My life turned a corner forever when I decided my kitchen could use a tile mural. I didn't just want a mass produced one, I was looking for a real hand-painted piece, preferably European. After researching the cost, however, I was better served spending that income figuring out how to do it myself, and with no art experience, I ordered a few colors of china paint and sat down with a blank tile and a set of instructions gleaned off the internet. I still remember that first brush stroke; it was creamy smooth against the cool slick ceramic surface. Practice over the next few months started producing better results as I had a local doll shop owner fire the first crude renderings. I soon purchased a kiln to do my own firings and my house was steadily filling with numerous supplies. The conference for the International Porcelain Artists and teachers was meeting in Los Angeles that year and I was excited about attending my first big art event. It was that same conference which also led me to the next major turn in my life- I was introduced to glass. I began to apply glass to my porcelain art but soon realized that I preferred the look of the glass by itself. The first few solo experiments consisted of some old window glass, dichroic bits and copper sheet stored in my garage. Again, I found a tutorial online to act as both teacher and guide. I quickly discovered that the supplies I used for porcelain decorating worked just as well on glass. As I straddled the worlds between porcelain and glass, I became increasingly aware that the practitioners of either discipline rarely interacted, so I dicided to experiment with cross-over
techniques from porcelain to glass.
Probably the most successful cross-over technique lay in the use of Roman gold, a thick brown binder that burns off in the kiln to leave a layer of twenty-four Karat gold that must then be polished. The glass took the gold beautifully and I began adding it as accents as well as internal components in my work. My gold series (AU~) was a direct result of these experiments and the gold-encased dichroic glass became windows into another colorful dimension. The glass even retained the cool, smooth feel of the gold. Also, since I used harder borosilicate (Pyrex) glass, I was able to work all sides of the piece instead of just one side as found in most kiln work.
Feeling a need to enhance the presentation of my increasingly complicated focal pieces, I began to bead, with internet tutorials laid out before me and a beading needle in my hand. As I started weaving my first circular peyote stitch, patterns began to emerge. I mixed varying sized seed beads and Swarovski crystals for texture and became hopelessly hooked to the whole beading concept. The serpentine patterns of beads as well as the gently gradated colors now became an extension of the glasswork and added a new dimension to the designs.
In 2004 I attended the Glass Art Society's annual conference in New Orleans and there met some fantastic jewelry artists like Kate Fowle Meleney and Thomas Mann. While browsing Mann's Gallery I/O, I spied a type of glass I had not seen before. It was a pendant bead by glass artist Mary Ann Babula. Unlike the fused work to which I had grown accustomed, it was optically clear with impeccably clean lines not seen in standard kiln work. I obsessed and pondered over how this was accomplished for two days as I trod the city's French Quarter in the sticky spring weather. Luckily, the conference vendors listened to my questions and provided the answer. I was introduced to glass laminating and dove staight into the world of compound mixing and machine lapping. The laminating process requires no kiln at all and is known as "cold" work. This technique fascinated me and I just could not get enough of the amazing shapes and facets that formed beneath my hands on the flat lapping machine. The dichroic-coated glass resembled fiery diamonds as it went through its succession of finer and finer grindings with a final cerium oxide polish. I even devised my own faceting guides out of Lucite to replicate the traditional stone cuts of gem artists. now there was yet another canvas to decorate, and I did so with the aid of my new vinyl cutting machine and tabletop blaster.
The most recent turn in my journey is in the form of glass frits (crushed glass) and powders. I decided to try a more painterly approach to glass and , indeed, discovered that china paints work well on glass; but I wanted to apply this to a solely vitreous medium. On their own, glass powders can be difficult to control for representational work, eespecially if one wishes to make thicker pieces. Lampworkers do this all the time and that is how we get murrine. But what are kiln-formers to do? We can surround the glass in the kiln to maintain a basic shape; but I wanted to do more than that, namely, an entire distinct design that carries through the thickness of the glass, like a sort of glass cloisonne. I developed the process by combining previously fused elements with power and frit fillers. Fused elements act as the "walls" to hold the powders in place and this in turn keeps the design crisp and distinct.
I will use any tool, machine or object that I can find to manipulate my glass creations, and often remind myself not to limit my browsing to glass and jewelry suppliers. Many hours are spent purposefully scouring my garage, craft and antique stores, second-hand shops, hardware stores, even stationary shops for new ways to think outside the box.
I thrive on visiting as many fine art fairs as possible just for the opportunity to see other artists' works and speak with them about their craft. Every new contact or experience adds to my well of knowledge which I draw upon for inspiration- and that well runs deep from years of personal travel and observation.
Art to me is texture, color and form coupled with a story that binds it all together. Whether it be stalks of barley bending gently in the breeze in the Cotswolds of England or the gradated sapphire hues of a Southern California twilight, these images are impressed upon my mind and all claim their influence in my artwork.
Copyright © 2019 Dolores Barrett Glass Artistry - All Rights Reserved.