawings (with some help from my friend Tara Gill) and I jumped up and down with glee as I watched the little blade cut all the details into the vinyl ... I didn't have to lift a finger! Such a rarity to be doing work without "doing the work"! Of course, once the vinyl is cut there are still several steps to go to prepare each leaf for sandblasting, but I am encouraged!
I sand blasted some test samples using the vinyl and it worked! Voila, so far! (In the meantime I'm making the base with Magic Sculpt and a safety cone. Mosaic to happen over the next week in addition to prepping the rest of the leaves for sand blasting... Wish me luck! Less than three weeks til set up. Oh dear!