Colour: "One, or any mixture, of the constituents into which light can be separated in a spectrum or rainbow, sometimes including (loosely) black and white." (oxforddictionaries.com)
Late last year I attended an amazing week-long glass course with the talented Australian fused glass artist Kirstie Rea at the helm.
It was so delicious (and well-earned, let me tell you!) to think, talk and absorb only fused glass for a whole week in a world where as much as I love my job, it does come second to being "Mum". There were only four of us the at the workshop, which made it intimate, focused, and incredible for learning.
Kirstie was a fantastic teacher, very ready to share her extensive knowledge and skills. The workshop was entitled "In Your Own Boots" and rather than material and technique, the focus was on development of concepts and how to bring this to realisation into our fused glass art.
artist at work - me "behind the scenes at our course
After our incredible week, the final day Kirstie had one last little task for us. She laid out boxes of coloured scrap glass and we had half an hour to assemble a sculpture of "colour" - using whatever we liked from the scrap, plus glue or cellotape. We all dutifully did as we were bid, and at the end of our 30 minutes, there stood before us our four very different takes on "colour".
my "colour" sculpture made out of scrap glass
We all stood around discussing our "artwork" and how different each was in spite of being given the same concept. (My idea being that angle and hue, depth and darkness/lightness changes the way we see colour). We willing students thought that was that.
"Right" says Kirstie, "now we paint them black!"
painted black, but not all the way...
We each took turns spray painting our creations, with instructions to stop when we though it was "black enough". This was such a great tool to highlight how much colour is enough to get your concept across.
As it turns out, sometimes a hint of colour is more effective than a lot of colour.
Having said that, I also think we should bear in mind the wise words of Danny Kaye...
Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can at it.
So. Where was I? Oh that's right... Dreaming about Wakalouie Waka's splashback
As much as I love my job (I do), I love (and nee-eeed, just ask my husband) my sleep much, MUCH more. So this whole dreaming about splashbacks thing...
Had. To. Stop.
Action Stations! After a small and stressful, colourful but more-distasterous-than one-could-hope practice run... I had nailed the design (important), the uniquity (is that a word?) of the piece (important++) and the kiln schedule (super-mega-double-triple-extra-upsized-with-fries important) and we were away!
the two halves. bottom half fired, top half pre-fire
Both panels fused Bea-ut-i-fully. What is frustrating about this is that it is so hard to photograph! The photos do not do this splashback justice. In real life it is smooth but textured, colourful with unexpected depth, the leaf outlines resting leisurely on top are sparkly glass and look amazing under lighting.
In short, while not everyone's cup of tea - this piece is a triumph!
Of course then there was the installation...
We had arranged to have our family summer holiday in Taranaki for the install - a decision that did not disappoint! But, that being the case meant that when "S-Day" (Splashback Day) arrived, my entourage consisted of a husband, a one year old busy-body and a two year old sticky-beak... Needless to say Ms Waka (Yvette) and her husband Willie welcomed us wholeheartedly into their home.
serious stuff, this silicone applying
when duct tape is not enough... always handy to have a two-year-old's muscles to hand
What I found really challenging about this was that it was a very personal order from a complete stranger - about whom I knew very little. As I've already mentioned, Yvette was like a superstar of a first splashback customer, but designing to an unknown style, in a space that you've never laid eyes on in the flesh is unexpectedly difficult. Another struggle I had was that while I felt I was designing exactly what the customer wanted, it was something I wouldn't choose for my own kitchen, and having to be objective about that was surprisingly tricky.
the finished splashback
By the time we'd polished off an amazing lunch (thanks again Superstar Splashback Lady) - during which we each took turns peeking at the newly-siliconed ensemble to ensure it was staying on the wall - Yvette was already delightedly talking about pimping her kitchen island with a fused glass inlay to match!
Wakalouie Waka, and her splashback, in all their glory
This was an amazing journey - and while I was eternally worried about how on earth I was going to pull it off, pull it off I did.
And I tell you what - whether or not it's to your taste, this splashback rose to the challenge, and looks spectacular in the context of Yvette's house. It fits in perfectly, both with the architecturally designed home, and with it's delightful occupants.
In short, it is the show stopper of a splashback the majestic Wakalouie Waka wanted.
I've been told all her visitors "pat" it.
And I can, once again, sleep at night.
"Is there any chance you are able to do splashbacks for the kitchen?"
I thought it was a joke. A total stranger asking lil ol' me to make them a kitchen splashback? Especially as the total stranger was going by the majestic name of "Wakalouie Waka" - yep, that had to be a joke.
However, after some gentle probing, it appeared to be an real, honest-to-goodness, I'm-actually-going-to-have-to-put-my-big-girl-pants-on, enquiry.
And so, Project Splashback was born!
Yvette's kitchen before...
At the time of the enquiry, I had my smaller two kilns with a shelf size each of 35cm square. It was lucky that Massive Margo was in the early stages of morphing from dream to reality. Although she was months away, having a kiln with the girth of Margo meant I could, in fact, produce something the size of the coveted splashback!
Once that was established, it came down to design. Now Wakalouie Waka, whom it transpired was actually an Yvette, was the most amazing client you could ever wish to have, especially for a first foray into the world of fused glass splashback production.
She. Was. Amazing.
The only problem was the brief. As in absence of one.
"We'll go with any style you think would look good. I'm very eclectic, hence why I want a fused glass splashback."
You would think that a description like that would be a dream! Uh uh. This actually made it pretty tricky for the perfectionist in me to decide what to do! A quick telephone call that turned into a long chat later, and we had narrowed it down to "shades of green with pops of colour, and texture, and brightness" - ahhh, now we were getting somewhere! It was also very clear by now that the easy-going Yvette was quite a fan of different and really wanted a show stopper of a splashback.
Yvette's choice of panel shapes
As I was tackling something bigger than I've ever made before, I decided to only use techniques from my tried and true arsenal. This way, the scale was the only new variable. The size also meant that it would need to be be two panels - they just don't make fusing compatible glass sheets big enough! So, true to form, of the five panel options I gave her, Yvette went with the less conventional curved choice, and this actually helped by providing a base "shape" I could design to. So a combo of texture, colour and brightness was underway!
There should be a disclaimer when you undertake something as big and spendy as this, that if the artist is lucky enough to actually manage to sleep, that they dream about splashbacks...
Tune in next blog for The Day I Pimped a Stranger's Kitchen - Part Two
It's not every day you get the opportunity to have a bus-load of foreign tourists come by your humble studio!
Unless you're me - yes, that's right - I've become a tourist attraction! ;)
I was pretty nervous, despite being assured they were a "fun group with great heart keen to meet a good Kiwi". I outsourced toddler duties for the day so just my had resident studio baby with me - she's very cute and pretty happy being stuck in one place as long as there's food in her hand.
So, I have this quirk. This weird organisational and efficiency factor to my personality.
It's possibly left over from my days in management, but more probably genetic, and I'm not very good at "winging it". So I spent the morning arranging stock, typing a price list, numbering and pricing so I could tick off the sales as they happened. Note my total commitment to making sales there? Perhaps I should be renamed Pollyanna Matthew Glass?
Oh, did I mention that while half of my studio is totally committed to glass, the other half masquerades as a car storage/garden equipment/multiple ladder containment system? (don't ask, that doesn't even cover the ladder that is so large it can't physically fit in the stud...ahem...garage).
And then the bus. I heard it before I saw it. It was big. And loud. And full of American tourists enjoying New Zealand. And my humble studio.
And enjoy it they did. They listened. They were introduced to Margo. They asked questions. They bought glass.
I had them.
I had them in the palm of my hand.
The moment I knew I had them was with my opening gambit: "you know you've made it as a decent Kiwi artist when your husband parks his Lexus in your studio every night...."
Yup. I said that.
A few chuckles and a "vrroomm vrroom" with a wink.
Told you I had them ;)
Have I mentioned I love a challenge?
I do. And I don't. I may have revealed before that among my usual straight-forward orders, I get the occasional curly one. One that makes me say "wow, what an awesome thing to be asked to make" that also makes me freak out because it's out of my comfort zone, and therefore puts me in a "well, yes of course I have to, because how can I not" mode.
This was the case of the frangipani order. Among other things, the order started off with a little confusion due to me being rung at the height of an awful cold that had turned my brain to mush. Followed by confusion involving several phone conversations with the customer's rather delightful mother with whom there had, it appeared, been some accidental email crossover (not identity theft as we originally thought!), and who knew nothing about any glass frangipanis, let alone for a headstone.
Anyway, at the stem of it (see what I did there?) the inquiry was to make a set of glass frangipani flowers for a headstone. Just quietly - eek.
But way back when I used to eat cereal (I'm very much a toast girl, thanks very much), I must have got some tenacity in my weetbix box, because, of course, I said yes. And then, I rose (frangipani-d?) to the challenge.
A couple of years ago I decided to no longer make jewellery as I couldn't be doing with the "fiddly" stuff. This very much reminded me of why I'd decided that! But I persevered. I started cutting by hand - with the petals of the smaller flowers being less than 2cm in length - that was not the go. I hauled out my trusty old saw - ahh, there we go - progress!
Soon, the eleventy-hundred petals (ok, 30) were happening! Once all cut, ground and assembled we were all go. Three firings later and we had finished frangipanis.
I texted my client a picture today before I couriered them - sight unseen she's very happy which makes me feel pretty chuffed, especially for an order with as much meaning as this.
Have I mentioned I love a challenge? I don't....
And I do.
One of my favourite things about my job (aside from the obvious - eating chocolate while I work, a sneaky studio wine if I have to work in the evening, and watching DVDs while working) is when someone wants a bespoke piece made to their heart's desire.
Sometimes the heart's desire is a little weird - "what happens if you put a V can in glass?" Sometimes it's out of my comfort zone, (yes, I have been asked to fuse a loved ones ashes. No, I didn't - I just pointed them in the direction of people who did). And sometimes I get requests that really make me think - cool! But how am I going to do that?!
The latest request was, thankfully, the last of the three - something "Fiji inspired" to immortalise a 21st birthday trip. With that brief, I went to bed thinking. I didn't sleep all night with all the thinking. By the morning the idea I had "slept on" the night before had morphed into a fully fledged Fijian beach scene disguised as a glass platter.
I launched into this thinking nothing could go wrong - feel the fear and do it anyway! Of course, nothing is ever that straight-forward, so with the very first firing I was a tad worried when my sand didn't look like at all like I imagined Fijian sand to look like. If the brief had been "Raglan inspired"... it would have been spot on.
But the things sent to try us also have a funny way of working out - as a result, four firings later I had the world's most spectacular glass sand, complete with beach pebbles. Add a funky pair of glass jandals, a silhouette of a tropical island adorned with palm trees, and you have Fiji on a plate. Literally.
So, last week was a bit of a nail biter... After a three and a half month wait, Margo had finally arrived and was wired in! As my studio is based in our normal residential house with a max power of 63A, I had endured many a stressful thought of whether or not running 40A Margo was going to blow up the house!
After she'd been given the all clear, I ramped her up and watched the meter like a hawk to make sure she was clear of the magical blow-up-the-house figure... It was therefore intriguing to observe Margo didn't make any difference to our household loading... At all. Hmmm, that seemed very odd. I ran around the house turning on heaters - yep, they put up the loading; oven, yep, that did too; other kiln - definitely. Okay... so it appeared the electrician had managed to bypass our meter...! This state of affairs would have been great for keeping the power bill down, but less great for not-blow-up-the-house watch. And as that would be an awkward end to the week we thought we better have her wired correctly - and so, with many sparky apologies, she was.
After running two short schedules to dry the kiln wash which I multi-tasked with meter watching to check her behaviour, she had her maiden voyage with real glass three nights ago. Margo is so enormous that she is only cool enough this afternoon to take the glass out (to avoid thermal shock) to inspect - of the four pieces I put in I'm happy with how she's firing. Above is a quick pic of my favourite. Onwards and upwards (or sideways) from here!
PS: Yay to not blowing-up-the-house!!
Well, things are hotting up in the Jill Matthew Glass camp! (and I don't just mean the flames under my fingers as I type this very first blog post). For the past five years, I've ticked along with my two smaller kilns, but a few months ago things were kicked up a notch with the crazy idea to have a whopper of a glass kiln made for me! Margo was fresh off the boat last week and is now keen to get Toasty McRoasty with me. (No, I'm not changing her name to Kilny McKilnface...)
Margo's considerable girth has had the slightly unforeseen effect of moving my entire studio out of the house... and into the garage. Previously I'd been spread over a two floor studio space, so i'm finding it very convenient having the entire studio on one level - even if it does still need to squeeze the car in!
With Margo comes a whole lot of new opportunity for both size of glass pieces, and speeding up production time by fitting more in per firing. She's a whopping eight times the size of my smaller kiln so the scope is amazing! She's being wired in this week - then I'll really be hot under the collar! (she is also the exact right height for a bar leaner - beersies anyone?)