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GLANC Visits Elin Christopherson & John Lewis

[Kathleen Elliot]

In December I attended the GLANC visit to Elin Christopherson’s and John Lewis’s studios.

Elin has a building with a large central space full of artworks in progress, equipment and tools, materials, and loads of space to think, tinker, create, and invent. She showed us a technique in which she creates silk screens and then uses them to apply glass powder images onto glass tiles in a similar manner to how silk screens are used to apply images in paint. She had several examples, many relating to themes of nature. The images that most struck me were depictions of police in riot gear, about which Elin spoke of her concern with the militarization of police in our country.

Elin shared a couple pieces in the form of glass boxes on the wall, perhaps 5 inches deep. On the front surface, she had painted images of plants, birds and other natural life. On the inside surface of the back, visible through the nature scenes, were images of wrongly persecuted people. They presented a beautiful yet haunting juxtaposition of the beauty of nature and the dark side of humanity.

A current project is “Redbud Sprig,” a large piece to hang in the atrium of the Jennifer Russell Building at the Lafayette Community Center. The piece derives from Elin’s keen interest in California native plants and will depict one of the most beautiful of our native plants, the western redbud. The sprig will be 10 feet long, 4 feet high, and 3 feet wide, with stems of welded aluminum tubing and leaves made from sheet aluminum, with freely-hanging glass blossoms. “Redbud Sprig” is slated for installation in late spring of 2017.

 

Elin explaining her process

 

From Elin’s we walked just down the street to John Lewis’s studio. Wow, what a fascinating place! The outer area is like a lumber or pottery yard except filled with all sorts of large thick glass objects – table tops, sinks, pots, bench seats, etc. Inner gallery areas exhibited examples of serving platters, bowls, trays, more sinks, etc., all in thick transparent glass of varying colors. I was particularly enamored with one large bathroom sink in transparent slightly green glass.

During our visit, John’s team poured a glass table top 48” diameter, 4” thick. He has a 3500-pound furnace of glass up on a steel frame. His team wheeled a table holding a round “fence” right under the steel frame. In simple terms, they opened a spigot and let the molten glass pour into the circle while spinning the table top. That circle of orange glowing molten glass was stunning. After letting it cool enough to hold its form, they removed the fence, leaving the huge glowing disk of glass, which they slid into the giant kiln. I love looking at glass objects and visualizing them in their molten state. Seeing that glowing disk of glass was fantastic. And for an artist working in finicky flameworking, it was wonderful to see glass work on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

 

John explaining his process

 

Across the street from the studio John has a model home including a kitchen with glass counters, sink and backsplashes, glass tables and counter tops, and many other objects for the home.

I had a great time on this tour, both meeting and hearing about the artists’ work, and visiting with fellow glass lovers. What a treat!