Continuing on from yesterday’s blog featuring the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, I want to share the wonderful experience of seeing glass artist Michael Meilahn at work.
We traveled out to the cornfields of Pickett, Wisconsin, to arrive at the family farm where he was raised, and where he and his family still farm today. Meilahn describes himself as a person with “one foot on the land and one foot in the sand”, referring to the fertile fields of corn and the sand which is the basis for glass.
We marveled at the texture and amazing color detail in his huge, blown glass ears of corn.
Some of his art pieces incorporate bronze castings of stems and husks.
What looks like chocolate-dipped corn is actually wax. The glass piece is dipped into wax, which is then carefully peeled off to form the basis for a bronze casting that will fit the glass creation like a glove.
The expansive studio space allows plenty of room for machinery, glass equipment, and immense hanging ears of corn.
We were thrilled when Michael and his crew (that’s his son, in red), offered to create a piece so that we could watch the process, even though their usual crew consists of four members.
A metal rod is dipped into a furnace of molten glass to obtain a “gather” of glass at the end. After a couple of gathers of glowing, translucent amber, they coated it with yet another gather, this one of a creamy off-white color.
Nearing the end of the process, the ball of molten glass is rolled on a marver table to shape it further. You can see the metal corn form, tucked among the hoses on the right side of the picture. Now the process is moving really quickly, as they have limited time to form and mold the glass before it cools down. If it cools down too much, the glass will crack.
Michael quickly jumped up to the platform so that the glass could hang down inside of the form, which was quickly closed down to surround it. He blew into the end of the pipe to push out the glass into a long, corncob shape.
The mold opened up to reveal the glass corncob.
Now the finishing touches, where Michael used a caliper tool to grasp the end, pull and shape, and create a hole that is used to hang the glass.
A torch is used to flame along the project, so that the heat is evened out and kept relatively steady, without cooling too quickly.It is then placed into a large annealing kiln, where the controlled temperature drops slowly through the night, cooling slowly until it is taken out the next day.
I am so grateful to the Midwest Contemporary Glass Art Group (MCGAG) for the opportunity to come along on this field trip (with friend and member Brandie Dunn). It was quite a privilege to have this experience, and to have this demonstration really put the day over the top!
There is a lot to see online for Michael Meilahn – a number of You Tube videos and several gallery exhibitions. Take a look, and read a little bit more about this guy; it is quite interesting.
MWA: Wisconsin Museum of Art
You Tube on Upcoming Exhibition