Goodbye Summer 2014Thanks for the Memories

What is it about summer that makes us so happy and relaxed? Is it the sunshine? Is it the remembered sense of freedom from school? Is it the longer days that linger and make us feel lazy? It certainly is the season of summer concerts and BBQ’s with friends. Frolicking on the beach and enjoying the ocean are a must around here along with the tourist crowds and sandy flip flops.

Boards Crossing Camp

The river at Boards Crossing Camp
photo credit: Toni Bolthouse

Summer is the time when I make my annual trip to the mountains I love, surrounded by giant redwoods and the tinkling of a flowing river.  Where I go in the mountains there is no electricity, no cell phone or TV’s. In this modern high tech world it is very detoxing to float in the river looking up to the bright blue sky surrounded by a canopy of deep green trees. The stars at night are unbelievable. For some reason the food always tastes better in the mountains. It isn’t summer without my LA escape, and spending time in NorCal with my camp friends. We do our annual puzzle, play old fashioned games, share crazy stories around the camp fire and of course enjoy much laughter.

Sails Coll photo credit - Greg Rutter

Racing on “Sails Coll”
photo credit: Greg Rutter

Summer is also a time for sailing in SoCal. I did a lot of it this year on my little Martin 242 sailboat named “Sails Coll”. Some of my best memories come from being on a boat. I have forged fantastic friendships sailing and racing. Of course some of the most magical moments on the water are those you can’t even begin to plan. When a large school of dolphins decide to join the fun frolicking around the boat and drafting off the bow it is truly spiritual.

So as this barefoot season comes to an end, I am very thankful for my family and friends. The dog days of summer will fade as they always do, but the memories will warm our hearts as fall and winter descend upon us. Yes, we do have seasons in California, just not as dramatic as in other parts of the country.

As I say goodbye to summer, I say hello to my neglected glass studio and my artist friends. Although I did manage to get some work done this summer, it was very hard to stay focused with all the fun distractions. My summer inspirations are in my sketch book. I have many ideas and techniques to explore in the coming months. I can’t wait to get started…..but the week-end is not yet over so the studio will just have to wait one more day.

Taking a Creative Time OutFive Ways to Keep the Creative Juices Flowing

Life can get hectic. Busy people tend to stay busy. I fall into this category. At times I get over whelmed with my commitments and then I get angry with myself for not being a little more selfish. I am working hard to “just say no” more often.

Yesterday I was a bit grumpy and just not a happy camper. This is not my personality at all. I realized that I needed a creative “time out”. I have been so busy doing volunteer activities that I had been neglecting my creative side.

I decided to work on my website. I wanted to put up some of my new work, add my revised logo and work with changing the color scheme. Hardly highly creative work, but I was doing something for me. Getting lost in color palettes soothed my creative soul. It wasn’t long before I was envisioning glass pieces begging to be created. I quickly jumped from the computer to the sketch book.

Complimentary Colors Palette

Five Ways To Find Creative Inspiration

All artists are at some point plagued with creative lulls. Creativity needs to be nourished and exercised on a regular basis. Here are five things that I do to keep the creative juices flowing.

1. I get busy in the garden. I let my mind wonder as I pluck the pesky weeds and re-arrange my garden in my head. I make grand plans which sometimes I actually do bring to fruition. The process of planning gets me revved up and stimulates my creativity. There’s something to be said about getting your hands dirty and playing with mother earth.

2.  I take a walk by myself….preferably by the ocean. I love walking/gossiping with my friends but to let my mind wander I need solitude. I am lucky that I live so close to the beach. Walking along the shore, breathing the salt air and hearing the waves crash around me always brings a sense of peace and with it creative thoughts. There is something about being so small and insignificant in comparison to the size and power of the ocean that leaves me motivated to get creative in my studio.

3. I look though my inspirational binders. I am always tearing out tid bits from magazines and other publications that cross my path.  It could be a color grouping that I love, a piece of interesting jewelry, a cool wall treatment, funky furniture, a serene nature setting or a perky animal. Before I know it I’ve started pulling things together and the sketch book comes out.

4. I spend time on Pinterest. I love looking through my boards. My “Cool Glass Stuff” board is full of amazing art that is beyond inspirational. My other boards are also good places to let my creativity run wild. I love grabbing a glass of wine at the end of the day and searching for pins to add to my boards.

5. I grab some of my art books and start flipping through pages until I’m drawn to an image or a particular chapter. I have a varied collection of books not just ones about glass. I can always count on the impressionists to inspire me. I think that because their work is about the study of light I am drawn to them. I often work with transparent glass and like how a piece can be transformed by light as it moves through the art piece.

As an artist I find it mandatory to be a curator of creative inspiration. We all have obligations that need attending but finding a balance in life and keeping your creative soul energized is imperative to being an artist.

What is Lampworking?

Lampworking Glass

Lampworking is an ancient art that is thought to date back to the fifth century BC. It is used to make small glass objects like beads, vessels and figurines – often of animal and botanical subjects.

The term “lampworking” derived from the old oil-fueled lamps that glass workers used to use. They would blow air into the flame using a pipe. Today gas torches are used as a source of heat so this method is also called flame working or torch working.

Bead by Mandela Wheel

Intricate glass bead by artist Mandela Wheel.

Lampworking is a technique where glass rods are melted and manipulated using a single heat source. Lampworking and torch artists use gravity, tools and hand movements to manipulate the glass. Special glasses are worn to protect against eye damage from staring into the flame while working the glass. These glasses are like the sun glasses we wear to protect our eyes from the glare of the sun.

Modern torch set-ups allow for a high degree of control making it possible to create intricate and complex art forms. Often multiple layers of glass are painstaking applied to create these miniature pieces of art.

Bead by Joy Munshower

Beautiful glass bead by artist Joy Munshower.

Although art pieces created using this method are worked in a flame it is necessary to cool them evenly in a kiln down to room temperature to prevent stress fractures and cracks. This is known as “annealing” the glass.

I have taken lampworking classes and can appreciate the skill and artistry that is needed to create these small beads and art pieces. Trust me patience and concentration are also a must. Next time you are at an art fair look for these small glass treasures to take home. You can find some excellent glass bead examples on this Pinterest board I created called “Beautiful Beads“.

Trophy Art Collaboration

col·lab·o·rate – \kə-ˈla-bə-ˌrāt\ : to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.

Recently I was contracted by Jim Murrell to create the trophies for King Harbor Race Week, my biggest trophy job to date requiring about 25 pieces and four different sizes. I decided to collaborate with glass blower Myles Freedman. This is our first project together. To get the ball rolling Myles met me down at the yacht club so I could show him various types of trophies and awards. At this point the only decision we had made was to work with blues/greens and that the final piece needed to feel like the ocean. We were off to a good start.

Next we had to consider the final shape. We wanted something curvy that could stand on its own. We looked at many molds and finally found one that we both liked. The mold then dictated our final trophy sizes. All the trophies are 16 inches in width. We are doing four heights for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places, they are 12, 10, 8 and 6 inches. Now it was time to make some samples and do test firings.

KHRW - Julie's Glass Sample

Julie’s Glass Sample

I went first. Our concerns at this point were whether to use some type of white back ground or to have the trophies be transparent. I used several white and crèam colors in my composition. Myles had blown some adventurine blue into glass confetti pieces so I utilized those as well. I tried a couple of different fusing techniques. While we liked the end result it wasn’t totally what we were going for. This sample will definitely end up in an art piece down the road.

KHRW - Myles glass sample

Myles’ Glass Sample

Myles was up next. He loved a section on my sample that utilized small pieces of clear glass junks that pulled color up around themselves. He used this one method and proceeded to use many layers of glass confetti pieces with clear junks. The results were amazing. We now had our method.

We wanted more than just blue for the final art trophies so Myles started blowing all kinds of blues and green together and separately. He added some white as well. We had lots of striking glass combinations to work with. We started layering and fusing our first glass panels. Because of all the layering we trapped some air bubbles. Bubbles always make my crazy, but Myles embraced them as cool and aquatic. I saw his point. It was time for me to let go of perfection and embrace bubbles.

KHRW Trophies

We are now in the process of slumping our glass panels into their final form. The results are wonderful. Each trophy is a unique piece of art with different colors layered and swirled together. Our final step will be to sand blast the award text at the trophy bottom just before the regatta. This has been a fun project to work on with Myles. I look forward to collaborating together more in the future.

Glass Blowing vs. Glass Fusing

Often when I mention that I am a glass artist I get asked if I blow glass. Usually this leads to a discussion about glass blowing vs. glass fusing.

Myles Freedman

Myles Freedman blowing glass in the hot shop.



Blown glass is created using a technique that involves inflating molten glass into a bubble with the aid of a blowpipe. The glass is then manipulated by swinging it, rolling it on a marver, shaping it with tools or in a mold. While working with the glass it is important to keep the piece evenly heated and not allow it to get too cold. This is accomplished by placing the glass piece in a glory hole on a regular basis or by heating it with a torch. Most glass blowing is done at a temperature between 1,600 °F and 1,900 °F.

This coral was cast in the kiln.

This coral was cast in the kiln with a mold.

Although fusing glass is very popular today, it was just as popular in the golden age of Greece and the Roman Empire. With fusing the glass is softened and shaped in a kiln. Fused glass is sometimes called kiln formed, warm glass or, kiln-glass. Many different techniques can be deployed in the kiln depending upon the desired results. Slumping, draping and casting are all methods done within the kiln. Most glass fusing occurs at temperatures between 1,100 °F and 1,700 °F.

Glass blowers often call fusers “bakers”. Fusers sometimes call blowers “flower, pumpkin and marble makers”. Despite the good natured teasing both blowers and fusers are passionate about their craft and share a love of glass – it’s just that their approach to the medium is very different.

Pink and Blue Glass Vase

Pink and blue “lingerie” vase fused by Julie Coll and rolled/blown by Myles Freedman.

Recently there has begun to be some collaboration between blowers and fusers. This started with fusers wanting to roll their glass panels and have them blown into vessels. They desired to stretch their glass options beyond the kiln and explore alternative shapes and forms.

My background is based in glass fusing but I am starting to learn glass blowing. I have a big trophy project currently in the studio that I am completing with a glass blower, Myles Freedman. It has been fun to work together and see our different approaches to glass.  I’ll post more on the trophy project next week.