I’ve had four boxes of blown glass corn kernels in deep storage for over 15 years. On August 29, 2017 less than 2 months to go before the Autumn Lights Festival at the Gardens of Lake Merritt (and our 25th wedding anniversary), I decide it’s time to bring this corn cob idea out in the open. I ask my husband Barry for help because I have only the slightest idea of how to proceed and to go-it-alone would be impossible given the time-frame. Barry, always up for a challenge, agrees to partner-up!
Originally, I wanted just to make an oversized corn cob. I drew my idea onto a pane of glass for my studio window which Barry built for me in 2001. I couldn’t figure out an internal structure to hold the glass, so I left it alone. And now I wanted to add another layer of complexity… the lights!
But structure comes first, so Barry and I began experiments... would wire mesh soldered around the kernels work? No. Copper foil? Nope. How can we stack the kernels and still leave openings for the lights???
Last year, for a glass Pride of Madeira, I discovered a product called Magic Sculpt at Douglas and Sturgess – it is a two-part resin that can be worked by hand, cures in 4-6 hours and can be drilled, sawn and better yet, added-to after it cures. I surround some cracked kernels and an odd-shaped one in Magic Sculpt to see if it will stick to the glass but won’t shrink to cause breakage. The test goes extremely well…
I knew about Cool Neon’s 5v strings of lights that could fit into the backs of the kernels, so we make a trip to see Gio and Benjamin to purchase about 100 lights, a bunch of connectors and shrink tubing.
Sept 7, 2017: I go to work on the 100-plus glass parts with the diamond saw, cutting back the “necks” until the openings were big enough for the lights to fit. Then I beveled the edges on my lathe and cleaned-out the residue so the lights won't reveal glass “saw dust” stuck inside the kernels.
After scratching our heads and many kitchen table drawings, we decide on a few things:
The piece needs to come apart for ease of storage and transport;
We need room to get the wiring into the glass. Layers of glass kernel stacked together might work;
We need a structure to hold the glass and the external leaves which we’ll make out of copper. and
We’ll try and have fun and not stress (note to self!)
Next, despite my nervousness about the possibility of wasting precious (if old) finished glass pieces, I attach 7 kernels together in a ring. The result is good: sturdy and solid enough to proceed. But alas, 7 kernels around isn’t visually good enough. You can see only one kernel head-on and the rest obliquely.
Sept 23, 2017: a watershed moment - Barry uses a special Bosch vibrating saw to cut the 7 kernels apart and we decide to go with rings of 8. Barry begins soldering the wires so we can wire up each layer separately.