Friday, May 11, 2007

The Hobby

My main hobby, aside from reading, is blowing glass. (links in the sidebar) Previously, I blew glass at MIT and exchanged teaching time for studio time. And I continued to take classes, and I made production pumpkins for the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch. For all the frustrations of using a communal student shop in a basement that shares space with blacksmiths, it was a sweet deal. I bought my own color supplies, but I could use all the shop tools if I could wrangle the time.

When I moved out to SoCal, it didn't matter that I'd been blowing glass since 1992, teaching since 1994, and really starting to figure out my artistic direction since 2003. I had no tools. I had no pipes. I had some color that needed restocking and a respirator from my sandblasting class. And pictures of me actually at the bench as my only proof. I needed to rent a space that was friendly and would let me use their supplies, but if I wanted to be serious about my glass I needed my own tools. I finally made the decision that I would stick with the glassblowing and try to get it to pay enough that I could keep doing it and bought these:

Glassblowing toolset

This was one of those cases where I had fretted about the expense forever, then once I spent the money I wondered why I hadn't bought my own tools years ago. It was so freeing to "have tools, will travel." It was partly money issues, partly decisiveness, and partly necessity. This lot here cost about a grand. I could easily have spent 3-4X that if I changed brands and went with Carlo Dona instead of Moore and it was tempting. The shop tools had been quality ones, if a little abused. (Ornaments sell for $18, studio rental is about $55/hr. You do the math.) But for now, this does what I need and I'm happy as heck about it.

With my new tools in hand, I found a nice little shop in El Segundo to use. The manager so far has let me use his student pipes, but I took the plunge this week and ordered six of my own. I also ordered some punties (solid rods) but I'm trying to get them on the cheap so I'm working through my friend's husband's stainless steel importing shop. I figure a rod of 316 is a rod of 316. I guess we'll figure out if I'm right or wrong shortly. But if it works out I should save about 50% or more which would make me happy.

I had a request to show some of what I make. I'm not done with my website. But I do have pictures of ornaments and pumpkins, my primary source of funding my hobby.

Here are my best ornaments from the previous few seasons (I learned, after a while, to save a good piece for myself every once in a while) in a design inspired by decorator TV.
glass ornaments hanging over mantle

I made several dozen ornaments last season, which ALL sold (except the two in the above pic). Gracious thanks goes to the online book club ladies for their support!
Ornaments laid out by size and color

Sometimes, though, the mojo deserts me and I get some wonky shapes:
Ornaments gone wrong

I like to put swirls in the glass to add interest:
Purple ornament closeup backlitBlue ornament closeup with flash

I can also make pumpkins:
Green and Orange stemmed clear pumpkins

It was several months after moving that I finally found out where to blow glass in SoCal. I had talked to an LA area artist at a street fair when I came out for my interview to confirm that there was hope in continuting. Finally getting back into the glassblowing studio was a turning point for me. After I moved out here I was living in a motel and didn't know anyone. I spent weekends going for long walks on the beach while reflecting on how I had no plans for the rest of my life; it was very disconcerting. I haven't felt that disconcerting sense of having no future since I found a studio and some other area artists, which was a nice affirmation of my choice to invest in and commit to my hobby.

This week was a week of shelling out more money, but I also got more orders (tickles pink, here), and I'm regaining my enthusiasm for finishing the website (more of that decisiveness). I'm hoping to keep some regular studio times going this summer and work my skills back into doing more figurative sculptures as I've got some ideas...


Anonymous said...

Pumpkins... 2...

And once Mom's sorority crew sees them.... :)

Just trying to keep you busy :)


Andrea said...

Me too Me too!!! I want 2 mother loves your stuff and I want to get her one too :)


Anonymous said...

Expensive hobbies are something I can relate too! Good for you for figuring out a way to fund something you would do for pleasure anyway. Glad you finally indulged in your own tools and that you're not suffering buyer's remorse over the decision.

I'll be emailing you about an order. :-)


CrankyOtter said...

I'm hoping to blow regularly this summer. Yes, all glassblowing terms sound dirty, "stick your pipe in the glory hole and flash it" is a legitimate training instruction.

Anyhow. There will be pumpkins this summer. I'll be ordering the texture (optic) molds this week, then I'll have all the supplies and just have to get a partner who stems. I'll let you know. I'd like to try to finish them up by early September.