field trip, as promised

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.

Michael Meilahn

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.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

We marveled at the texture and amazing color detail in his huge, blown glass ears of corn.

Blown glass corn by Michael MeilahnSome of his art pieces incorporate bronze castings of stems and husks.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

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.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

The expansive studio space allows plenty of room for machinery, glass equipment, and immense hanging ears of corn.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

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.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

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.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

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.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

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.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

The mold opened up to reveal the glass corncob.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

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.

Blown glass corn by Michael Meilahn

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.

Michael’s Website:
http://www.michaelmeilahn.com/
MWA:  Wisconsin Museum of Art
http://www.wisconsinart.org/archives/artist/michael-meilahn/profile-104.aspx
You Tube on Upcoming Exhibition
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu3uyM71hUE

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neglected blog . . . glass resuscitatation

Poor, neglected blog!  I have been kept busy these days with other things, and I really need to post something new!

Fortunately, I have just the thing.  I was recently invited to attend a field trip with The Midwest Contemporary Glass Art Group (MCGAG) to the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in Neenah, Wisconsin. The museum had a wonderful exhibit on the legacy of Harvey Littleton and his students.  Harvey was a ceramic artist and professor who is known as the “Father of the American Studio Glass Movement”.

Bergstrom-Mahler museumHistoric Bergstrom mansion, now home to the Glass Museum

The Museum is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Contemporary Studio Glass Movement.  This is particularly fascinating to me as an art-lover and glass artist.  Harvey Littleton paved the way for artists like myself to create art in their own home studios by developing a small, relatively inexpensive furnace that allowed artists to bring glass from factory production into home experimentation.

Harvey LittletonHarvey Littleton (American, b. 1922), Blue Crown
pulled and cased glass, 1988

-from http://www.kornbluthphoto.com/TwentiethCentury3.html

Littleton’s students are some of the most world-renowned glass artists of our time, including Dale Chihuly and Marvin Lipofsky.

Dale ChihulyDale Chihuly, Wild Poppy Persian
from http://www.vetriglass.com/category/38167306101/1/Dale-Chihuly.htm

Marvin Lipofsky

Marvin Lipofsky, Group Taiwan #4
from http://www.duanereedgallery.com/Artists%20Pages/lipofsky/lipofskytaiwan4.html

It was hard to narrow the blog material down for this post.  I could go on about the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, the history of art glass, Littleton, Chihuly and Lipofsky, and all their contemporaries. This blog post could go on for weeks, and I like to keep my posts short and graphic.  If you are interested in more, visit the links listed, and stay tuned for the next blog post to read about the rest of our field trip and a thrilling glass adventure in the farmlands of Wisconsin…

The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum:  Wisconsin’s Glass Museum  http://bergstrom-mahlermuseum.com/

Harvey Littleton  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Littleton

Dale Chihuly  http://www.chihuly.com/

Marvin Lipofsky http://www.marvinlipofsky.com/