Friday, June 10, 2016

5 Keys to Making Exhibition Quality Artwork

Here’s the big secret: outstanding fused glass art is never the result of one single step. Exceptional standalone pieces, are created by combining several advanced techniques in unexpected ways. It’s that refreshing break from convention that captures and retains attention. Think about it. All the pieces you find intriguing are just that, because on first glance, their visual impact outshines the mysteries of construction. You feel the art. It changes you. And then slowly, you register the medium, oh, it’s made with glass. You’re drawn to these pieces first because of their totality, and secondly, by the unusual pattern, unique form or dramatic imagery, which when used together, embodies something you haven’t experienced before. 

What can you do to cross the threshold from craft to art? 

It’s easy, start with your three favorite techniques. Instead of using them individually, use all three in one project. Don’t limit yourself to just straight up fusing. Consider what effects can be achieved by tack fusing pre-fused components together. How can you use intricate patterns to add physical or visual texture, to specific areas of the artwork? What combination of slumping molds will give your flat glass a sculptural quality? Where can you include a recognizable image, a bird, a building or face to anchor the viewer’s interest? 

Is this way of thinking complicated? Yes. Is it time consuming? Yes. 

Will it propel you from hobbyist to artist? Absolutely. 

Here’s how to get started.

1 Shape up. What’s the most popular fused glass project shape, you see shared, in your Facebook groups? You got it, square. Why; it’s easy. It’s also ho-hum. Challenge your cutting skills, accept you’ll have scrap and risk breaking glass, to give your pieces an interesting shape. Trust me, this is one of the most basic and simplest ways to get your work noticed. The shapes don’t have to be complex geometric puzzle pieces. Often subtle curves, strategically placed notches and unusual profiles, like a curved triangle or crescent shape, deliver big wows.

Tidal Pool is an example of getting creative with shape.
2 Speak through pattern. Consider adding patterns to select portions of your project. Cut patterned components from fused scrap, pot melts, woven blanks and combed studies. Working sections of pattern into your art, forces you to plan an interesting and unique composition. More importantly, it steers you clear of the fallback: cut, assemble and fuse mindset. Further enhance your work, create balance by contrasting the heavily patterned areas with fields of complimentary color. Beware the geometric masterpiece black hole where the entire piece is a complex pattern. In this vortex, it’s all about the repetitive pattern. Sure, the finished design is an impressive tribute to your steadfast patience and technical skills, but it’s usually just that. Unfortunately, the piece is ultimately overly busy and admired more for your diligence and less for your artistic flare. You linear thinkers, you know who you are, love this zone. You’re more at home in the mechanics of making glass than in the design of glass art. Here’s where we change that.

This Swirl Tray is an example of using pattern to get noticed.
3 Create dramatic imagery. A great way to really engage the viewer is to design a focal point into your art. Introduce recognizable subject matter and then render it in an unexpected way. Viewers find the familiar images inviting and the unusual representation intriguing. This knock-out combination feeds their natural curiosity and effectively retains their interest longer. For example, I made a red and yellow sea turtle. The surprising color combination gives an otherwise simple scene a bold emotional mood which leaves a long-lasting and memorable impression. That’s our primary goal isn’t it, to move people.

Here’s the Sea Turtle. Which one do you find more interesting?
4 Give it unique form. The really cool thing about giving your artwork distinctive shape is that the unique, sculptural quality, transcends function and your work is immediately accepted as fine art. You can achieve a sculptural quality by using different slumping molds in combination with each other or you can combine a variety of fused and or slumped glass components together. The possibilities are endless. You’re limited only by your imagination.     
Glacier has it all texture, unique form and an exciting base.
5 Show it off. Nothing say hobbyist like a cheesy wire plate stand from the craft store. Throw them away! Your artwork deserves to be displayed on a base or stand that is as well thought out and designed as the artwork itself. A good display is sturdy, yet it enriches the art by adding to the sculpture quality. It should also give the artwork lift and allow light to surround the entire piece. Having an eye-catching display is one of the best things you can do to increase the visual interest and perceived value of your pieces. Think outside the box. It’s fun and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the number of ideas you’ll soon have.

A lot of forethought and planning goes into making show quality artwork. Your efforts will soon be rewarded with the increased desirability of your work and your elevated worth as an innovative artist.

Until next time, keep fusing.
Upcoming Classes

Take it to the Next Level – Advanced Mixed Technique
2-Day Workshop, June 13-14, 2016

Breaking Through – Making Exhibition Quality Artwork
2-Day Workshop, June 15-16, 2016

D&L Art Glass Supply in Denver, CO.

Upcoming Webinars

Fusing with Frit
July 7, 2016
Back by popular demand.

NEW Upscale Fusing
July 26, 2016
July 28, 2016

NEW Creative Slumping
August 30, 2016
September 2, 2016

Glass Patterns Quarterly Webinar Link

Upcoming Workshops

Now registering!
Advanced Glass Fusing
October 18-21, 2016
4-Day, Hands-on
Wesley Chapel, Florida