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.


  1. Good job. I like the way you focused this part on the design process.

  2. Thanks! I think it's interesting to know about what goes on in an artist's mind . To me it's almost as intriguing as the the final product.