Friday, August 7, 2009

I've moved to Baltimore

Dear blog readers,

Life happens when you you are busy making other plans. I started this blog with the intention of writing atleast for a year about "art in Athens." But it so happened that my husband and I moved to Baltimore unexpectedly and so as you can see, I will have to discontinue posting on this blog.

I might post about art in general on this or a new blog but definitely the focus cannot be "art in Athens,"as I cannot talk to artists in the area anymore.

That said, I must express how much I liked this blog and intereactions with local artists that it brought along. In some ways, I became one of "Athensians" by interacting more closely with the artists and the local community. Thank you all for reading the posts and encouraging me through emails and comments. I truly appreciate your response.

Hope I keep seeing you in the blogosphere!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Taking a trip down the creative route: how Bonnie conceptualizes her work

The thing that struck me about Bonnie was her enthusiasm for trying new techniques, testing new ideas. I think this passion helps to keep her work (any artist's work I imagine) fresh and satisfying. I could sense the adventure in her work, a desire to try something new, to get beyond the “expected.” Most of her fused glass work contains a “surprise” element. I especially liked how she used bones as design elements in a series of decorative fused glass work.

So during my interaction with Bonnie, I tried to trace the inception and transformation of a creative idea. How does an artist's mind work? Bonnie shared with me this very very valuable but invisible process. She described how she incorporated deer bones as design elements.

“I found the deer bones in the woods. And I thought they were a wonderful design element because there is something timeless about bones. Because they are so beautiful and usually unseen,” she explained. The theme followed in a variety of decorative pieces, each piece displayed a new variation. Now she wants to continue that theme in three dimensional artworks.

From creative stand point, Bonnie said, one piece leads to the next piece. She quoted her poetry professor at Ohio University who said “ ‘even if you’re working on this you are always working on the next one.’” Bonnie said that’s true of her glass art too.

“When I am working, I keep I my mind open to new ideas,”she said. Bonnie pointed out a seemingly obvious but a really important and interesting fact: When she is making a particular creative choice for a particular piece; she is also eliminating many other creative options. So as one design takes shape, she continues contemplating “what if I’d have done that instead of this.” And the creative journey continues.

“The more I work, the more ideas come to me: the vocabulary of shape, form, rhythm, repetition, color and light... the more choices you see, the more possibilities emerge,” she explained.

Here is a series of pictures wherein Bonnie used bones as the design element. With each piece she tried something new, something that she didn't do in the earlier piece. One piece emerged from the other. (pictures are not in the order of production).

The arrangement below is a crude reproduction of how these different elements are fused together to form the design. (That's where her vision comes into play!) The trace of bones is created using black glass powder. Other components such as the pattern bars, other glass items are placed and then everything goes inside the kiln with layers of glass on top and at the bottom (if) required. It could take many number of firings till the desired design takes shape!

Be original...

Originality matters to her. But that is not to say that she doesn’t keep track of what’s happening in the art world. There are some artists whom she respects and buys their books to learn new techniques. But rather than merely emulating, she incorporates those ideas in her projects in her own way.

She tries to imbibe the same outlook in her students. Bonnie is wonderful at sketching, so her stained/copper foil glass designs are original and inspiring. She encourages students to try new designs, even if they are not as accomplished as her in sketching. She showed me how anyone can create new designs using just a set square and a pen. She made a quick design on graph paper, simply letting one line lead to the other. An original design emerged before me within seconds.

She is also quite meticulous about taking notes while firing up pieces for fused glass work:detailed notes of what worked, what didn't. So, it's not just the creative instinct but also the discipline that lightens up the world of art with novelty.

The Notebook: what was right, what went wrong!

Limitless possibilities...

I asked her why she continued to work with glass. She said she always finds more things she can do with glass. “You could spend a lifetime but not explore all the facts,” the words revealed her true and limitless passion for glass. She also loves her teaching job. “Magic of teaching is that you are always learning,” she said." The questions from students broaden my horizon."

Charming beautiful Athens...

Bonnie enjoys living in Athens. “Athens is a very small town. But the food is very good, the music is very good, art venues are very good and the university culture is sophisticated,” she shared her love for Athens. She feels fortunate to be able to enjoy such "cultural sophistication." She goes back to New York to visit her family and when she misses big museums and Broadway.

Bonnie exhibits her work also in a gallery in Marietta called “Riverside Artists”. She has significant amount of work on display there. When she has a day off from the school, she spends time in the gallery. It’s a co-op owned by 16 artists.

You can also visit her website to explore and buy her work.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Artist's tool box: equipment for hot and cold glass art

This post contains pictures of tools that are used to create and repair glass art. Those tools in the masters' hands that help them translate their imagination to reality. The tools might be dull, mechanical, mundane but the art that emerges in the end is anyhting but ordinary. So check these guys out! I took these pictures in Bonnie's studio in Athens.

The machine that is used to make glass beads. Bonnie showed me how a glass bead comes to life. A star is born! The way it takes shape is marvelous..simply beautiful.

This is a handheld glass cutter. You put a clear glass on a shape drawn on paper and run the cutter on the lines. I tried my hand at it. It's amazing how such a tiny thing can cut quite a thick piece of glass. Enjoyed it!

Take a look at the unassuming copper foil and the mundane solder that bring together eclectic glass pieces to form a design.

This heavey thing is used to pound glass pieces into fine powder that is used to create effects. Bonnie showed me fine powder of black glass that sparkled and shined.

Here is the big bad metal boy: the kiln. It is used to melt glass to create fused glass pieces. The kiln has a digital control panel and can handle temperature of upto 1800 degrees.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Visiting the mystical world of stained and fused glass with Bonnie Proudfoot (Part I)

I met Bonnie Proudfoot in her studio at her residence in beautiful countryside of Athens. Upon my request, we had decided to talk in her studio. Conversing with artists in their studios (where they can show me around) is fun and also educational. Talking with them in a studio has two distinct advantages. For a novice art writer like me, the context of studio helps understand “technical aspetcs of art” better because I can see the machinery (and exactly know what they are talking about). It also helps to bring out nuances of "work routines" of artists. So I am grateful to Bonnie for welcoming me into her creative space and sharing secrets of glass art with me, quite patiently.

As soon as I stepped into the studio, decorative glass art pieces on the wall caught my attention: a large half-circle shaped piece in the window, a bright colorful wall piece depicting a chicken and many other fused glass art pieces. The studio wore a busy look--it was full of materials and machinery required for Bonnie’s glass art. A huge white machine (which I later learned was a kiln) sat on one side. There were sheets of coloredglass arranged in a cabinet across from the entrance. I could picture Bonnie in the studio, engrossed in her work on a quiet summer afternoon.

The art piece by Bonnie Proudfoot installed in the window of her studio

Bonnie has been working with glass for more than 30 years. Her love for glass started with a casual college job at a studio that made glass lamps and repaired stained glass windows in Buffalo, NY. “That looks like fun, I will do it,” Bonnie recalled her reaction as she began working in the studio. She did that job for a year and found herself extremely fascinated with glass.

She mentioned that stained glass windows are being built since the 1100s’. In stained glass technique, colorful pieces of glass are fitted into channels made of lead and joined together to form different designs. Many churches have old stained glass windows and those often need to be restored, as over the years the lead stretches and the cement that holds the pieces together breaks down.

Another colorful and well designed art piece by Bonnie Proudfoot

In the 1900s’, copper foil method, which tends to be more free and allows greater freedom to put more intricate designs together, was introduced. In that method, a copper foil is wrapped around the edges of the pieces of glass and then soldered together to make a design. Bonnie is an expert in that method as well and has made numerous lamps, windows, and other types of art pieces. She has exhibited her work at many art shows.

Bonnie enjoys creating glass art for church windows. “Church windows are important because they are spiritual symbols,” she said. She showed me the pictures of leaded stained glass window project she completed for a chapel in a vey big church in Lynchburg, Va. She also repairs stained glass windows to date.

Bonnie is an accomplished fused glass artist too. In fact, she is well known for using this technique to create decorative art pieces. Below, you can see an elegant art work created using that technique.

Fused glass art work by Bonnie Proudfoot

Apart from being a professional artist she also teaches full time, courses in art appreciation and communication, at Hocking College. It’s only fitting that she designed the glass program at Hocking College. She came to Athens in 1996 to pursue doctoral program in creative writing at Ohio University. After finishing her coursework, she accepted a teaching position at Hocking College. Her undergraduate degree is in art education and she has two masters­­­­—one in creative writing with a secondary concentration in fine art, and the another in English literature.

More about this wonderful artist and her artistic endeavours in the next post.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Running an art store: an art?

In this post, I continue my conversation with Gloria, the owner of Court Street Collection (in the picture below):

Challenge of running an art store

When I asked Gloria what was the most difficult part of managing an art store, she said economy is posing a challenge and she is trying her best to keep the business afloat. She also said that the local community has been very supportive, especially since the downturn, and has been helping the store by buying locally.

But I saw Gloria doing her bit for the community too.The two times I was there in her store, she gave away two art pieces for local auctions, proceeds of which would be given to charities in the area. The requests typically come from OU students, representing various on-campus organizations.

Artists and the OU connection

Gloria knows most of the local artists very well and has developed rapport with them over the past number of years. The artists display their work in the store and get paid when the art work gets sold. This kind of an arrangement is not very common in the market and is a testimony to late Sue’s and Gloria’s goodwill among the local artists.

Gloria went to Ohio University between 1970-75 and majored in English. At that time she also took the glass blowing program offered at OU.

Most of the artists who showcase their work in her store are more than 50 years old and have settled in this area. Gloria said many of the artists who went to school at OU in the 70s,’ decided to live in and around Athens. At that time the land in and around Athens was inexpensive and they found Athens to be a fun place.

I wonder what has happened since. (Probably I should talk to someone in the OU art school.)

Selecting an art piece

I was curious as to how she picks artworks for the store, particularly when the customers always expect to find something unique . She said she looks up the internet,travels and reads magazines to keep abreast of new trends and new artists. Sometimes the artists test their new creative ideas by exhibiting one or two pieces in the store, to gague audience reception.

Some of the popular art pieces in her store are stain glass works of John Matz (Sunflower Glass) and ceramic cats by Mary Dewey (The Dewey Studio). Their artwork is exclusvely (in Athens) available at Court Street Collection.

Ceramic cat by Mary Dewey, sitting on top of a cabinet in the store

Gloria's favorite

What was her favorite art piece? I asked her in the end. She showed me a basket of thin silver wires. At first I didn’t quite understand the magic that basket could create but when Gloria held it in the sunlight it shimmered, reflecting the sunlight, and looked incredible. It is made by a local artist, Cindy Luna, a good friend of Gloria. Cindy sells her art all around the country.

Shimmering basket by Cindy Luna

Being an artist herself, Gloria brings a unique vision to the art store. Coupled that with the community spirit, Court Street Collection is an important stroke on the local art canvas.

And one of my favorites !

I will end this post with a picture of one of my favourites: sea salt lamps. And besides looking pretty, they are also supposed to soak up the negative energy around..(Don't know how true is that?) These lamps are not locally made though.

My favorite lamps, sitting pretty on the shelf

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Priceless Art?

Josephin you asked about the prices of artpieces at Court Street Collection. I was wondering about the prices too! (Tell me..what can grad students really afford? But I really hope I (we all) can start earning enough money soon to own at least some of those wonderful art pieces in the world..what say? )

Although I don't have the complete price range I know the least and the most expensive pieces in the Court Street Collection.

The jewellery by Billie Sarchet under the Bird Girl label is priced at about $25 (makes me feel better! she also has jewellery on sale sometimes that's even cheaper). The most expensive art piece is the glass art by Bonnie Proudfoot at $ 575. But don't be intimidated, there are many itmes that fall under below $100 category. Both the artists are from around Athens.

Art piece by Bonnie Proudfoot...isn't this gorgeous?

Bead and stone jewellery (Jo.. for you !)

More later..Enjoy the beautiful sunshine!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Art Wonderland : Court Street Collection

Court Steet Collection, an art gallery/store that showcases and sells art and craftwork, is truly a wonderland for me.  As the name suggests it’s on Court Street, in uptown Athens. (To be precise, the address is 64 N. Court Street.) As soon as you set foot in the shop, you will be amazed by the art work on display. The shop presents an eclectic mixture of ceramic art (vases, cutlery, and sculptures), scarves, pillow covers, frames, lamps, jewellery, and many other really interesting pieces of art for sale. There is also a variety of glass art made by using different techniques like fuse glass, stain glass, and blow glass. It’s a riot of colors, shapes, and textures. And I really like the "gallery like" feel of it.

Court Street Collection in my mind is a place that represents many artists’ passion, unbridled imagination, and creativity, under one roof. According to Gloria, the owner of the store, about 70 percent of the art work is sourced locally from the artists in and around Athens. That’s why it became the next stop on my journey to discover the art and the artists in and around Athens.


I talked to Gloria to familiarize myself with this wonderland. Gloria gave me a peek into the history of the store. It was established in 1980 as a co-op by several artists in the area, to showcase and sell their art work. The artists ran it themselves. They owned it for about two years. After that the store was bought by Jim Gleason and late Susan Gleason. “Sue really made it into the store that it is today,” Gloria said.

Though not an artist, Sue had a great taste and she loved American craft. Gloria mentioned the Gleasons attended art and craft shows in New York, Boston to bring American craft from different parts of the country to Athens.

Sue and Gloria were good friends. Gloria used to exhibit her own work—blow glass work—in Court Street Collection. That’s how she knew Sue. If the Gleasons were going for a vacation, Gloria would step in to manage the store for that time. After Sue’s death in 1998 (a battle with cancer), her family ran it for some time. Gloria managed it for them for a couple of years, before buying it from Jim Gleason two years ago. 

There is an article on the wall that pays tribute to late Sue, recalls her artistic vision and captures the journey of Court Street Collection since its early days.

Though it’s a store, it doesn’t feel like a “commercial” space at all; may be because of Gloria’s artistic vision, and her warm nature. More about the store, the owner, and the artwork in later posts.