Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Borocurious: A soft glass artist's week-long journey into the "dark side"

Borosilicate.  Pyrex.  Boro.  Hard glass.  All words to describe glass used for extremely durable and often functional items.  Glass that works.  Sculptural glass.  Glass that takes a big torch to melt.  Glass that is not for the faint of heart.  I am just back from a week-long immersive class in this glass with Rashan Jones from High Desert Flameworks in Albuquerque, and my mind is blown.

High Desert Flameworks.  Near Old Town in Albuquerque.

Some of Rashan Jones' exquisite glass.
When I heard my friends Joy Munshower and Kim Edwards mention that they had convinced Rashan to share his knowledge in a private class designed for experienced flameworkers, I knew it was something I had to do.  Bead ladies who work in soft glass sometimes call boro the "dark side", but who's to say whether one or the other is best?  Truth be told, I'm pretty sure that artists in both mediums are in awe of the skills the other side has, and this class was a chance to see how well our existing soft glass skills transferred over.  Rashan is well known and beloved to the flameworking community, and was already a friend and colleage in the bead show trade as well as the International Society of Glass Beadmakers.  I knew he would put together an informative, fun class and he well exceeded my expectations.

Rashan explaining the intricacies of working with borosilicate tubing.
For an entire week we learned how to manipulate not only boro rod, but also boro tubing an inch in diameter with walls 4mm thick.  We learned how forgiving the glass is of thermal changes (something our own soft glass is not), and also learned where it is finicky.  He demonstrated how to fuse smaller tube collars onto larger diameter tube to ultimately create wine and shot glasses, and we learned humility.  He showed us how to make implosions and compressions to create realistic looking flowers under glass lenses, and we learned to imagine an inside-out world.   We were exposed to new colors, and shapes, and techniques for coaxing this durable glass into what we wanted to make, and our visions were broadened.

Justin and Ashleigh were also great instructors!

And Rashan thought of everything.  He invited some of his boro specialist colleagues (Justin Case and Ashleigh Davies) to give demos.  He ensured each of us got what we needed from the class.  He arranged for catered lunches by Conchita's Creations (OMG, YUMMsville).  He offered to connect us with suppliers, and he shared his family, home and food with us. And he knew exactly when encouragement and praise were needed, and when to stand back and let us try to swim.

What did we make?  Well, I had no preconceived notions of desired end products and was happy to execute each homework assignment for the lessons they contained.  I now have a couple of shot glasses only a maker could love, several wine glasses with implosions for stems, a vortex marble, several pipes (which will happily go into a drawer somewhere until I find someone who might have a need for them more than me), and a couple of pendants.  Oh yes, and a very full heart and stimulated brain.  And interestingly, even though many soft glass bead ladies make beads from boro, not a single bead was made this entire week.  Imagine.  And I was perfectly fine with that.

I don't yet know where this new knowledge will take me, but I rarely do when I delve into a parallel universe for inspiration, so hang on.  I'll figure it out eventually.  Meanwhile, if you're a soft glass beadmaker and at all borocurious, I highly recommend you speak with Mr. Jones.  He's been expecting you.


Sharon Driscoll said...

Oh boy - how I'd of loved to have been there! I haven't tried to pull points in years but I've lusted to turn "dark" for awhile now. LOL - it's like taking a walk on the wild side. It sounds like you had fun.

Jones said...

It was so amazing! Thanks for coming down Patty!

Marcia DeCoster said...

So happy of you that you got to have that experience, what a treat when a master takes their time to share.


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