Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chris McCarthy : : glass

Welcome to the studio of Chris McCarthy, award winning artist and owner of Park Avenue Glass.
Chris opened his professional studio more than seven years ago. He built most of his equipment himself, teaching himself to cut metal and weld. One thing I learned from my studio visit is that glass artists are always moving. The work has to be kept spinning at all times. Today, Chris is making pumpkins.
This furnace (set at 2011 degrees!) stores Chris' glass. It can hold 300 pounds of molten glass at one time. Three hundred pounds will last Chris about two weeks.
This beginning-stage pumpkin is getting dipped in frit, glass shards that will add color to his work. 
The work is intense. There's no room for error and no time to second guess what you're doing.
This is the glory hole. "Yes, really." Chris said when I assumed he was kidding.
Chris adds a stem to his pumpkin. He also has an assistant so that pieces with two elements can be ready simultaneously. His assistant prepared the glass stem and colored it and then Chris added it to his piece, curled it and cut it. (Chris would never point these out, but I will....notice the ribbons?)
Finally, all finished work goes into his annealer which is set at 900 degrees throughout the day. When Chris goes home, a computer program slowly returns the annealer to room temperature. This takes about 12 hours. The next morning the pieces are ready.
While the majority of Chris' work is fine art (70 percent), he also creates utilitarian pieces (glasses, magnets, paperweights). He travels from February to October selling his masterpieces at art fairs throughout the country. 
All of Chris' glass is recyclable. If something breaks at an art fair, he can bring the pieces to his studio, heat and flatten them and use them for jewelry, broaches, magnets. He also collects the broken and surplus pieces from his work. When he accumulates a 5-gallon bucketful of glass scraps,  he'll tumble it in a cement mixer with sand or rocks. After a couple of days of tumbling, he has a unique collection of pieces that look like beach glass and can be used for landscaping or aquariums.
This weekend, you can meet Chris at the Hidden Glen Arts Festival in Olathe, Kansas.

The weekend of September 25th, he'll be in Nashville.

Thanks Chris!

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