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Visit with Jim – How do I pick my glass?

Today I will begin to share how the glass is picked for the macrophotography artwork that finds its way on to your walls.  I harken back to a trip to Murano Italy a few years ago where my wife and our boys were traveling.  We were in Venice and took a day trip to the famed island in one of those cool sleek wooden motoscafi boats.  Murano was brought to us courtesy of a wonderful friend Fiona Giusto @guideinvenice who is simply a fabulous guide.   We met at a glass foundry that had been operating for hundreds of years ensuring generations upon generations of family knowledge and expertise pass down for us to enjoy.  We chose three pieces of finished glass and I saw this pile of broken glass in the yard.  Everyone thought I was crazy, but I bought ~75kg of shattered glass, had it shipped to our home. The shards of glass are still in my studio – Poles Apart in Blue below center is an example of that glass. 

Another sweet spot for me to hunt are estate sales in rural and urban Virginia.  I continue to learn quite a bit about swung glass and the foundries in West Virginia that have produced beautiful glass for a very long time and have found their way in to rural Virginia.  We find some sweet deals at these sales and will often find ourselves wandering the countryside pickin’ in antique, goodwill and collectible shops.  Often it is more than one piece that catches my eye and find myself asking myself: what if I paired these two vases or glass decorations together?  I then start to hold them up to the light (sun or lamp) and look through them to see…  Is there that magic moment that lies within the one piece or both?  Do they ‘light up’? Is there a pattern, color or something within the two or three pieces that can be brought out in the studio in a more impactful and meaningful manner?  The ‘light up’ factor can be fiery reds and oranges, calming aquatic blues, teals and aqua or deep verdant greens. That ‘light up’ is an instant connection to the piece of glass.  That is where my science mind shifts over and artist takes over.  Or so I hope.  It is a free form unstructured emotional connection. It is very interesting for me. Be in the moment or  in that experience is a difficult place for me to stay.   Rather than be all analytical about the science, I am trying to learn to lean into, and open up my mind to another dimension.  It isn’t easy.  These two formulae make all the sense in the world to me.  Importantly, they do nothing to explain this instant connection – emotional response to the glass or photograph.  And so… we continue on. 


In this journey, I began to explore the net in order to understand.  Two scientists began to visualize the brain and create art that shows the structure in beautiful detail. Props to Dr. Greg Dunn and Dr. Brian Edwards for these amazing images.  Then I tried to begin to understand the neurochemistry underlying the experience.  There is a growing body of evidence that as people enter into an explosively creative period that will manifest as Parkinson’s Disease.  The research surrounds this burst of artistic creativity and that may become a watershed of insights into how the mind’s chemical milieu enable art to come forth. Similar research is digging into traumatic events, stroke events and similar brain injuries that change the self into this creative version.  Further props to Jon O. Lauring for the image below right that helps us understand the chemistry.  Note to self: see what is happening there?   Science mind is running roughshod over creative mind.  For me the good work here is about shifting my science minded self to move towards the more zen, accept being in the moment, experience and thinking.

So for example, the glass the created the Serenity photos have a lot more to give.  So much more that I recently found two more pieces of similar glass and bought them simply because I knew the behavior of the original glass was a good reference for these two new pieces.  There is a deep indigo blue glass jar with squared edges and a wide bottom vase.  A Jaramillo Brothers facial mask and many others.  There is no doubt in my mind what will become of these additional pieces of glass.  I get lost in the profoundly deep blue.  These are an amazing set of new objects to explore and be creative with.   To the right are some new glass pieces that will become photographic artwork.


After gently brushing away the intrusive distraction that is my science mind and allowing the mindful moment back to the centered focal point, how about we cover colors or the glass patterns?  For this I look deep into the glass to see how the light bends, twists and passes through bubbles and warps in the glass.  For the Serenity images, it was all about the curves and textures on the surface.  As you can see, the inky indigo does not allow much light to refract through the glass, but  it does reflect. Simply allowing the glass to behave with the light made the photos beautiful.  Graceful arcs, balanced whooshes, and gradients from the studio lights all come together.  

Then there is refraction, how the light passes through the glass.    We touched on this topic in more detail on the blog post  that focused on Art That Reflects and Connects – Fine Art Lens .  There is profound beauty in how we can bend light.  The shape of the glass seems to attract, funnel and move light out in specific and predictable patterns and directions.  By managing, dare I say playing, with the colors, directions and intensity of the light, the background and the crosscurrent of colors, undiscovered art simply appears.   It is that private moment of discovery that I crave and seek. Then joy follows as I develop the newly found treasure into a print and then share them with the world.  I can imagine that there is a scientific method and process that could be followed to select the glass, but I would rather stay in the less analytical approach.   Pick up the glass, rotate it against a source of bright light, move it against colors in the background to get a sense of what can happen.  This approach feels simpler and seems to tap into something that, at present, not a quantifiable algorithm, spreadsheet or structured study.  If it simply works, then buy it and move ahead.  There are some glass manufacturers and artists that are solid bets including Kosta Boda, Murano and Chihuly.  I would deeply enjoy finding glass from Liskova, Mishima, Tagliapietra to name a few masterful artisans, Whose glass do you enjoy and why?

While I was thinking about this paragraph and did some quick Google searching to understand. I came across scholarly articles about the psychology of art, research around the topic of how our brain releases neurochemicals when …  STOP.   Back to the other side … re-enter creative brain.    Perhaps this is the most surprising insight into the moment of inspiration. Allowing oneself to not understand, but perhaps simply accept.  The moment.   The inspiration.  The emotion. This may be a strong undercurrent for me to practice redirecting.  Pushing back in the moment, the now and enjoy. 

For me, that is the challenging work within the world of art.  Avoid the science.  Avoid the rationalization.  Avoid the engineering.  Accept the moments of bliss.  The moments of joy that we receive AND, more importantly, the moments of joy that we can impart.  Sharing those out to those around us creates waves and ripples.  Legacies that sustain beyond our lives. So to close out this post, we must look beyond ourselves, our craft, our intentions and create joy.  Create a sense of happiness and optimism that can spread to others.  Otherwise, what is the point?

I hope and trust you have a restful and energizing extended weekend.  Be well, be safe, be healthy in all their dimensions. 

Join me in a fireside chat via Zoom in the evening to discuss any aspect of my artwork.  To qualify, and join a video conversation send your contact information here and let me know what you would want to talk about.  The selected participants will receive a 25% discount on any of my unlimited edition pieces of art.  I will personally sign the piece at printing.  Even more, the gallery is offering this purchase risk free for you. Free shipping, Free return, and no questions asked if you are unhappy with the art work.  You can keep the print for 30 days to enjoy the selection in your home or office. This risk free offer does not apply to metal, acrylic and other specialized media prints.





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