What inspired you to work in glass? What do you like most about it?
The quality of the color and manipulating colored light was my first attraction, at age 12. I very quickly became addicted to the tactile and sensual quality of the material. Working in front of the flame is also downright addictive. I love the fire. At age 13, I set my desk on fire in the school and almost burned down the school.
What are your favorite types of pieces to produce?
I love it all. Every time I pick up the pipe and dip it into the hot gooey stuff, it is a new experience. Even when I mold, blow or make multiples, every piece is a different ride. I enjoy making “hollowware,” blown vessels of every type. I especially like drinkware. But I have spent many years as a hot glass sculpture making all kinds of creatures. I like the process of adding colored bits of hot glass to whatever I am working on. There is something very magical about taking a molten bit of glass, sticking it on to whatever you are making and knowing that you have about 10 seconds to do whatever you have to do before it becomes cold and too hard to work.
Many of your pieces feature sea creatures. Is there a certain fish, fauna or flora you enjoy most?
Well, I love fish and turtles. Making those pieces requires fairly developed skills and lots of hot bits. Plus, those shapes lend themselves nicely to the way the glass moves. I am looking forward to teaching myself how to make dragons this year and adding some manta rays to my repertoire.
How long does it take for you to produce a commissioned piece? Is it based on size, intricacy, materials and/or other factors?
That question is complicated. I work in a wide variety of materials. Each material has its own particular working character. Some materials are very immediate; some require lengthy and complex processes. The first question I need to understand is, just how large is the commission? Am I doing an entire wall or just a medium-sized sculpture? Obviously, larger commissions can be more complicated, requiring planning and maybe even some professional engineering, so they take longer. Pendent lights are simple and can design and made in a couple of weeks. Then I have to ask other questions: What are the materials required to complete the piece? Will I be able to do everything in house or will I need to subcontract some of the work out to other artisans. What is the “deadline” for the project and is that deadline flexible? What is the approval process and where in that process can we run into a potential project-stopping problem and how fast can those problems be resolved? In general, I like to intimately involve my patrons in the entire process. It can slow things down just a bit, but by involving them early and keeping them connected through out the process means the end is always happy, for everyone.
How much does the patron have to know about what he/she wants? How much guidance will you provide?
It is always helpful if the patron has a clear idea of the space, what they would like to see in the space and some idea of available budget. That being said, my favorite patrons, the ones that keep coming back, allow me the freedom to create something special for them that is unique and one of a kind, usually from my deep subconscious.
What can a patron do for you to help you best understand what he/she wants?
Pictures are a great vehicle. That way, everyone is looking at the same images. If a patron does not have a picture, we can do some pencil sketches just to get everyone involved and on the same page.
Is there something you find patrons don’t realize when commissioning an art piece but should? (For example, do they forget the labor involved? Or that they aren’t simply walking into a store? Or those unique pieces are, in fact, unique?)
The first thing they need to remember is that the reason they came to me in the first place was because of my experience and expertise in working with glass and mixed media material. They should realize that they need to trust my judgement and recognize that I will only release a piece that I am proud of making. So whatever you get is going to be a good piece. The thing that non-practicing artists or patrons forget is the real art comes from the soul; it can’t be dictated or forced. The best art flows like water in a storm.
How do you price commissioned pieces?
The simple formula is time plus materials plus overhead plus profit. How long will it take and how many hands will touch it? What materials will be required, steel, glass, copper, nuts, bolts screws, paint and sealers? What is the cost of the operation (which includes rent, utilities, insurance, expendables like gas and oxygen)? Lastly, how much money do I want to make on the project? In general, I will not take on a project where, in the end, there is nothing left for my time and efforts.
Say that a patron’s friend loves the commissioned art work you produced for them, are you able to produce something similar for someone else?
Because each piece is handmade by me and my team, no two pieces are the same. I can usually make something that resembles the other piece. But this is not manufacturing, we don’t crank them out by the thousands or even the hundreds. Each piece is made one at a time. In fact when I get an order for multiples, like dozens of wine glasses for a wedding, I have to make sure that the patron knows that there will be variations in size and color. We actually put that language right into our agreements so there is no misunderstanding.
Glass blowing is so labor intensive, but yet so fragile. How do you resign yourself to breakage?
That question refers to what is known as the scrap rate. Each project is different. If the piece is one that I have not made before, I always have to make a few practice pieces, always. The pieces that don’t quite meet the specifications get sold in my gallery. Sometimes there are technical problems: cracks, chips and blemishes. When that happens, I usually just sit down and have a quick cry. Those pieces cost time, money and most importantly they carry a loss of opportunity, because there are only so many hours — only so many hours in the day, only so many hours when everything is hot and ready – and there are only so many blows that I have left in me. When a piece is lost or damaged, it’s gone forever; very sad and painful.