In preparing for the 2nd annual female flame off this year, I gave myself a challenging creative adventure. Flame offs are neat events! Usually, lamp workers compete in two hour time frames to create their best work. And then work is then entered into categories (like wearable, marble or functional) and winner of each category is determined by a panel of judges.
They’re great to attend! The crowd mostly consists of lampworkers and people excited by lampworking so the socializing and networking is exciting all on it’s own. In addition, watching the competitors work under pressure is great! It’s fun to watch the pieces come into being and watching the artists deal with the challenges of creating under pressure. Add competing in the flame off and the event becomes really exciting! And I am a competitor.
This leaves me, as a glass artist whose skill is in bead making, with interesting challenges. Beads are not often represented at flame offs. Mostly the artists create in boro and create work like goblets or marbles.
I’ll be doing what I know best, which is beads. However the idea of a bead, or a couple of beads just sitting on the table didn’t feel like a good representation of the artistic quality of beads among these larger works of glass. In terms of making a statement, it seems to me that a couple beads sitting on the table can’t annunciate very well. So I became determined to make a stand and two beads to sit on the stand.
Right away I envisioned a “U” shape on a pedestal with a bead sitting on each end of the “U”. The challenge was finding a way to hold that “U” up. I’m just learning to make proper goblet feet and they’re far from consistent. I would even call them wonky (the picture makes my foot-making attempts look far more graceful than in real life). And since I think a wonky stand would really take attention away from the beads, I quickly eliminated a traditional foot as a way to support the stand. (In fact it’s important to me that the stand take very little visual attention, even though it took almost all of my actual attention in preparation!)
To substitute for a foot I experimented with some other alternatives, include large weights and organic looking structures. In the past, I’ve sometimes pulled the top off of wineglasses and then the pulled the stems into a point as a way to support one bead at a time for bead shows, so for a little while I even thought about using pre-made wine glasses to create the stand. I thought I might remove the top and foot from one glass, bend the stem into a “U” and attach it to the foot of another glass. I even bought some wine glasses from the thrift store and tried to see what I could do but the glasses were too shocky and difficult to work with so I took it as a sign to get to work learning a way to make a stand myself, the hard way. I wasn’t about to give up on the stand, mind you. It is too important to the statement I want the beads to be able to make!
Finally, I thought about ways to use legs to form a base for the stand. And I pulled out the books to stock up on knowledge. (I turned to Contemporary Lampworking by Bandu Dunham and Glassblowing by Homer Hoyt.) What I came up with is a tripod design.
Nice and clean and simple, but required much skill building on my part. I was challenged by keeping the legs in an even tripod and getting the feet to sit level. I was challenged to get a nice wide, but still smooth “U” shape. I was challenged to find a way to attach the legs to the top and get the darn thing straight! I was challenged at almost every turn. And it was nice to feel my skills build. It took a little while to get the design and the process down. But after I felt I had the process down I started to time it. At the torch off I get 2 hours at the torch.
The first time I timed it the stand took an hour, which wouldn’t leave me enough time to make the two beads. So I repeated the process over and over until I was able to bring the process under 40 minutes (barely). And with the bead making that takes the entire process to just under 2 hours. I am writing this post before leaving for the flame off and asked Lori to post it after the competition, so currently I’m still unsure if 2 hours will be long enough I’ll have to check back in to let you know if I was able to get everything done. If I take longer, by the way, I’m disqualified from the competition. Bummer.