Inside a Glassblower’s Studio

We met glass artist Richard S. Jones at his workspace, Studio Paran, where he both creates and displays an array of his handcrafted glass art. Studio Paran is located on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin, in the fittingly artistic neighborhood of Schenk’s Corners. As we entered, we gathered around the focal point of his studio—the hot and fiery furnace, or “glory hole,” as it is called in the glassblowing world. The glory hole is instrumental in the glassblowing process; it is used to reheat the glass to ensure that it stays malleable for reshaping.

The furnace, or glory hole, is a central feature of Jones’ glassblowing studio.

Jones’ passion for art developed at a young age when he began taking drawing lessons from a neighbor in his hometown. He later went on to earn a BFA in glass from the Rhode Island School of Design. Throughout the years, Richard has worked for and collaborated with many different artists, eventually joining other artists who worked at Studio Paran in Madison. In 2006, after working at Studio Paran for several years, he took full ownership of the studio.

The entrance to Studio Paran, Jones’ workspace.

Richard S. Jones and his assistant, Sam, typically work nine to five, Monday through Friday, blowing glass as demand requires. Richard and Sam have worked together for two years, which contributes to their seamless and almost choreographed glassblowing routine. It turns out that the secret behind glassblowing is repetition, repetition, repetition.

Jones and his assistant, Sam, work together to create each piece.

Jones and his assistant, Sam, work together to create each piece.

 

Jones shapes a glass vase.

There was a balance and synchronicity in their exchanges and transitions as they shaped the glass from molten orb to vase. We stood watching the two artists in action, mesmerized by the glassblowing duo as if watching a pair of ballroom dancers tango before us. The two worked in silence, evoking a sense of peacefulness and tranquility. To me, this seemed to speak to Richard’s use of the artistic process as a meditative practice.

Jones holds a blowpipe glowing with molten glass.

Blowpipes heat up in the pipe warmer before being used.

Despite what appears to be a seamless process to the outside eye, Richard believes that there is always room for improvement. He shared with us his plans for developing a new color palette as well as his recent exploration of an entirely new style of work. This is all evidence of the fact that Richard S. Jones is an artist dedicated to lifelong learning and continuous growth. We left Studio Paran with a deeper understanding of the artist behind the artwork; ultimately feeling a stronger connection to the pieces we encounter and share with customers on a daily basis.

Richard S. Jones uses shears and other tools to cut and shape his work.

Richard S. Jones uses shears and other tools to cut and shape his work.

By |April 25th, 2016|spotlights|0 Comments

Please DO touch the art! The virtues of fine craft & functional art

When we think of art, many of us think of work like paintings and sculpture—pieces that are hung on a wall or placed on a pedestal, meant to be seen but not touched.

But what about chairs? Spoons? Sinks? Utilitarian objects such as these may not immediately seem like art, but they often are—especially when they are created by hand with the great skill and imagination of an artist.

In recent history, there have been heated debates about the differences between “art”—work like paintings and sculptures, meant to convey ideas and elicit emotions rather than serve a purpose—and “craft”—work like baskets and teapots, meant primarily to be functional. This division tends to denigrate craft, implying that its focus on utility makes it inferior to the supposedly more idea-oriented realm of art.

This, of course, completely ignores the rich philosophical, emotional, and aesthetic substance of craft—not to mention the fact that the worlds of art and craft have significant overlap. Though there are differences between, say, Picasso’s Guernica and a tea bowl by Shoji Hamada, judging the cultural or aesthetic value of one over the other does them both a disservice.

I believe that art and craft are fundamentally expressions of the same thing: human imagination and ingenuity; our desire to communicate through color, line, and form; our ability to create objects that are beautiful, useful, or both.

Fortunately, we live in a time in which craft disciplines—from ceramics and glassblowing to woodworking and textiles—are recognized and celebrated as they should be. From the groundbreaking Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. to the influential American Craft magazine, there are countless museums, publications, shows, and schools dedicated to craft. Hundreds of artists working in these disciplines prove that a chair or a lamp can be just as remarkable and culturally significant as a sculpture. Fine craft is more and more understood as the incredibly rich area of creativity and innovation that it always has been.

Additionally, many artists create work that deliberately blurs the boundaries between art and craft, beauty and function. This piece by David Patchen could hold a bouquet of roses, but it is intended more as an exploration of color and form, using the vessel shape for its aesthetic qualities. Works of art such as Tripot by Clifford Lounsbury are deliberately nonfunctional—subverting our expectations and making a statement about the very concept of usefulness.

Not only do artists blur the boundaries between “art” and “craft,” they often blur the boundaries between the traditional and the experimental. Each craft discipline has a fertile history of techniques and traditions from around the world. Artists draw upon this history, mastering time-honored techniques and exploring traditional forms and ideas, all while developing innovative new techniques and expressing contemporary ideas. This might include anything from jewelry created using 3-D printing to tables crafted from upcycled street signs.

This blurring of boundaries is one of the things I find so exciting about these kinds of work—no matter how they’re categorized. The artists creating this work prove that combining the old and the new, the traditional and the experimental, the functional and the beautiful, can create dazzlingly imaginative results.

Furthermore, these artists prove that functional work is valuable for its own sake—that precisely because a bowl or a quilt becomes an intimate part of someone’s life, it can be even more storied and meaningful than it otherwise would. Craft artists prove that creative expression is not limited to any one school, discipline, or philosophy—and that artwork that provides usefulness as well as beauty is just as significant as artwork that we admire on the wall or pedestal.

 

By |April 14th, 2016|articles|1 Comment

Spring 2016 Trends: Diaphanous Layers

Although we would never classify our point of view as “trend-driven,” as we worked with designers to create our Spring 2016 Collection, we found that there were a few themes which repeated themselves. One that we are especially excited about is the use of diaphanous layers.

This season, many designers are playing with sheer fabrics and layering to create breezy, flowing shapes and silhouettes. While celebrities may enjoy baring it all, our take on sheer is not nearly so risqué, yet celebrates illusion. Here are several pieces from our Spring 2016 Collection that embody this trend beautifully.

Reverb Dress
This piece is a perfect example of throw-it-on-and-go style. The sheer fabric is light, inspiring a bit of hip-swinging while wearing. We pair it with a tank top and leggings or a slip dress so that we feel covered yet captivating.

Silk Bubble Gauze Swallowtail Top
This intriguing top is a wonderful use of sheer fabric and dynamic patternwork. Silk gauze is, as its name implies, gauzy, yet the slight crinkle in the fabric plays tricks with the actual sheerness.

Orbit Sweater
Knit in a cotton blend, this airy piece brings the sheer trend to a sweater. It is perfect for a warm day turned cooler, creating a solution to the oxymoron of a “summer sweater” to wear over a tank or cami.

Jode Dress
We love so many things about this dress: the crinkled mesh outer layer, the built-in crinkled tissue jersey inner layer, and the sleeves, which are sheer, yet cover our arms. It swings while you walk and feels great against the skin.

The bottom line is that sheer fabrics offer a light feeling, a little bit of sexiness, and a great weight for spring. We are thrilled to see this trend from so many designers this season.

By |March 28th, 2016|articles|1 Comment

In the Studio with Richard Judd

On a recent trip with the Artful Home staff, I was privileged to visit the studio of Richard Judd, a furniture designer inspired by Zen Buddhism.

Richard Judd’s Enso Mirror, Long Arc Shelf, and Spring Table on display in his gallery.

Using innovative techniques and tools like vacuum pumps and heated blankets, Judd reveals his engineering background in everything he does in the studio. He combines these modern techniques with the ancient principles of Buddhism, allowing him to design pieces that possess an effortless flow and meditative tranquility. The way he worked with each piece and moved through his studio illustrated to us how deeply ingrained these principles are in his everyday process.

Richard Judd demonstrates the use of the vacuum-press technique while working on a Catalan End Table

Richard Judd demonstrates the use of the vacuum-press technique while working on a Catalan End Table.

Judd uses pliable wood boards to create his furniture.

Judd and his two-person staff create every piece with a dedication to detail and a passion for excellence.  Like a fine-tuned machine, the team members work together seamlessly, creating together with effortless precision and balanced roles. One person rolls the glue while the other lays out the pliable wooden boards, and then they come together to add the pressure, turning multiple working parts into a cohesive whole.

Judd and his team work together in every step of the process.

Judd and his team work together in every step of the process.

I was struck by Judd’s remarkable ingenuity in transforming a small workspace into a fully functional studio capable of supporting many projects at once. He utilizes tools of his own invention to create smooth textures and ensure the finest quality. His love for his craft bubbles into his commentary about his process, and it was clear to me throughout the tour that Judd places a great deal of his own personality and passion into his work.

Judd works on the base of a Spiral Coffee Table.

Judd works on the base of a Spiral Coffee Table.

I was enamored with Judd’s friendly charm and welcoming attitude, and very thankful for the opportunity to visit such an incredible and innovative artist. I would feel honored to have a Richard Judd piece in my own home, and I left the studio full of admiration. This feeling was shared by everyone else on the trip, and the sense of joy was infectious. Smiles were found all around!

Smiles in the studio!

Smiles in the studio!

By |March 21st, 2016|spotlights|3 Comments

for the love of prints, part 3

In my last two posts, I introduced you to the art of printmaking and discussed relief and intaglio print techniques in more detail. Now, I will introduce you to one-of-a-kind prints, the techniques of lithography and serigraphy, and the differences between traditional prints and giclée prints.

Monotypes & Monoprints
True or false: printmaking always involves creating reproducible images and identical prints.

False! While most printmaking techniques facilitate the creation of identical prints, monotype and monoprint techniques allow the artist to make one-of-a-kind prints.

A monotype is made by painting on a flat plate (often Plexiglass), then running it through the press to create a print. Because the artist’s exact brushstrokes cannot be duplicated, each print is one of a kind.

A monoprint is a unique version of a relief, intaglio, or other traditional print. The artist combines reproducible imagery from a printing plate with elements that can’t be reproduced: she may ink the plate in a unique way, introduce hand painting, or add chine colle (a kind of collage). Because the artist is not attempting to create an edition of identical prints, it opens up a range of possibilities, and the resulting prints are like variations on a theme.

Global Pumpkin by Ouida Touchon

Global Pumpkin

Fairytale Pumpkin by Ouida Touchon

Fairytale Pumpkin

Global Pumpkin and Fairytale Pumpkin by Ouida Touchon. These monoprints are one-of-a-kind pieces created using the same woodcut block with unique hand-painted and chine colle details.

Lithography

An artist rolls ink on a lithography stone. Photo by Lionel Allorge (via Wikimedia Commons)

An artist rolls ink on a lithography stone. Photo by Lionel Allorge (via Wikimedia Commons)

Lithography operates on the principle that oil and water repel one another. This technique involves first drawing on a stone or metal plate, then chemically treating the plate to create the printing surface. Because the artist can draw his image freehand, lithography offers some of the expressive possibilities of drawing and painting. However, the steps involved to transform the initial drawing into a finished print are significantly more complex than relief or intaglio techniques.

"Relax," lithograph by William Baggett

Relax (lithograph) by William Baggett

Screenprinting

A screenprint artist at work. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

A screenprint artist at work. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Also known as serigraphy or silkscreening, screenprinting is a stencil technique in which an image is created on a fabric screen using a special chemical process. The screen is laid over paper or another substrate, and ink is pressed through the screen using a squeegee. Areas of negative space block the ink, while areas of positive space allow ink through, creating the artist’s image on the surface below.

Where do gicleés fit in?
“Giclée” refers to any piece created using an inkjet printer, making these prints quite different from traditional prints. Though some artists create original digital artwork that is printed using an inkjet, most giclée prints are actually reproductions, rather than original works of art.

Giclee reproductions of “The Hippopotamus Hunt” by Peter Paul Rubens. (Photo: "Prints Pigment Giclee" by Fountains of Bryn Mawr via Wikimedia Commons)

Giclee reproductions of The Hippopotamus Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens. (Photo: “Prints Pigment Giclee” by Fountains of Bryn Mawr via Wikimedia Commons)

Here is an example of a giclée print that is an original rather than a reproduction. Kent Williams creates his imagery on a computer, then prints the finished piece using a high-quality inkjet printer. Because the work itself is original and doesn’t physically exist in another form, the way a painting does, Williams’s work is, in a sense, a digital form of printmaking.

“Transformer” by Kent Williams, an original digital piece printed as a giclée.

Transformer by Kent Williams, an original digital piece printed as a giclée.

Most giclée prints, however, are reproductions of original works of art (paintings, drawings, even traditional prints). Artists offer giclées in addition to their originals so that their art can reach a broader audience. Though they are a great way for more people to be able to own work they love, giclées are not the original works of art that traditional prints are.

“Blue Sunset” by Ken Eliott is a giclée print of an original pastel painting.

Blue Sunset by Ken Eliott is a giclée print of an original pastel painting.

Printmaking: A World to Explore
I hope the information in this series has given you a greater understanding and appreciation of printmaking and what it has to offer you as an art enthusiast. Because printmaking is such a diverse and fascinating discipline, I have really only scratched the surface here (no pun intended)! There are so many other techniques, styles, and artists to discover. Start by taking a look at some of the traditional prints available at Artful Home—and perhaps consider a print the next time you’re looking for new artwork!

“Squid,” woodcut print by Aaron T. Brown

Squid,” woodcut print by Aaron T. Brown

By |February 4th, 2016|articles|Comments Off on for the love of prints, part 3