As many of you know, I've worked with and taught fused glass for many years now. I've worked with glass since the early 2000's and yet I still consider myself an apprentice. I'm constantly learning more about glass' unique qualities as a medium. And, of course, all the time I'm still trying to find my own voice as an artist.
In 2015 I was awarded a Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) grant to continue my professional development by working in the cold working studio at Corning Museum of Glass. One of my resulting pieces, "Seney", won an award at Delphi Glass's Annual Art Glass Festival. Together, with my students' feedback in the classes I teach at Salt Valley Arts, I'm finally beginning to feel like an advanced beginner in glass. And I can see ways where I can express my long-held artist's statement, "Finding art in the everyday, working in glass to reflect what I see." (see my previous glass site here)
But I've been struggling with how to be "green" with glass. Since my days as a librarian at Libbey-Owens-Ford, I know how glass is made and how colored glass, in particular, can require raw materials that are difficult to contain. Just in the last few years, the EPA has cracked down on the manufacturers of compatible fused glass in Oregon. Glass also lasts an incredibly long time. The Corning Museum is great at showcasing glass works that have survived hundreds of years ... but I'm far too humble to think that anything I'm making should be a representation of the art of our ages to future archeologists.
And so there are thetwin problems with "green" and "glass" - how it's produced and how it lives on. I began to increasingly feel a disconnect between my passion for environmental protection with my work in glass. I began to review the other mediums I've worked with and those I had not yet explored. Fiber, in all of its glorious varieties spoke to me..but how?
Then I took the trip to Churchill. And saw how, like other ecologically fragile landscapes, they had a significant issue with trash. Where do you put it where it won't harm the community and when you can't ship it elsewhere? In Churchill, open trash also means bears in town. Bad bears. And so they've gone to aggressive recycling and an enclosed waste facility to help with both the environment and with bear management. I hadn't expected to be so interested in this as a part of my trip. And it led to more thinking about how to express myself without adding to permanent trash. When I came home I continued to mull this over as I took lessons in weaving, and knitting, and felting - learning and feeling my way.
By early 2017, I realized that using wool to envision my landscapes had potential- either as standalone pieces or as a precursor to the work I would do in glass. Allowing me to test patterns and colors without generating waste glass.
I found an amazing artist and teacher, Jaana Mattson, and took a needle felting class with her in the Spring. The same weekend that I finished my Seney piece, needle felted in wool, I found out about my award at Delphi. Both pieces are from the same inspirational reference picture I'd taken years before in Michigan's Upper Penninsula. And I became more convinced that working in fiber, particularly needle felting, had an incredible potential for capturing the beauty of the world around me and translating it in an environmentally tolerable way.
Now the new year is coming upon us. I will participate in a craft show later this month where I will have some glass pieces as well as some of my new fiber work. And I continue to consider ways to create art that will bring focus to the fragility of the Arctic and make a positive difference. Right now, I see that as increasing awareness and raising funds for research. However I can. But I suspect it also means reducing my use of glass to very specific intent. There is always so much food for thought when we are creating.