A Focus on Lighting

Regarding the importance of considering how etched glass and light go together, my goal is to arrange what I’m learning into an easy to digest overview of the subject so that a quick look at the page results in raised awareness. To see how the lighting page is coming along click HERE or watch this short video below.

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Between Glass and Stone

stonecarvedRelief carving by Ron Branch circa 1989 ~ I’d like to do a series of these soon. This is a small piece of flagstone, approximately 8″ x 12″. It has hand crafted mounting hardware by Bill Branch (my Dad).

Between glass and stone I feel stone is the more forgiving medium to work with. As a material, float glass is predictable, as in there are no hidden surprises. As a transparent canvas it is unique, with its distinctly beautiful qualities, but there is no variance from piece to piece… and so it quickly becomes all about the etching.

With stone however, you are entering the unknown. Oddly though, this is not a source of anxiety. Instead, a great deal of the pressure is off. In those rare occasions that something bad is coming, like a severe crack, or a pocket of nothingness, you don’t see it until it arrives. Blaming yourself for the issue is useless since you really had no way of foreseeing it. Blaming the stone, well… that would just be absurd.

So for me there is a self granted state of acceptance. Besides, most of the “surprises” are often what I like best about the finished piece. There really IS therefore, a strong feeling of interaction, a kind of partnership with the material. By virtue of it’s unpredictable variances, it participates – lending its uniqueness to the art.

Does it sound strange that the more unpredictable material would be less stressful to work with? Think of the difference between what a singer songwriter feels when they perform solo, and when they have others playing with them. This also compares well to say that it doesn’t mean that just because playing solo is more stressful, that the performer doesn’t want to do it anyway, despite that it is not the more relaxing choice.

The analogy easily extends to also cover the subject of collaborating with other glass artists. I so much prefer working with others rather than solo, that it is a large part of my business model for the studio. I think networking with other glass artists and studios that like working this way also, adds more variety into our works, and provides hidden opportunities for unexpected new developments. These interactions have caused some of my favorite leaps in technique.

texturedWorking with designers from other mediums is an even more dynamic process. I’d say my favorite of these was working with painter Marlene Bauer on the library jobs in 2010. It inspired me to try things I may not have thought of otherwise. The resulting textures affected permanently many of the ways I etch today, which continue to develop… and to be similarly affected by subsequent interactions with other artists, designers and of course to be fair, every client.

Overall both glass and stone are relatively unforgiving. There is no erasing in glass etching, and you can’t uncarve a stone. Part of being a sandblaster is all about learning to handle stress, with balance, acceptance, and keeping things in perspective.

Sweating over the details of an etching that you can easily ruin in the blink of an eye… while it isn’t exactly bungee jumping, there is a genuine adrenalin rush occurring just the same.

Admittedly it is… fun, especially when in the end it turns out to have been worth the effort, but too much of that kind of fun can wear a person down. That’s why I’d say by comparison, for me there IS actual relief  in carving stone. A bit of corrective therapy perhaps.

grapescloseDetail of door panel for Chuck Franklin Glass Studio 2008

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Although most of my work in glass has kept me in or very near the sandblast booth, I do enjoy every opportunity to “work in the field”. The locations where glass art goes also tend to be highly interesting in many other ways, and so it can be somewhat educational regarding interior design. It’s also good to just get out of the studio once in a while, but he main reason I like it is purely practical.

Not until it is finally installed is glass art in it’s fully finished form. That it is translucent means that characteristics of whatever environment it is in affects the glass in a big way. Glass Artists who only see the piece in the studio, can’t be sure how it ends up looking onsite for the customer. What if it looked great at the studio, and ends up not as great onsite? Having the opportunity to figure out why is invaluable for becoming a more knowledgeable artist. So, if the option to go is there, I go.

Opportunities to work with other glass artists seem most often to come in the form of installation. Many of the photos in this first slideshow are pictures fellow glass artists sent to me after I had helped them out.

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Sandblasted Glass Portraiture

It has been portraiture that has been the main drive behind why I have pursued experimentally the ways to better control sandblasting as a medium. Sandblasting is about blown sand and stencil. Many of the techniques I’ve come up with are “freehand”, but it is still usually freehand using stencils. Most of the time stencils are affixed to the glass, that is the standard method used by almost all sandblasters. It wasn’t long after I started etching before I was wanting to break free of that (in some circumstances).

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Smoke Revoke

SRUpdateI am now using our app Smoke Revoke in it’s first publicly released form. It is available for purchase in the App Store We have a facebook page, (please give it a “like”), and what the heck while I’m at it, please follow us on twitter at @SmokeRevoke. Currently, what I am experiencing is that with every failure to wait until it’s “time to smoke” comes a little piece of guilt. That guilt grows – and so there becomes a natural compulsion to begin to micro-manage the scheduling using the built-in editing functions. (In the photo you can see I’ve begun moving the smokes a little closer together in the morning). This brings your smoking into your full awareness.

I have a lot already written about the app that will be added to this post (coming soon) but for now consider the post to be “under construction

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Work Space Design

Balancing Mobility and Immobility

As workers, our desires to increase our work production in the work space tend to bring tools and materials closer to us to the point where everything is within reach. The resulting space capsule effect is fun to design, fun to build and ultimately even fun to look at. Space saving is also essential toward solving square footage restrictions, and who doesn’t have that? We certainly did when we set up to do Christmas ornaments in our small two car garage back in Phoenix. (More Soon)

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Polished Edge-Work

Just made a couple samples for an upcoming job. It’s 3/8″ clear plate with what’s called a “chiseled edge”, or sometimes a “chipped edge”, or most often a “scalloped edge”. There are special tools (not a chisel) designed specifically for this effect. I don’t have the special tool so here’s proof you don’t necessarily have to have it.

It’s important to finish the edge to the point it is 100% safe to touch. This of course means using your own hand to thoroughly test it when you think it’s finished.

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Thinking-out-loud on Paper

Illustration or drawing is a part of everything I do as a working artist, but it goes beyond that into all parts of life – everything from brainstorming, problem solving, communicating ideas, or preparing for any project… things like organizing a workspace, a remodeling project, or of course designing a glass etching. I’m always grabbing paper and pencil, as a way to organize thoughts – anything from a simple idea for the yard, to capturing a difficult to describe item from the imagination, or even something remembered from a dream, and that’s the best thing really – bringing into view something that cannot otherwise be seen.

It does go into three basic overlapping directions – illustration as a tool for thinking, as a tool for communication, and also as a finished form of art. The latter is the one I rarely get to enjoy, and have explored the least. Illustrating Meet Ron Paul was a major leap forward in that direction. It taught me exactly what I needed to know – that illustrating books is something worth looking into. I’m looking forward to pursuing it more when I get the chance.

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Technical Drawing

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