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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mandala and Cave Painting Workshop with Richard La Londe

Ebey Landing, Whidbey Island
Ebey Landing, Whidbey Island
In mid-September I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Richard La Londe at his studio on Whidbey Island. The workshop was entitled, "Advanced Mandala and Cave Painting". The main focus of the workshop was to design, create, and mount a fused glass mandala. Three different methods were used in the creation of the piece, which centered around Richard's liquid glass line technique.

While we were all there to explore a new technique, learning from an instructor in their own studio is about a lot more than the technique. Richard started working with fused glass in the 1980s, at the inception of the studio glass movement. He has been there "since the beginning", which in the fused glass world translates to a time before there was compatible glass or widespread availability of kilns and other tools. When you are working with an artist in their own environment, you benefit from their years of experience and get a glimpse into what inspires the artist to create their work. You take away a lot more from the workshop than a new technique to add to your skillset.

Day 1

Mandala design layout, Dana Worley
Mandala design layout, Dana Worley
The first morning began with a discussion on mandala definition, examples, layout, and design. By mid-morning we were armed with information and got down to work with our pens and paper to create our design.

By the end of the day, we had done the prep work for the corner tiles for our mandalas and the center of our panels were ready for the kiln.

Center tile, almost ready for the kiln
Center tile, almost ready for the kiln

Day 2

Most of our studio time on day 2 was spent creating the tiles for the outer edges. These tiles used a similar, but different, technique than was used to create the center panel for the mandala. Mid afternoon we took a break from the studio for a tour and discussion of Richard's collections of work by other artists and his personal artwork.

By the end of the day, the kilns were filled with a second firing on our center tiles and the firing for our border tiles.


Richard, explaining some of his work
Richard, explaining some of his work

Day 3

On day 3, we opened the kiln to the fired center tiles, and a kiln full of colorful border tiles. These border tiles were beautiful enough to stand on their own.

Border tiles for mandalas
Border tiles for mandalas
Our studio work for the day included getting our corner tiles ready for the kiln, and learning about and fabricating our mounting systems for the two pieces we would be creating in the workshop. But the real treat on day 3 was our "extra curricular" activities in the afternoon and evening.

Gallery Tour

In late afternoon we headed off on the gallery tour that Richard had arranged for us. Our first stop was Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farms, where we saw Rob's work, and the work of glass artists Rob Adamson, Katrina Hude, and Steph Mader, as well as other artists. Rob describes himself as a Magic Realist Painter. Check out his work on his Gallery website (link below). His work is mesmerizing.

Colorful glass flowers at Island Art Glass
Colorful glass flowers
at Island Art Glass.
After visiting Rob's gallery and the small shops at Greenbank Farms, we found ourselves at Island Art Glass, the gallery of Rob Adamson and Janis Swalwell. In addition to meeting Rob and seeing the lovely work in his gallery, we had the pleasure of meeting glassblower Fritz Dreisbach. Back in Fritz's workshop, he captivated us with stories about his past and present work, including a collection of trick glasses he has studied and created over the years.

Later in the evening, as the group gathered at Richard's house for pizza and conversation, Fritz joined us for dinner and continued the tales of his years working with glass and some of the history of the studio glass movement.

ritz Dreisbach entertains the group with one of his trick glasses.
Fritz Dreisbach entertains the group with
one of his trick glasses. 









Getting ready to go off the high dive, or taking a picture. I'm not sure...
Getting ready to go off the
high dive, or taking a picture.
I'm not sure...

Day 4

On day 4 we finished our mandalas by securing them to our mounting system, and then learned an additional technique which we used to create primitive "cave paintings".

Once the cave paintings were in the kiln, the group gathered to take pictures of our finished mandala pieces. This exercise consisted of the "do not try this at home" warning, as Richard attempted to get a photograph of all the beautiful mandalas assembled in the drive.





Pole carving, Rosario Beach
Pole carving, Rosario Beach


There's always a bit of sadness when it's time to wrap up a workshop and head for home, after spending several days immersed in learning, creating, and sharing experiences with other artists. While all of us used the same techniques for our mandalas, each creation was unique in its color and design, expressing the uniqueness of each of us as individuals. The experience of learning from an artist whose work you admire, hearing stories from those who have devoted their lives to an art form that is your passion, and sharing your passion with others is priceless. And experiencing all of this in an environment as beautiful and inspiring as Whidbey Island is beyond words.

Dana




Dana Worley, finished mandala
Here I am with my finished mandala.
Let's just say I was meditating!



Note: The talented Di Faria assisted Richard in this September workshop. What a treat to have the expertise of another great artist! Thanks, Di!




Resources: 

Richard La Londe offers workshops at his home studio (check his web site http://richardlalonde.com/ for the schedule), as well as on-site at other studios. Upcoming classes include D&L Art Glass http://www.dlartglass.com/education/schedule, and Paul Tarlow's Helios Glass Studio http://heliosglass.com/classes.htm#visiting.

Check out Richard's book http://richardlalonde.com/books/ for a history on glass, more about Richard, and detailed information on his techniques, molds, and other equipment.

Rob Schouten Gallery web site, http://www.robschoutengallery.com/

Rob Adamson's Island Art Glass Studio http://www.whidbeyworkingartists.com/island-art-glass.html

Fritz Dreisbach web sitehttp://www.fritzdreisbach.com/

Di Faria web sitehttp://difaria.com/

Want to learn more about fusing? 

Check out Bullseye's On-Line Educational Videos! (small subscription fee required)
Click here to learn more!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Visiting Murano

Picturesque Murano, Italy
Picturesque Murano, Italy

This summer we had the opportunity to visit Italy. We spent a few days in Rome, toured the Tuscan countryside, and ended our trip in Venice.

For a glass artist, no trip to Italy would be complete without making a pilgrimage to Murano. And so on a beautiful July day, we hopped on one of the passenger boats to make the short journey from the Grand Canal to the island of Murano.

Just off the boat we found a shop with an artist working on-site. The artist was making items that were then sold in the shop, and of course, the intent of the "factory tour" was to eventually route you through the shop in case you were inspired to purchase glass. There were many, many shops in both Venice and Murano selling glass. I soon concluded that the items I could afford I could just as easily make myself (there were many fused platters similar to what I and many artists I know make). The items I loved were the ones I couldn't make myself but also couldn't afford!

In one of the squares in town, stands an impressive piece of work by Simone Cenedese.


Glass Sculpture in the distance.
By Simone Cenedese























Down one of the many cobbled streets on the island, we were lucky enough to stumble across one of the glass masters, Andrea Tagliapietra, hard at work in his hot shop. In the second picture below, Andrea is on the left, with an assistant on the right who is also the person in the bottom photo (I don't know the assistant's name). There was also a third gentlemen helping them. Watching their process was mesmerizing, as they moved methodically from the crucibles, to the torch, to the ovens, and back again, in what seemed to be a well-choreographed, and well-rehearsed, dance.

Andrea Tagliapietra glass artist

Andrea Tagliapietra glass artist

Andrea Tagliapietra glass artist














After my visit to Venice and Murano, as I thought of all the beautiful glass, I tried to decide what I liked about the pieces I was drawn to. I think some of the qualities that intrigued me were translucency, texture, and of course, the play of light on the pieces. I think texture is one of the qualities I am finding myself drawn most to, and I hope to find ways to include more of it into my work.

While I didn't leave Murano and Venice with a piece of "keepsake glass", I did bring home inspiration and ideas for further exploration in my own work. And that, as the cliche' goes, is priceless.

Happy glassing!
Dana