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.


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  2. Cool Ash. I like glass decorations too~especially fascinated by those glass and ceilings in cathedrals. They are so devine that i feel purified when i'm there~ps, good that you continue to post after the class.