In a few weeks – Saturday, November 3rd – Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois will be hosting an Empty Bowls event to support the Crisis Food Center, also in Alton. Last year we attended and were treated to delicious soups and bread from local restaurants. Local artists contribute to a silent auction, as well as making the bowls to filled with soup. On arrival we purchased a bowl to later be filled with our lunch. It was a treat to see a table full of pottery wares made by hand by the artisans.

I like pottery and ceramics, and value those that have the skill and vision to create it. My cabinets hold treasured pieces from my old home near Jugtown pottery in North Carolina; I have bowls, mugs, and dishes made locally which I use daily. As much as I like pottery, I LOVE glass.

Seemed to me that table full of earthy glazed pottery bowls would be complimented by some shiny glass. No one invited me to participate; neither did they reject me when I said “I’m making bowls for you.” So the adventure began…

I sent up a call for artists to join me in the studio to ‘play in the glass’ and found a few takers. Brandace Cloud (a potter!) stepped up on a weekly basis and quickly picked up on the process. Bonnie and Christie also found a day to work. We used the project as an opportunity to experiment with various processes. Some worked – some didn’t. That’s the way of glass. 🙂

We started simple – with liquid paints we made of glass powder, distilled water and aloe vera gel. These were applied to a clear base of Tekta glass – the clear made it easy to see a hand-drawn pattern below the glass. It takes a long time for the aloe mixture to dry so they sat for a day and were then coated with a layer of clear glass powder.

Most of the glass powders on-hand are transparent which made the glass paint appear streaky and thin in areas. It was fun and easy, resulting in a light-weight functional piece. I would like to attempt this with opaque powders.

Brandace had a different vision. Her work took a bit longer using small bits of glass on the clear base. These were fired to a texture fuse, leaving them with more dimension; also a bit weightier in the hand.  The bowl on the right is a combination of bits plus aloe gel paint. It looks a design by a confectioner – delicate and tasty.

In addition to painting with aloe, Bonnie was attracted to the big bins of hand-pulled stringer (vitrigraphs). Her keen eye found a shaped bit appearing moose-like. We couldn’t figure out a way to overlay it and still keep the shape.

More to follow in part 2!