Niijima, Japan: Community Connections / Niijima, Japon: Les liens de la Communauté

December 1, 2010

By Brad Copping

The view from the Niijima Glass Art Center

There are times when I hate glass, the lazy and derivative designs, and the claims of art with no understanding, the macho and competitive attitudes.  But there are times when I love this material and the community around it.  I have just returned from a tiny island out in the Pacific off the coast of Japan where I was a teaching assistant for Marc Petrovic, an incredibly talented hot glass sculptor and artist I have known since taking Jack Wax’s class at Haystack in 1997, and I have once again been astounded by the connectedness of the world wide glass community.

Kanami Ogata and Joon-yong Kim assisting Ryo Onikubo.

Osamu and Yumiko Noda established and began running the Niijima Glass Art Centre in 1987 at a community owned facility on the island of Niijima 160 km south of Tokyo.  Niijima is probably best known as the location of Japan’s national surfing competition, but it is the stone found on the island that creates the distinctive green coloured glass and is also used as a refractory material.  While one of the centre’s goals is to research the possibilities of using the local silica based sandstone called ‘Kogaseki’ for artistic and industrial uses, it is the associated Niijima International Glass Art Festival that brings the world-wide glass community to Japan on an annual basis to share ideas and techniques and to create with the beautiful green glass.  The Noda’s have created an enviable environment for this annual gathering.  Their warmth and hospitality is infused in the staff they bring to the island for the festival.  The staff-to-student ratio is almost one to one and this year the staff has been comprised of some of the very best of Japan and Korea’s glass artists, most of whom are also professors, including Takeshi Fukunishi, Harumi Yukutake, Joon-yong Kim, and Kyou-hong Lee (check out the staff page on the Festival link above for images of other staff’s work).

David Willis spinning open a flame worked dandelion.

Also involved in the festival was the Oregon based artist David Willis.  A highly skilled artist, David began his flame working apprenticeship with Bob Snodgrass in 1994 in Eugene.  Drawing from an intense interest in the natural world, his work addresses on many levels the relationships between people and nature.   The artist in residence for the 23rd annual festival was the former artistic director of Pilchuck Glass School, Pike Powers.  Pike has worked in glass and many other media, having earned a BFA in Glass from RISD and a MFA in Sculpture from Yale University.  It was very exciting to see people come together to help Pike achieve her ideas during our brief time on the island.

Marc Petrovic at the bench working with Pike Powers, Joon-yong Kim assisting

I was able to connect the glass dots with Joon, one of my fellow teaching assistants, whose work we have serendipitously featured in our magazine.  This was also the case with one of the students in Marc’s class, Kanami Ogata.  As a member of the collective Sandbox, Kanami showed at the Glazen Huis in Lommel, Belgium a year before the Canadian exhibition Tenuous Tenacity took place.  Our translator for the class, Rika Kuroki, whose work has been collected by the Corning Museum, lives part time in Vancouver and part time in Tokyo and is a good friend of Vancouver based artist Naoko Takenouchi.  While it is a real pleasure to be on the other side of this vast planet and connect with people through our small community, it is an even greater pleasure when your own work resonates with people you have not meet before, and this too happened in a very real way.

TA Keiko Hatori guides a local child in use of a flame working torch.

But one of the essential elements that separate this festival from so many other events is the level of the local community support and involvement.  The Mayor and other local dignitaries went out of their way to visit the festival and talk with the artists and students.  They even made sure Pike had the right twine to bind her fish trap piece.  During the festival three two-hour classes for the villagers were also conducted by the visiting artists, one each for adults, teenagers and children.  Again the staff-to-student ratio was almost one to one.  Several open public demos were also conducted.  And at the same time live Ustream broadcasts were being made to the rest of the world.  Local and global, you cannot get much better.

I could go on:  the typhoon, the fish, the onsen… but I will finish by saying how good it was to be able to flip open a computer and type in www.glassartcanada.ca and click on the artists links and be able to share what you are doing with our global community, and of course I did.

For a closer look at the Festival, check out the video!

Pour examiner de plus près au Festival, regardez la vidéo!

祭で詳しく見て、ビデオをチェック!

축제에 가까이 들어, 비디오를 체크 아웃!

“ Niijima, Japon: Les liens de la Communauté

Par Brad Copping

The view from the Niijima Glass Art Center

Il y a certains moments où je déteste le verre et ses designs nonchalants et sans originalité, lorsqu’il se fait passer pour de l’art incompris, ou dans ses attitudes machistes et compétitives. Mais à d’autres moments, j’adore cette matière et toute la communauté qu’elle regroupe. Récemment de retour d’une toute petite île du pacifique au large des côtes japonaises ou j’assistais Marc Petrovic, un artiste et sculpteur verrier à la main au talent incroyable que j’ai connu durant les cours de Jack Wax à Haystack en 1997, j’ai de nouveau été positivement surpris par l’ampleur des liens internationaux tissés autour de la communauté verrière.

Kanami Ogata and Joon-yong Kim assisting Ryo Onikubo.

Osamu et Yumiko Noda ont fondé et pris la direction du Centre Artistique Verrier de Niijima en 1987 dans des locaux appartenant à la communauté sur l’île de Niijima à 160km au sud de Tokyo. Niijima est probablement plus connue au Japon pour sa compétition nationale de surf, mais aussi grâce à sa roche qui donne au verre cette teinte verte caractéristique et sert aussi de matériel réfractaire. Alors qu’un des buts du centre est de se concentrer sur les différentes possibilités d’utiliser de manière artistique et industrielle ce grès local à base de silice appelé « Kogaseki », c’est son Festival International des Arts du Verre de Niijima (Niijima International Glass Art Festival) qui attire chaque année au Japon l’ensemble de la communauté mondiale du verre dans le but de partager idées et techniques et pouvoir composer avec ce merveilleux verre vert. Les Noda ont pu créer un milieu convoité pour ce rassemblement annuel. Leur accueil chaleureux et leur hospitalité sont également insufflés au personnel convié sur l’île à cette occasion. Le personnel est composé pou moitié d’étudiants et comprenait cette année parmi les meilleurs artistes verriers du Japon et de la Corée, pour la plupart également professeurs, avec notamment Takeshi Fukunishi, Harumi Yukutake, Joon-yong Kim et Kyou-hong Lee (vous pouvez consulter les travaux des autres membres du personnel en cliquant sur le lien du Festival affiché ci-dessus).

David Willis spinning open a flame worked dandelion.

On retrouve aussi dans ce festival l’implication de l’artiste David Willis originaire de l’Oregon. Artiste très talentueux, David débuta son travail au chalumeau en tant qu’apprenti auprès de Bob Snodgrass en 1994 à Eugene. S’inspirant de son intérêt particulier pour la nature, son œuvre aborde les différents niveaux relationnels existant entre l’homme et la nature. L’artiste résident à l’occasion de ce 23e festival était quant à lui l’ancien directeur artistique de l’Ecole du Verre de Pilchuck, Pike Powers. Diplômé d’un BFA en verre (Bachelor of Fine Arts) du RISD et d’un MFA en sculpture à l’Université de Yale, Pike a travaillé le verre et de nombreuses autres matières. Voir toutes ces personnes se rassembler afin de tenter d’aider Pike dans la concrétisation de ses projets durant notre court séjour sur l’île fut très réjouissant.

Marc Petrovic at the bench working with Pike Powers, Joon-yong Kim assisting

J’ai pu nouer contact avec Joon, un collègue assistant qui a eu le bonheur de voir son travail figurer dans notre magazine. Ce fut aussi le cas pour l’un des étudiants de la classe de Marc, Kanami Ogata. En tant que membre du collectif Sandbox, Kanami présenta lors du Glazen Huis de Lommel en Belgique un an avant que l’exposition canadienne Tenuous-Tenacity aie lieu. Notre traducteur pendant les cours, Rika Kuroki, dont le travail est rassemblé au Corning Museum, vit la moitié de l’année à Vancouver et l’autre moitié à Tokyo et est un bon ami de l’artiste Naoko Takenouchi qui habite Vancouver lui aussi. Quel plaisir que de pouvoir rencontrer des personnes l’autre bout de la planète grâce à notre petite communauté, et quel un plaisir encore plus grand que de voir sa propre œuvre prendre de l’ampleur au travers de personnes encore jamais rencontrées auparavant, et cela s’est véridiquement passé.

TA Keiko Hatori guides a local child in use of a flame working torch.

Mais l’un des éléments essentiels qui différencie ce festival de la plupart des autres événements est le niveau d’implication et de soutient de la communauté locale. Le maire et d’autres dignitaires locaux sont venus visiter le festival et discuter avec les artistes et les étudiants. Ils se sont même assurés que Pike possédait la bonne ficelle pour attacher sa pièce du piège à poissons. Pendant le festival, trois cours de deux heures destinés aux habitants ont été donnés par des artistes invités, un pour les adultes, un pour ados et un pour les enfants. Encore une fois, le ratio personnel/étudiant était pratiquement de un pour un. Plusieurs démonstrations publiques furent réalisées. Et simultanément, des émissions en live étaient diffusées au reste du monde. Local et global à la fois, difficile de faire mieux !

Je pourrai continuer : le typhon, le poisson, l’onsen… mais je conclurai juste en mentionnant à quel point il est agréable de pouvoir allumer son ordinateur et taper www.glassartcanada.ca, cliquer sur le lien de l’artiste et pouvoir ainsi montrer vos réalisations au reste de la communauté, ce que j’ai bien sûr fait.

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Natali Rodrigues: Proximity & Touch/Proximite et Contact

NATALI RODRIGUES:  PROXIMITY & TOUCH

Discovery Gallery, Alberta Craft Council, Edmonton

April 17 – May 29, 2010

By: Robyn Weatherley

Recent works of Canadian artist Natali Rodrigues were displayed this spring in a stunning solo exhibition entitled Proximity & Touch in the Discovery Gallery at the Alberta Craft Council.  The exhibition displayed pieces that used glass sculpture and printmaking to explore the notion of proximity and touch through corporeal and psychological implications.  Although the majority of the work displayed was glass, one large print functioned as a platform launching the concept into a second dimension.

Natali Rodrigues, Proximity & Touch

Upon entering the gallery viewers were inevitably situated among the many glass objects in a delight for the senses.  During the initial survey, the diversity in glassworking techniques became apparent.  Rodrigues communicates her ideas through manipulation of scale, surface texture, opacity, form and colour.  There are sleek and aerodynamic objects that one can imagine cutting silently through the air, highly polished works resembling sparkling precious stones and jewels, and coarse and satin textured glass with great likeness to stones found in nature.  Brilliant colours emerge and muted colours retreat.  The desire to touch and explore the objects is almost irresistible.

Natali Rodrigues, Proximity & Touch Print

Traditionally, touching glass displayed in galleries is not permitted, mostly because of its seemingly fragile and precious nature.  This appears to hold true in most exhibitions of current contemporary glasswork.  The layout and presentation of Rodrigues’ body of work in the Discovery Gallery allowed for a diversion from tradition.  Some of the objects were made accessible to touch while others were encased in vitrines on top of plinths.  This assortment of displays allowed for viewers to get close, touch and explore the hidden facets of some work such as Proximity & Touch #8, a smooth opaque white elliptical object with a small dimple on the surface.  Examining the apparently silky surface with the eyes is pleasantly reinforced when touch is also employed.  The dimple is the perfect shape and size for one to run his or her forefinger back and forth along its surprisingly rough surface.  Tension is built between viewers and the enclosed objects as we can only imagine touching them and the desire mounts to discover what hidden secrets they hold.

Natali Rodrigues, Proximity and Touch #12

Each glass component is aesthetically unique and can function independently; however, what brings greater meaning to the work is the tension or lack thereof in the negative spaces between objects.  Rodrigues has put great care and attention into the design of angles and cuts and how they affect these relationships.  Her work holds strong references to casual interaction as well as intimate connections.  For example, in Proximity & Touch #12, a large opaque black teardrop-shape glass form with a rough surface tenuously balances off centre a miniscule rounded transparent green glass gem.  The depth of the black glass creates such an ominous weight that it feels as though the space between it and the buoyant little gem could collapse at any moment.  In other work, the negative space is neutralized by the angles created.  These works convey a more relaxed feeling and sometimes seemingly no relationship at all to each other.

The relationships Rodrigues has intentionally created between the three-dimensional and two-dimensional objects in her work provokes questions as well as provides insight into how we interpret body language and what constitutes a relationship, no matter how insignificant the connection might seem.  Proximity & Touch successfully translates the intangibility of a variety of relationships into tangible beautifully hand crafted objects.

NATALI RODRIGUES:  PROXIMITÉ ET CONTACT
Gallerie Discovery, conseil des métier d’art d’Alberta
du 17 Avril au 29 Mai 2010

Par: Robyn Weatherley
Traduit de l’anglais au français par Mathieu Grodet
Le récent travail de l’artiste Canadienne Natali Rodrigues était exposé ce printemps dans une superbe exposition solo titré Proximity & Touch à la galerie Discovery au centre des métier d’art d’Alberta. Le travail présenté utilise la sculpture en verre et la gravure explorant la notion de proximité et de contact à travers les expériences du corps et de l’esprit. Malgré que la majorité du travail exposé était en verre, il y avait une grande gravure qui fonctionnait comme une rampe de lancement propulsant le concept dans une  seconde dimension.

Natali Rodrigues, Proximity et Contact

En entrant dans la galerie, le spectateur se retrouvait inévitablement parmi une multitude d’objets en verre qui entrainait un plaisir des sens. Au premier coup d’oeil, la diversité des techniques du travail du verre c’est alors avérée évidente. Rodrigues fait passer ses idées par la manipulation d’échelle, de texture et de surface, l’opacité, la forme et la couleur. Il ya des objets élancée et aérodynamique que l’on peut imaginer évoluer silencieusement dans l’air, des objets polis très brillant ressemblant à d’étincelantes pierres précieuses ou bijoux,  et des objets en verre texturés et d’autres satinés rappelant des pierres trouvées dans la nature. Les couleurs les plus brillantes ressortes tandis que les couleurs sombres se rétractent. Le désir de toucher et de s’approprier les objets semble irrésistible.

Natali Rodrigues, Proximity & Touch Print

Habituellement, toucher le verre dans les galeries n’est pas autorisés, principalement en raison de son caractère fragile et précieux. Ceci est vrai dans la plupart des expositions de la verrerie contemporaine actuelle. La manière de présenter l’ensemble des pièces de Rodrigues dans la Galerie Discovery permet un détournement de la tradition. Certains de ces objets étaient accessibles au toucher, tandis que d’autres ont été enfermés dans des vitrines ou des cloches. Cette façon de présenter les objets permet au spectateur de se rapprocher,  de toucher ou d’explorer les faces cachées de certaines pièces telle que Proximity & Touch #8, un objet blanc lisse et opaque de forme elliptique avec un petit creux sur la surface. L’examen de la surface en apparence soyeuse est agréable pour les yeux est confirmer lorsque le toucher est également employé. La forme et la taille du creux s’adapte parfaitement pour qui veux passer et repasser son doigt afin de sentir cette surprenante surface rugueuse. Une tension est créée entre le spectateur et l’objet enfermé sous sa cloche, plus il imagine la toucher, plus le désir de découvrir son secret caché augmente.

Chaque élément de verre est esthétiquement unique et peut fonctionner de façon indépendante, cependant, ce qui apporte une grande signification à ce travail c’est la présence ou l’absence de tension dans l’espace qui sépare les objets. Rodrigues a mis beaucoup de soin et d’attention dans la conception des angles et des coupes, et comment ils affectent l’éspace. Son travail contient de forte références aux interactions occasionnels ainsi qu’à des connexions intimes. Par exemple, dans Proximity & Touch #12, une grande goutte de verre noir opaque avec une surface rugueuse est en équilibre légèrement décentrer sur une minuscule pierre précieuse arrondie en verre vert transparent. La profondeur du verre noir crée une impression poids inquiétant ,comme si l’espace entre la goutte et la pierre risquait de s’effondrer à tout moment. Dans d’autres travaux, l’espace entre les objets est neutralisé par les angles créé. Ces œuvres traduisent un sentiment plus détendu et parfois apparemment aucune relation les uns avec les autres.

Les relations que Rodrigues a intentionnellement créé entre les objets en trois dimensions et en deux dimensions soulèvent des questions aussi bien qu’ils fournissent un aperçu de la façon dont nous interprétons le langage corporel et ce qui constitue une relation, peu importe l’ insignifiance du lien. Proximity & Touch traduit avec succès l’intangibilité d’une variété de relations à travers de magnifiques objets tangibles fait à la main artisanalement.

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BC Glass Art Association (BCGAA): Autumn Activities 2010

By Jill Allan

‘Crows’ fused glass with powder drawings by Tammy Hudgeon of Gabriola Island. This artwork was used as the invitation image for Cross Pollination.

The BCGAA hosted some member events this fall:  a members’ exhibition, a Christmas market and fundraiser, and an educational booth opportunity at the Circle Craft Christmas Market.

In September, the bi-annual members’ exhibition was presented at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown, Vancouver.  This year’s theme was Cross Pollination:

‘With a deft brush movement, flower growers cross-pollinate plants to cultivate hybrids with new forms and colours that delight gardeners. Artists take equal delight in that spark of discovery that captures an insight from work by another artist or in another medium.  Whether exploring a new glass-working technique, meshing glass with another material, or translating a traditional technique into glass, our members are inspired by the work of other artists to extend the range of what glass can express.’

BCGAA report opening of Cross Pollination,.the BC Glass Arts Association’s Members’ show at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletow, Vancouver. September 2010 group photo of the artists

(Back Row from Left – Peter Medley, Michelle Mathias, James Ceaser, Jean Paull, Melanie Rowe, Naoko Takenouchi, Leslie Rowe-Israelson, Waine Ryzak, Suzanne Basnett, Sonya Labrie, Braden Hammond.
In Front – Yves Trudeau, Malcolm McFadyen, Andrew Luketic, Lynne Chappell)

A visitor observes work by (left-right) Naoko Takenouchi ‘Earth, Sea and Air’, Wayne Ryzak ‘Hedical Flames of Passion’, and Melanie Rowe ‘Phylly’.

Collaborations between artists were encouraged as well as works that crossed into new media exploration and combinations.  Visit the web site for more information, to see more of the art work presented and to see who the award winners were:  www.bcgaa.org.

Visitors view wall installation ‘Migrations’ by Jenny Judge, an untitled acrylic painting by Robert Held in the background, as well as sculptural work ‘Gracious Hostility’ by Ed Colberg and fused wall piece ‘Dreamscape’ by Laura Murdoch.

Maria Keating displays her lampwork at the BCGAA Christmas show at Robert Held Art Glass in Vancouver.

Robert Held hosted the BCGAA Christmas Market again this year.  Robert Held opened his studio to the public to help raise funds and public awareness for the BCGAA.  There were demos in the hot shop, “Cooking with Glass”, and a general sharing of enthusiasms as well as selling some work.  There are more snaps of the two-day event on the BCGAA web site.

BCGAA has been invited to participate in Vancouver’s Circle Craft Christmas Market this year as an educational booth.  Works by members will be exhibited as well as a slide presentation of images about members’ work and glass making processes.  Circle Craft Christmas Market has moved into the new Vancouver Convention Centre this year and takes place Nov 17th-21st.  Malcolm MacFadyen will be hosting the ‘Totally Amazing Glass Show’ during the CCC Market, setting up his portable glass blowing studio where lampworking and glass blowing demonstrations will take place for the entertainment of the patrons.  For more information visit:  www.circlecraft.net.

Robert Held, Chago Vargas and Tara Connors of RHAG prepare a giant snowman during a glassblowing demonstration at the BCGAA Christmas show.

Jill Allan is one of the GAAC Regional Representatives for B.C.  She graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary in 1999.  She currently lives on Vancouver Island, travelling to Chemainus, Vancouver and Victoria to make her work.

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Le Chat des artistes – un exemple de l’engagement d’une communauté à accorder une place aux créateurs

par Hélène Brown, Crédit photo Jean-Pierre Lacroix

Chat des artistes

La culture est essentielle à la vie des peuples : elle les soude, les inscrit dans l’histoire, et leur permet de se dépasser, d’innover, de créer de la beauté. Par là même, elle doit être considérée comme un moteur important de la dynamique sociale et économique. Son impact sur la richesse collective est complexe, mais certain.

Dans plusieurs grandes villes du monde, nous observons un phénomène d’exode des créateurs à l’extérieur des quartiers centraux dû à la spéculation immobilière. Les artistes, ne trouvant plus d’espace abordable et adéquat pour y travailler, migrent en périphérie. Et, lorsque les créatifs quittent, nous le savons, c’est toute la vitalité d’un quartier qui quitte avec eux. De plus, dans une économie basée sur le savoir et la connaissance, la force créative représente la matière première de l’innovation. Il s’avère donc peut-être plus que jamais essentiel de contrer ce phénomène, car de là dépend notre place dans le monde, notre prospérité et notre vitalité.

Montréal n’échappe pas à ce phénomène. Bien que la ville se positionne comme une métropole culturelle, elle doit s’engager, en concertation avec les acteurs du milieu culturel, à développer des infrastructures qui vont perdurer dans le temps et soutenir la création. Toronto a vécu ce phénomène bien avant Montréal au début des années soixante-dix et elle a réagi en créant l’organisme à but non lucratif Artscape voué, entre autres, au développement d’espaces abordables pour les artistes.

En 2007, pour trouver une solution durable aux problèmes d’une communauté d’artistes du quartier menacée de perdre son lieu de travail, la Corporation de développement économique et communautaire Centre-Sud /Plateau Mont-Royal (CDEC). en partenariat avec Culture Montréal, fondent les Ateliers Créatifs, une organisation à but non lucratif, dont la mission est de développer et pérenniser des lieux de créations. S’inspirant de Toronto Artscape,  les organismes fondateurs prennent  le pari d’un développement culturel, social et économique harmonieux et inaugurent en décembre 2008, le premier projet pilote des Ateliers Créatifs : Le Chat des artistes.

Le Chat des artistes est un ancien immeuble industriel, dédié à la création, situé au 2205 rue Parthenais dans le quartier Ste-Marie, au cœur d’un pôle créatif en émergence. Il a été acquis par les Ateliers Créatifs et converti en espaces offerts en location aux artistes, artisans et organismes culturels.

Ce projet a été baptisé de façon ironique, en hommage à la chanson de Jean-Pierre Ferland « Le chat du café des artistes ». Cette pièce relate l’histoire d’un artiste qui, en désespoir de cause, offre son corps en pâtée au chat. Le Chat des artistes se veut donc une version plus positive, un élan vers ce qui anime nos quartiers, captive nos regards et ébranle nos idées.

Plus concrètement, le Chat des artistes, c’est 30 000 pieds carrés d’espace de travail, 42 ateliers et aujourd’hui, plus d’une centaine d’artistes qui y travaillent chaque jour.  Le Chat des artistes est un lieu unique de synergie créative grâce à la diversité des pratiques, des expériences (artistes de la relève côtoyant des artistes ayant déjà une carrière bien entamée), des cultures et des générations qui s’y retrouvent. Les pratiques varient allant des arts visuels et médiatiques, à la joaillerie, le théâtre, l’éco-design, la chapellerie, la reliure, le cinéma, le rembourrage, l’illustration et aussi…. le travail du verre !

Ce lieu de création devient, pour plusieurs créateurs qui utilisent les lieux. une manière de sortir de l’isolement et de faire évoluer leurs pratiques respectives par les échanges, la complémentarité et la communication entre les gens. D’ailleurs, des espaces de rencontre comme le hall, le salon et la cuisine commune ont été aménagés afin de favoriser cette vie associative. Après seulement deux ans d’existence, cette communauté devient une véritable ruche qui bourdonne d’activités influençant  positivement l’environnement social et économique du quartier.

Ainsi, ce projet se veut également un outil de revitalisation de cet ancien quartier industriel défavorisé. Lorsque les artistes arrivent dans un secteur, ils l’embellissent, lui donnent une âme et le transforment. L’art est un outil de changement social. Les artistes redonnent vie à leurs espaces urbains et jouent le rôle de défricheurs, ils stimulent la vitalité d’un quartier. Souhaitons que le Chat des artistes soit une source d’espoir et un exemple de l’engagement d’une communauté à accorder aux créateurs une place où ils seront libres d’imaginer et de façonner beauté et émois.

_____________

The Artists’ Cat
The Ateliers Créatifs,
a non-profit organization, have converted an old industrial building into studios offered for rent to artists, craft’s makers and cultural organisations. It has been named—in an ironic manner—in tribute to Jean-Pierre Ferland’s work “Le chat du café des artistes,” which tells the story of an artist who in an act of desperation offers his body as meat for a cat.

À propos de l’auteur Résumé – Hélène Brown2010Gestionnaire dans le domaine des arts et de la culture, Hélène Brown est diplômée de HEC Montréal en Gestion d’organismes culturels et détient un baccalauréat en Communications et Histoire de l’art de l’université Concordia. Elle est actuellement coordonnatrice du Chat des artistes, un projet pilote des Ateliers Créatifs initié par la CDEC Centre-Sud Plateau Mont-Royal et Culture Montréal. Le Chat des artistes est un immeuble dédié à la création offrant des ateliers à louer aux artistes, artisans et organismes culturels. Croyant en la nécessité de favoriser la rencontre du milieu des arts et des affaires, elle est membre de la Jeune Chambre de Commerce de Montréal et s’implique activement dans artsScène Montréal du Monde des affaires pour les arts (Business for the Arts), une organisation voué à promouvoir l’engagement des jeunes professionnels dans les arts. Passionnée d’idées, elle siège sur le conseil d’administration de Génération d’idées, un groupe de réflexions et de mobilisation citoyenne pour les 25-35 ans.
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Summer Residency at Harbourfront

By Silvia Taylor


Residents Robert Peyregatt and Brad Turner working at Harbourfront Centre's hotshop

The summer residency at the Toronto Harbourfront Center is a scholarship opportunity for students who are enrolled in a in a post-secondary Crafts program. The position provides students with the hands-on experience of working with their craft in a professional studio environment. The experience prepares summer residents for the rest of their academic career and, perhaps more to the point, helps to prepare them for a career in their craft. For the Centre, it is an opportunity to show their support for the next generation of craft students. The centre and its residency can demonstrate to the student participants that contemporary craft is a respected and encouraged art form.

View of the coldshop, and roll-up garage door that provides relief in summer.

The facility is a small and cozy glass-blowing studio with one pot furnace and two benches at which to work, including access to oxygen and propane. The workspace also includes a garage, colour box, pick-up box, and top and front-loading annealers. On the other side of the studio is a cold-working area consisting of a sandblaster, lathe, lap wheel, drill press, diamond saw, and belt sander. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Harbourfront’s craft studio layout is that it gives pedestrian visitors the opportunity to stop and watch the craftspeople at work by peering over the railing that follows along the hallway. This gives viewers the chance to watch the glass residents and their process in a setting not usually seen.

Harbourfront residents work together as people spectate.

This summer I was thrilled to have been selected as one of the summer residents and I fully expected that the experience would be extremely beneficial and gratifying. I certainly was not disappointed. I found Harbourfront Centre to be an inspiring environment in which a student can work. Moving from an educational setting to a professional environment requires a huge shift in one’s mindset. Suddenly I went from working alongside my fellow students to working side by side with those who are making glass for a living. I was able to observe their lifestyle and understand the degree of effort that goes into being a full time artist. I now clearly understand the sacrifices I would have to make. The residents were each doing it in their own way. In fact, the diversity among the residents was what made my experience so influential. Each resident had his or her own unique aesthetic, experiences, teachers, technique, and use for the material. During my summer residency, each resident helped me out in different ways so that, collaboratively, they helped to broaden my awareness and knowledge of glass.

Harbourfront resident Clayton Haigh works at the bench as a visitor watches.

The experience was not just about the summer residency. I was curious to know what the full time residents gained from having students in the studio. It was obvious to me that I was gaining a lot from the experience but I wondered how my limited knowledge of the material and studio experience could benefit the full-time residents. When I asked a few of them, they agreed that it was nice having a few new faces in the studio and, along with that, some fresh outlook on the material and an enthusiastic approach. They were also curious to hear what we are up to and how we plan to evolve our work.

View of the hotshop from the raised public catwalk.

The summer residency position was an incredible experience that I encourage all craft students to apply for when they’re eligible. My time at Harbourfront has helped me refine my concepts and fine-tune my technical skills. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity before entering my final year in the Sheridan College Glass Program.

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Experiencing Stained Glass in Siena

By Shirley Rimer

People tell me I’m a very lucky person.   I’ve had the opportunity to travel extensively.   When I return to my studio, my experiences inevitably manifest themselves in my pieces.  I feel I now rely on the stimulation from travel for ideas and direction.  My latest travels have taken me to the beautiful hillsides of Tuscany, Italy, where I apprenticed in a glass studio.

Apprenticeship, as a form of instruction in which a novice learns from a master of craft or art, has existed for thousands of years.  Until the 19th century apprenticeship was the sole means for people to acquire the skills for almost all occupations.  My tutelage in the studio at Vetrate Artistiche Toscane, in Siena, gave me the opportunity to learn many of the skills required to create artworks in stained glass.

With the help of the Alberta Foundation For The Arts, I spent the month of August, 2010, in Siena.   I rented a small apartment on a narrow little street in the old city.  Each morning I climbed the hill in the sunshine and looked forward to learning and laughter.  Siena was alluring, the people were friendly and the food was delicious.  Fresh pasta, pizza slices and gelato were an almost everyday occurrence.  The weekends were the time for exploration and included a trip to Florence as well as La Meridiana, a ceramics studio in the Tuscan hillside.

Shirley Rimer working in the Siena studio.

Massimo and Gianni Bracciali are brothers who have successfully operated this fused and stained glass venture for the past 20 years.  The studio, where their job is restoration and creation of beautiful stained glass windows, is situated in the heart of the old city.  Massimo apprenticed for several years in a stained glass studio.  His brother, Gianni, has a doctorate in geology.  Their individual expertise has created an environment where one can learn all facets of this exquisite art form.  Their sense of humour was delightful.

A ceramist from Ireland, Shauna McCann, was there to do a one-month apprenticeship with me.  We talked about our lives and our work and how we would like to integrate what we were learning into what we do.  We were equal in our lack of experience and in our ability to learn.

When I walked into the studio, I was immediately taken with the beautiful drawings, “cartoons”, lining the walls throughout the space.  These cartoons are the initial steps in creating the beautiful stained glass windows, which are part of the architecture of churches in several countries in the world.  The finished products can be seen in several churches in Siena, some restorations and some new creations.

Church window in progress.

When I arrived they were in the beginning stages of a commission for a church in Minnesota.  After a short practice session on some ornaments, I was immediately put to work on cutting glass for the new windows.  After the drawings are prepared, they’re redrawn in sections with numbered colors in each section.  Cutting the glass for the windows is very exact; any inaccuracy will cause a distortion in the window.  As time progressed, the cutting became easier and I became excited about being a part of the project.  While I was doing that I watched the cartoons being developed and the glass being put together and painted.

We helped to complete smaller projects in order to learn the leading techniques and finally the cementing.  The most difficult job was painting the glass.  Alberto Positano, the studio painter, did a superb job.  Colors are overlaid and a variety of very delicate and precise techniques are used before the paints are fired onto the glass.

What I learned in the studio will be a part of my future work in clay; both the technical aspects of working in stained glass and the impressions of a charming and very beautiful city.  I look forward to seeing this experience materialize in the pieces I plan to make.  I truly am very lucky!

Shirley Rimer lives in Red Deer, Alberta, where she owns and operates a ceramics studio.  She has been working in clay for the past 30 years and has exhibited her work internationally.   Shirley has travelled extensively, participating in residencies and exchanges in several countries.   Her mixed media work often includes glass elements.

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Heat Mass Memory: Intensive Workshop with Randy Walker

By Jill Allan

Randy Walker demonstrating blocking technique while students Doug, Bruce and Sylvia look on.

Rogue Wave Glassworks in Chemainus, B.C. hosted an intensive workshop with Randy Walker November 12-14, 2010.  The workshop reviewed basic glass blowing skills, covered surface decoration techniques (powder applications and crackling) and also sculpting the hot bubble.  It was a lot of information to cover in three days but at the end of the session on Sunday everyone was feeling satisfied that they had learned some new techniques and broken old bad habits.

If you ever have the opportunity to take a class with Randy Walker, I highly recommend that you take advantage of that chance especially once you have developed some skills and confidence in the hot shop.  Randy teaches intermediate glass blowers and helps them to fine tune their skills.  In this article, I will describe what I learned about setting up basic blown forms, and in subsequent articles I will cover punties, surface decoration and hot sculpting.

The first two days of the workshop were dedicated to understanding how the glass behaves and how to use heat and mass to achieve the wall thickness and form that you are after.  We began at the beginning – gathering and starting the bubble – and worked on basic forms such as cylinders, cones and pulled bottle necks to manifest in tangible terms the effect of mass on heat.  Randy repeatedly pointed out that there is not one way to work with glass, no step-by-step approach; but that understanding the impact of mass on heat is the key to understanding how to control how the glass moves.  Every contact that we make with the glass is a part of its ‘memory’ or history — once it has a history it is no longer neutral; the heat is affected and various throughout the form.

Of course it is possible and often convenient to use torches to heat the glass but for this workshop we learned methods for blowing out our shapes without torches.  We reviewed posture and body movement; moving slowly when the glass is hottest (after gathering and when heating) to maintain the form, how and when to move quickly to preserve heat, keeping the pipe ‘neutral’ (parallel to the floor), how to anchor our bodies when marvering, bringing a hot bit or bracing the pipe for someone who is hot sculpting and how best to hold tools for the most power and for ergonomics.  We learned how to rotate the pipe with our left hand so that we use the whole bench rail smoothly, a method of hand movement that I will have to practice and practice and practice before I am able to perform it effectively.  This hand movement is hard to describe but we called it the crab walking method.   Randy used lecture time and illustrations to explore the concepts with us before heading into the hot shop for demonstrations and practice.

Bearing in mind that there isn’t one right way to blow glass, I will describe the way that we learned to start out most of the shapes that glass blowers use to make their work.  This procedure ensures that the shoulder of the piece is blown out on the pipe and eliminates frustrating and inefficient catch up work later (when your shoulder and neck are too thick and you are unable to penetrate that area with heat and still maintain control of the rest of the piece).  It also protects the bottom of the piece from blowing out too thin and too fast.

Randy Walker observes student Bruce at the marver while student Will heats his bubble and Rogue Wave’s Craig Hellemonde looks on.

It is important to be mindful of the heat and mass while gathering, making sure to gather an even moil and to consider the effect of the pipe’s temperature on the temperature of the fresh gather.  Once the initial gather of glass has been collected head to the bench but be careful to hold the pipe parallel to the ground so that the gather doesn’t lengthen or move back over the moil.  At the bench use the block to cool the outside of the gather, gently shaping the glass so that the centre of mass (the widest point) is just off the end of the pipe and the bottom of the shape is softly pointed to keep it from spinning outward in the glory hole with centrifugal force.  Then head to the glory hole to even out the heat of the gather.  Concentrate on your pipe rotation speed at the glory hole to preserve the tapered bottom and keep it from spinning outward.  Use your palms to turn the pipe.  Back at the bench, block the glass briefly before you blow and cap the pipe.  We practiced blowing and capping using our left hands so that we could be more efficient with our movements, preserving the heat and saving time.  The bubble forms quickly and the shoulder is thin because the centre of mass at the shoulder holds the most heat and draws the bubble to move there first. The walls are even and the bottom is slightly thicker; the taper has protected it from blowing out.

Randy drew attention to the way that we used tools such as the blocks and the newspaper and encouraged us to touch the glass as little and as gently as possible (try not to mash the glass with your block or paper; rather, let the glass fall into it) and to roll the pipe quickly and smoothly using the whole bench rail.  To prepare the bubble for subsequent gathers, pay attention to the centre of mass, making sure that it is just off the end of the pipe (shoulder).  Keep the bottom softly pointed so that you can protect it more easily from becoming thin (keeping the bubble from shooting out the end).  After gathering over the bubble return to the bench to block the fresh glass keeping the most mass at the shoulder and making sure that the glass does not fall to the bottom creating mass there that will collect heat and cause the bottom to become thin.

Keeping your pipe parallel with the floor as you move to the bench after gathering will help eliminate the problem of having too much mass at the bottom.  It is better to avoid this than to have to use a lot of tooling (and cooling) to repair it at the bench.  After blocking the new gather head to the glory hole to even out the heat then back to the bench to block and blow.  This inflation is short and sharp to puff up the shoulder and followed by immediate marvering and blowing.  At the marver, start at the tip of the bubble to protect the bottom from blowing out, make it pointy, rest the pipe off the back of the marver and blow short and sharp to puff up the shoulder.  Then marver the tip again, working your way up the side to the shoulder (the bubble should be cone shaped now) and, again off the back of the marver, blow short and sharp.  Keep the angle of your pipe shallow to prevent the bubble from stretching and the marvering brief, using three or four passes, moving quickly so that you don’t lose heat.  Do not marver the actual shoulder (keep it hot) but rather the sides just below it.

Student Bruce at bench starting to pull out the neck of his piece with helpers student Sarah and student Doug.

Randy stressed that the beauty of the bubble while you are marvering is not very important and spending a lot of time on the metal trying to correct an oval shaped bubble is counter-productive as it will just rob heat from the glass.  Your bubble will be too cold after marvering and blowing two or three times so re-heat it and do more marvering if you need to rather than trying to blow the shoulder all the way with a too-cold bubble.  Marver the tip a lot to cool it before you re-heat in the glory hole; the cold pointy angle of the bottom of the piece will keep the bubble from overheating there and allow you to get a lot of heat in the shoulder.  Plus this shape is easy to handle when you are re-heating.  After this step the bubble is cone shaped with a puffed out shoulder and it is time to set up the form at the bench.

For a cylinder, get an all-over heat in the glory hole, paper the shoulder to the width you desire, then paper the sides and get bench air to puff out the bottom so that the width at the bottom of the bubble is the same as the width at the shoulder.  This should result in an oval-shaped bubble with a thin shoulder and a thicker bottom.  Papering the sides keeps the walls from expanding where you don’t want them to.  Point up the very bottom of the oval to protect it from blowing out too quickly and reheat the bubble from the shoulder so that you can drop out the cylinder shape.  When you retreat from the glory hole, hang the bubble to let the shape fall out as you slowly rotate the pipe.  Start at a shallow angle so that the drop out is not more extreme than you want it to be, you can adjust this angle if you want the bubble to fall faster.  Swinging the glass is fun but risky to the integrity of the form and your control over it.

For a cone shape, take the marvered pointy bubble with the puffed out shoulder to the glory hole and heat it in increments starting at the bottom (which you want to be the hottest) and moving up to the shoulder.  As you leave the glory hole, hang your bubble at a shallow angle (adjust the angle as required) and let the cone form fall out.  You can repeat this step until you have the length you are going for.  If you want the bubble to fall out into a straight sided cone (not convex) gently puff out the sides at the bench before you re-heat, making the bubble more of a bullet shape, and the sides will straighten out again as you drop the shape.  If you heat and drop a straight-sided bubble, the sides will curve inward creating a convex wall profile.

For a pulled bottle neck, set up a bubble as previously, making sure that the bottom is pointed and cold and that the shoulder is puffed out.  Get a lot of heat in the glory hole.  At the bench make a trough in the shoulder to make it easier to start the jack line then use the jacks to squeeze down to the diameter of neck that you want, starting to pull out as well when you have the right diameter.  Stop squeezing the neckline and start pulling your jacks outward (to the right) keeping them straight up and down.  Have your assistant puff gently to blow out the shoulder some more as you are pulling out the neck.  Be careful to keep the bubble below the shoulder on centre; one way to do this is to quickly paper (cool) the cone-shaped bottom before you apply the jacks to the neck.  You have to do it in one pull.  From this point on you are working below the shoulder because trying to heat above the shoulder and maintain control over the form is extremely difficult.  Make a crease for the jack line now.  The neck will hold heat for a surprisingly long time, so you might not need to flash the neck and moil until after your first heat and re-shape of the bubble below the shoulder.

Preheating and waxing your jacks is recommended so that the tool doesn’t rob heat and glides smoothly.  If you are making a piece with an abrupt shoulder, avoid hanging the pipe down as you walk to the bench to thin the shoulder in preparation for jacking.  Instead, create a ‘trough’ for your jack line by angling the top of your jacks outward (to the right) and gently sloping the bubble here.  This will make it easier to make the crease line in a large puffed up shoulder.  Once you have a trough, hold your jacks straight up and down to make the break off crease.  You can always use a torch to make this crease deeper when it is time to break the piece off the pipe so leave a wide enough jack line to have stability and control.

Not enough brain cells?  We drank gin to cope at this stage (the end of day two) and rested up for day three.

Student Bruce with finished piece. Victory!

I know that a lot of this information is common sense and basic to hot shop practice but I found myself surprised by how many inefficient habits I had formed by not analyzing my process.  I think the most important thing I learned is something I already knew but stubbornly ignored:  the concept of mass=heat.  In some ways, it is counter-intuitive – put the most glass where you want the blown form to be thin.  I have always had difficulty blowing out the shoulder so I am really grateful to have broken the bad habits I had around this concept.  I learned a lot about marvering (something I usually avoid because I am not good at it).  I made friends with the marver.  As for the left hand, I will have to practice my turning technique and build muscle for a long time before I see good results there.

For more information about Rogue Wave Glassworks and to find out about future classes, visit their website at www.roguewaveglassworks.com.

Jill Allan is one of the GAAC Regional Representatives for B.C.  She graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary in 1999.  She currently lives on Vancouver Island, travelling to Chemainus, Vancouver and Victoria to make her work.

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