2017 Art in the High Desert
For the Birds

Slow Glass

I have been a glass artist for over 25 years.  But I have also been a quilter for more than 10 years.  Glass turned from a hobby into a career rather quickly and I have never regretted that.  Quilting has always been something I do to keep my hands busy while watching TV at night.  I don't generally sell my quilts - I use them around the house, for warmth or decoration, or I give them as gifts.  I prefer to sew by hand, but use the machine for much of the piecing and save the applique and hand quilting for the couch where I can cozy up with my blanket, dogs and cat and husband.

My sister, Kristin Shields, is the one who got me interested in quilting (and knitting for that matter).  She is 4 years older than me and I have to admit that I still look up to her and want to do what she is doing.  I love her work and her style.  Several years ago she turned me on to the term "Slow Cloth".  

I am not a very consistent quilter and have only made maybe a dozen or two quilts over the past years.  But since moving to Oregon in 2015 and being closer to Kristin and the incredible quilting community here, I have been going through my work a little more quickly.  I was recently prompted to make this little applique dog quilt by something mentioned in our quilt guild meeting this month.  

Applique dog quilt April 2017

Our guild is having our annual quilt show in August in Sunriver, OR and they will have a display of appliqued "critter" quilts.  I had just drawn this design to make into a small glass bowl and thought it would be great in fabric as well.  While I was working on this quilt, I decided I wanted to try some "Big Stitch" quilting.  I played around more with the color of the thread and the spacing of the stitches and didn't really worry about perfect, tiny quilting stitches.  It was so much more relaxing and fun to do.

This was such a quick project that when I was done I was itching to do more work in a similar vein.  I had pieced together this other quilt many months ago and had always intended to do some embroidery stitch work in the blocks.  One afternoon I quickly sandwiched it together with the batting and backing fabric and sat down to stitch.  

Quilt 1

Quilt 2

And the term Slow Cloth came to my mind.  I pulled out my trusty iphone and googled the term which I hadn't thought much about in several years at least.  I came up with this article of a talk given by Elaine Lipson in 2012.  I read the article and then dove into my stitching.  

I was reminded that hand work, art work, should be done well, should be done with mindfulness and should be enjoyable.

As I stitched away I continued thinking about the philosophy and reminding myself to slow down and enjoy the process.  I have been working on this quilt for several days and really look forward to sitting down to it each night. 

You might be wondering how this applies to my glass work.  Well, I have recently been working on a slightly different technique from my normal work.  I am fusing my clear glass scraps into round blanks that can be painted on and turned into bowls.  I began using this Slow Cloth idea and applying it to my work in the studio.  I feel my work is always done well, with mindfulness and is enjoyable, but I had begun taking those things for granted as you do when you are trying to make a living doing your art.

I am trying to create "Slow Glass" by slowing down, taking my time and letting the work flow more.  For example, I am doing some sgraffito work on these new pieces.  In that process, I could simply transfer my pre-drawn designs onto the enamel and scratch the design in.  But I decided to try going free-hand and just let the work be molded by what's in front of me.  Since they are done without the benefit of a compass, a ruler or an eraser, they may have wonky circles or mismatched arches.  I am okay with that.  They feel very organic, unhurried and fun.  

Black and white sgraffito on scrap melt April 2017

Black and white sgraffito on scrap melt April 2017 2

Black and white sgraffito on scrap melt April 2017 4
Images are In-Progress shots - not fully finished bowls.

I hope you like them too.  I am making this first batch with a white wash of enamel on the backs to create some bold black and white designs.  Very different from my normal bright and colorful pieces so they may appeal to a different crowd.  I have more ideas for these pieces and look forward to playing with my "Slow Glass" over the next several months.