Robert Mickelsen comes to BAGI

The Glass Alliance of Northern California works with BAGI, in underwriting part of their Visiting Artist Series.  One of the visiting artists this year was flameworker Robert Mickelsen.  He started working with glass in the mid-seventies, and his 40+years on the torch are abundantly evident once he lights that flame.  His technical acuity is equally matched by his level of comfort when he is working…he is clearly very much at home, behind the flame.

Part of Robert’s visit, was to lead a 2-day workshop intensive titled Lifeforms. As head of the flameworking program at BAGI, I was honored to have him teach a class at the studio. He spent two 9-hour days, working hands on with our class, exploring nature in glass. I had the honor of being his Teaching Assistant, so I had an inside glimpse of his teaching style. He is able to demonstrate and articulate his knowledge in such an accessible way, each individual, regardless of experience level, was at ease. He created everything from leaves and branches, to a human figure and life size hand. The quality of his teaching and the intensive nature of the course allowed the students to make an incredible amount of progress.  It was really amazing to see them transform, in such a short period of time!

On the third day, BAGI hosted a free demonstration open to the public.  Robert gave a presentation and slide show offering a historical glimpse of his journey in glass – including the piece Richard and Eva Klein have in their collection! It was amazing to see how his work has transformed, creating both botanical wonders and amazing figurative work. More recently, his work has become more architectural, allowing him to create very large scale sculptures through a process called networking. At every stage, it is clear that Robert pulls from within, rather than resorting to lifting from other artists.  Each piece is truly his own expression, and one of a kind.

Golden Giraffe – Robert Mickelson

His demonstration was awe inspiring, and I did not expect to be a participant! We created a collaborative piece, and I did the best I could to both create, and be a spectator as he worked. I have never seen anyone work flamework glass like him - so fast, so effortless, so clean.  It was truly an experience to remember, and we will definitely be welcoming Robert back in the future!

[Demetra Theofanous]