In this series, the artists working at Creative Gateways give us behind-the-scenes insight into their current works in progress, inspiration, and creative challenges. Today, we look at a new experimental endeavor from Pilisa Rainbow Lady…
Art as Science
Creative Gateways and AMusinGlass founder Pilisa Rainbow Lady has found herself wearing many different hats in her career as a fused glass artist. She creates commissioned pieces for businesses, personalized items infused with a client’s “intention,” and pieces all her own. One of her favorite roles, however, is that of what she often refers to as her “inner mad scientist.” For Pilisa, experimentation is an invigorating and essential part of her overall creative process and identity. Such is the case for her current endeavor: her “waterfall melts.”
The Power of the Falls
“There may be a technical term for what I’m doing,” Pilisa tells us, “but I like to call it a ‘waterfall melt.'” The process is an incredibly interesting and technically delicate one. “Essentially, I create a square pattern or design by stacking sheets of glass. Then, I place that on a raised platform inside of a kiln. I dam three edges of the glass with both heavy and small fire bricks, leaving the front end open. When it gets heated in the kiln, the glass will melt and drip down the front, mostly coming together in a narrow stream near the middle. So, basically, it’s flowing over the edge like a waterfall. The thing is, it won’t all melt over the edge, so what you’re left with is a type of base, a flow up, and then a top layer – all as one piece.”
The problem, however, comes largely in getting the entire piece to stay whole. “The top can still have a decent amount of weight, so if the ‘waterfall’ portion is too thin, it will usually end up breaking near the base.” Getting everything to come out as it needs to is where a great deal of the experimentation comes in. “I started out trying to heat the piece at 1600 degrees, which is the same temperature we’d do for a pot melt, which is a very similar process. But it turned out 1600 was too hot, and so I’ve been trying to keep it between 1500 and 1550.” Every technical aspect is important to the potential success of the piece. Pilisa has experimented with variables such as how high the kiln posts are to how wide and deep the glass top is as part of playing the scientist. “Interestingly, the first time I ever did this was two years ago,” Pilisa explains, “and it actually turned out perfect on the first try. Now, years later, I’m trying to figure out how to capture that again!”
Pilisa became inspired to try the waterfall melt again recently as a pivot from a piece she was creating for her “Stuck Into Flow” series. So far, she has had three attempts at creating a waterfall piece. None have been completely successful yet, but she has learned more from each one. “My primary goal is just to create one. But if I can figure it out, I may end up doing a series, using both opaque and transparent glass.” And as for the glass from the previous attempts? “Well, it was mostly scrap glass to begin with, and I’m thinking I may just melt it into a face mold.” At AMusinGlass, everything becomes something in the end.
Wonders Worth Seeing
Be sure to visit Creative Gateways to see Pilisa’s amazing work, talk to her about her experimental projects, or browse our gallery full of work from all our resident artists! We are open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm.