All you have to do is play and you will discover wondrous things. That’s how I discovered what you are seeing in these photographs. In year one of grad school I had no idea what I was going to end up doing so I just played and experimented with everything I had around me. I did have a few underlying wants and limitations that pushed me in this direction though. First, I have always wanted to work with glass since I was a little girl because my 2nd cousin was a phenomenal glass artist. I remember we had a piece of his that was a rainbow with two clouds and wind chimes hanging in our kitchen window. Apparently this had a very big impact on my art, because every medium I have ever touched, including digital 3D rendering, shares many of the enchanting qualities of stained glass. Funny enough, I actually got a grant to start glass blowing in grad school, but tore a tendon in my leg at the same time and couldn’t meet the physical demands that this activity required. Fortunately this limitation led to me creating what I call my ‘cells’. I call them cells because each round disc that has a center reminds me of a cell and I am kind of obsessed with biological forms. When I build with the cells to create a larger sculpture I call it a ‘synthetic organism’.
(The cells before they are dry. Everybody says they remind them of candy dots!)
So how did I discover this material through play? Because of my love of glass I am attracted to any and all materials that are translucent, transparent, colorful, and have the ability to be layered. There was a lot of glue laying around my studio so somehow I just started drawing with it. I remember that I would usually draw detailed biological forms with the glue. At around the same time I was exploring how to get people to interact and get involved in the art making process. I would draw on the ground with the dyed glue and invite people to peel the drawings off the ground and place them on a blank wall. Watching these glue drawings transform from a 2D material into a 3D material when it was peeled off the floor was also very inspiring.
(A couple larger pieces hanging out on my sliding glass door while I was preparing to install on the windows of the UICA in Grand Rapids)
On the day my cells were first made, I was trying out a new material and drawing the same kind of complex biological forms and then the idea to just make a dot struck me out of nowhere. You see, I always used to overcomplicate things and my art was incredibly packed with hand drawn detail. I had no clue how a dot was going to be interesting at all, but I just went with it. The next day when I came back to see how everything dried I immediately went for the more interesting forms, but when I finally peeled that simple dot up and held it in my hand a rush of ideas came a pourin’ in! From then on I poured my attention into what I now call my ‘cells’ and slowly they evolved from ‘2D’ drawings into the big beautiful glass-like synthetic organisms that they are today.
(Detail from window at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art)
Since then I have covered museum windows with them, made a large diorama for the International Auto Show, and installed sculptures made with them in medical centers. Now I am putting this zen, easy to build with, and might I say enchanting material into your hands.
(Detail from the windows at the UICA)
(Bioscape diorama at the International Auto Show in the Lincoln Pavilion)
At the Art Star Craft Bazaar on Mother’s Day weekend I am so incredibly excited to share the joy of making these sculptures that have almost all the beauty of glass without all the heat and years of practice! What a better gift for your mom than to be able to do something she surely has not seen or done before! It is so simple to do, all you have to be able to do is press your thumb and your forefinger together! And once you make your piece you can stick it on any surface that the sun shines through and watch it illuminate! I will also be hosting Zen Glass (what I am currently calling this workshop) and Color Flow workshops out of JJL Studios at the 1241 Carpenter building throughout the summer where you can come in and build larger pieces and maybe even a chandelier! If you sign up for our mailing list at this event you will get a discount on our future workshops and also be the first one to know about them!
Click here to watch a timelapse video of me making a synthetic organism.