Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Directions & Old Via Train

Things are finally setting down after a visit with my mother in Pittsburgh who is still recovering from surgery. My mother-in-law passed away in November and on top of that I had been working two full time jobs. It was a crazy four months, but I couldn't pass up the consulting money, and of course, I couldn't cancel my classes. I'm not the best juggler of time, but I managed. The worst of it was driving to a stained glass class, then realizing I didn't have any glass cutters with me! Thank god for your local True Value!

Anyway... The train gives you a lot of time to think and relax, and it was a very relaxing trip. Not only was I on a journey to Pittsburgh, but I also formally began my journey with enameling. I spent most of my time studying from magazines and books. I'm attracted to the media by the type of detailing it offers which glass fusing does not. I'm already envisioning large fused glass panels with enameled details added.

This is going to be an involved creative journey. Enameling is in many respects more complex than glass fusing, because of the addition of metalsmithing. It will take several years of exploring before I create something substantial. There are a lot of skills, tools, and materials to master. It will be a perfect complement to fusing, expanding my visual vocabulary immensely. I've been working with copper in my fusing panels and mica along with gold and silver in my torchwork. Enameling will enable me to create detailed work with metal and glass which has so far eluded me. The closest I've come is the detail found in my Metal Marbles which are created by adding gold, silver, copper, and raw oxides while torchworking glass.

The image above is from a coal energy plant outside of Chicago - beautiful poison going into the air 24/7. I thought I might stop off at the Art Institute during my Chicago layover, but it was just too cold to be running around. Besides I had my camera and with so little time I'd rather create my own images.

Union Station was my target. It was a great overcast day and the aged glass ceiling gave me the perfect lighting conditions. Well, kind of. My lenses aren't the fastest so I had to shoot with ISOs above 3200. On my Nikon D2x they have low light settings called H1 and H2 which are somewhere around ISO 6400 or so. The images are typically very noisy and not useful for much, but I ran the files through Topaz DeNoise and it creates something usable for the type of look I'm after. Other Topaz filters smooth out the images even further in the process of abstracting them. Union Station was a nice diversion for the couple of hours that I had between trains. I could probably shoot that building for several days.

Heading to Pittsburgh has always been like a journey into the past. Jean and I have lived in Minnesota for over twenty years, and I really haven't continually lived in Pittsburgh since the seventies. During the trip however I focused a lot on the future, because we have recently decided to move from Minnesota. The hours passed  and  the train gently rocked and swayed as thoughts of starting someplace anew mingled with images of glass designs.

While in Pittsburgh I spent some time with my niece who is starting her first semester in college. She's not sure what to major in and I can relate to that, because I'm not exactly sure what skills will match up with what opportunity for me when we move. I hope to solidify something, but I'm also OK with moving and  letting circumstances take me down a totally new path.

It's kind of like being a freshmen again. I might even go back to school. Not so much for another degree though. One thing for sure I will will not be able to do the Have Kiln Will Travel escapades. We are planning to move to a small community which because of its size would not support that type of teaching adventure. I currently teach in over 30 different adult programs and art centers.

I would like to get involved on some level teaching glass, but I'm not sure what the format will be. Teaching took over my life in the last year. Designing and refining classes replaced the goals I set out for Designs For Good. But that's OK. The last year has given me a solid new skill. How it will be applied I'll leave open for now.

The image above was shot in the old US Steel building downtown Pittsburgh. Like the reflection of me I feel neither here nor there. The past is past and the future undefined, and that's exciting.

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