Making art as part of a collaborative community is an ever-changing, unpredictable, and always inspiring process. In this series, we celebrate the unexpected outcomes of studio cross-pollination, collaboration, mishaps and coincidences.
Today, Pilisa gives us the inside story on a piece that took a year to finish…
Pilisa’s Seasonal Journey
It all started with two oval shaped grapevine wreaths. I thought it’d be really interesting to cut some glass to fit inside them. I found two beautiful pieces of glass and the idea just leapt out at me: one would represent summer, and one winter, framed within the vines.
Simple! Or so it seemed.
The summer piece was relatively straightforward; the background was a beautiful jungle green, with a fused glass macaw added in the foreground. The winter piece was a blue and white scene, with a feature in the glass that reminded me of bare winter branches. I wanted to add some ravens, and that was the first challenge: they needed to be smaller than the macaw, and I also wanted them to be different sizes, to indicate perspective in the scene. But that was the least of my challenges during the process of these pieces.
An unexpected setback
When the two pieces of glass were as I wanted, I was ready to attach them to the wreaths that would frame them. The original intention was to drill holes in the glass and wrap the grapevines with copper wire, going through the holes in the glass and attaching the two firmly together. Drilling through glass is precarious at the best of times and more precarious the larger the piece of glass is. Terry was able to get four holes into the winter piece and then, disaster! It shattered into six pieces.
I was traveling when the break happened and decided not to think about the piece until I returned to the studio. I was disappointed, of course, but I wanted to come up with a creative way to rescue the piece. I hit on the idea of fusing the cracked pieces back together in a way that the cracks might resemble frost; it would look as though the winter piece had frozen and cracked.
I used a specific glass called Opaline which gives a beautiful, translucent effect. It’s unique: not exactly white, not exactly clear, but somewhere in between. It seemed like a great idea; but I just wasn’t happy with the way it turned out. Something still wasn’t right.
I was a little stuck at that point and I wasn’t sure how to move forward with the piece, so I turned to one of my studio mates for inspiration. This time, Michael came in to the studio take a look at the piece. He suggested I turn the largest part of the crack into a branch, and building on that Terry wondered if I couldn’t turn the whole crack into a foreground bare tree branch that suggested winter.
I liked Terry’s suggestion, so I mixed some Aventurine Blue powder with a glass adhesive to make a paste, and put it exactly where the cracks were. The way it came out of the kiln after firing was absolutely perfect for the texture of bark – I couldn’t have planned it better!
Finally, a stroke of good fortune. I was back on track once more.
The final piece of the puzzle was to add a snow effect. I used Opaline again, this time in crushed glass (frit) form. The first time we fired it, the temperature was too low – it didn’t allow the color to mature. Instead of snow, it looked more like ice.
So I kept on playing with the frit effect, layering up some white frit on top of the opaline and firing it four or five more times until I finally got the texture and color I was looking for. I’d been working on the piece for almost a year by now, and I knew every time I fired it I was taking a risk: overworking the glass; or changing the color or texture of the parts I was already happy with. But I’d come too far to give up…
The finished piece
As it turned out, the risk paid off. I made the final firing just in time for the First Friday event at the studio in March – and was able to show it to the visitors to the gallery that evening, still buzzing with excitement at having finished it! I got some great feedback from the people who were there; it ended up being a real talking piece. What had seemed like mishaps and wrong turnings led me to one of my proudest moments as an artist.
Tenacity and trust
Pilisa’s story is a wonderful example of the creative problem solving all our artists thrive on, and of the power of our community to bounce ideas off each other and open up unexpected directions. If you’d like to check out our current works in progress, why not come to a First Friday when we showcase our latest pieces and connect with visitors to share what’s currently inspiring us. Click here for full details.