Most of my summers as a child were spent with my French grandparents in a small village, Le Cannet, in the south of France. While it sounds idyllic, I sought to escape the walls of the villa everyday to hang out with the village artisans that had working studios down in the village.
I discovered my love for creating in the studio cave of a sweet potter. Then I discovered a glass foundry in the village, Biot, where I would spend hours lost in the miraculous dance of the furnace workers. Each had their role, meticulously practiced, fluid with a red glowing honey fiery substance, easy camaraderie with their work and making the most spectacular things out seemingly nothing. I was entranced and I often wished I could be one of the team, joining in the dance of glass.
Next I discovered Gordon, a small medieval village perched on the edge of a cliff high in the mountains. Driving there was never pleasant – all those mountain curves and terrifying tunnels – but oh was it worth the trip. Gordon is chock full of artisans and working studios all crammed together with villagers, cheese makers and pastry shops.
Gordon had their own village glass flame worker. His bench was set up in full view of the street and he was surrounded by thousands of his little glass creations. From apples to zebras, he could and did make everything. My family explore the rest of the town while I promised to stay and quietly watch this man work. I was in heaven. I started my collection of little glass animals when I was four and made sure to visit every year until my summer visits ended in my 20s.
Flash forward 10 years and I had turned my crafty interests to jewelry making. One day a friend brought me glass beads from Bullseye. I was entranced and wondered if I could figure out how to make these myself? Amazingly enough, a google search that morning brought me to Deanna Griffin Dove, who not only lived around the corner from me but was teaching a beginning class that very night with only two open spots left. My very first bead on a hot head literally brought me to tears of joy. I remember turning to my friend, smiling and saying “I think I finally found my happy place and it’s gonna cost my husband a lot of money. I’m turning the guest room into my studio.”
I studied with Deanna for three more years, even taking weekly private lessons at her home for two years after she quit teaching at Spruill. Through my friendship with Maureen and Lance McRorie at Flametree Glass in Roswell, Georgia, I was introduced to Loren Stump and proceeded to take every class I could whenever he came in to town. I’ve also taken courses from Stephanie Sercish and Melanie Mortel.
Throughout the rest of my life, glass has always been my happy place. My skills at the torch are driven by my desire to improve – to make what I envision in my head and to translate that into a special treasured piece of art. I am at one with that flame and feel at peace the most when I see improvement and growth in my abilities. I blow soft glass vessels using only rods of COE 104 color at a flame working torch, the GTT Sidewinder. I use a steel blow pipe, Igor Balbi style, adding many many layers and twists of color. The final gather ends up quite large, sometimes too large for my 3 inch marble mold. The largest of these vessels can be 16 inches round and 10 inches tall.
I make lighted lamps with these vessels by placing a led light inside and wiring it to common us household current. I can modify for EU if needed. The vessels are either mounted to a metal base or a piece of driftwood that I collect along the banks of the French Broad river. While I might attain similar outcomes and shapes using borosilicate or furnace work, on the torch with COE 104, I maintain a closer contact with my material in real time and have a greater variety of colors available.