Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Creative Process

So, there was a message on one of my posts kindly asking about my process for making my mosaic windows.  Vikki asks: 

"Could you at some point do a blog post about the process of how you put together your amazing glass pieces? I find the whole process just fascinating and wonder things like how much material you collect at a time? Whether the material comes first or the idea? (and then you seek the material out), what your workspace is like? Where you find inspiration & where your style comes from? Whether you lay things out or let the mood take you?"

What an interesting time I have had with these questions! I can easily describe the physical process of composing the windows - and I'm happy to do that - but I might prove less articulate about how I arrive at a design. I'll start to try to answer these questions by walking you through the process of creating this window that I just finished:

I began this window after my father gave me a wonderful oblong frame (roughly 12" by 36") that he had made.  I knew that I wanted to try another tree (I've done two other, very different, trees). (As an aside, I will say about design that I seem to arrive at my designs by a complicated process of an idea for shape or color that is modified and influenced by the glass, the frame, my mood, and so  much more.  And, sometimes, I just sit down with nothing in mind and tinker to find a design -- though this is not always very productive, it's fun!)
Okay, the tree:  I sat down with the frame and my buckets of glass all around me -- I have sorted my glass into like colors for simplicity.  The last time I had been to Absolute Glass in Methuen -- the wonderful, family-owned shop where I buy all my glass -- I had picked up a sheet of the blue/violet glass you see as the sky in the finished piece.  That sheet of glass dictated my color choices: I thought the tree might be red, but once I played around a bit, dark purple demanded to be used -- and it works much better with the blue/violet glass.  The sun arrived early in the process. In my mind, I kept seeing images of a solitary tree with a sun setting behind it -- in fact, I kept thinking of the Serengeti, though I've never been there!  
At first, I cut and placed many more yellow streaks for the sky than you see in the finished piece.  But it was too much -- the image was confusing.  Here's a look at the design before I removed a lot of the yellow streaks:

Once I had the tree and major placement of the sun figured out, I glued the tree and the orb of the sun to the window glass.  From there, I cut, placed, and finally glued the sky and leaves.  Here is the window before it was grouted:

As you can see by comparing this ungrouted window to the finished piece, the grout is the most transformative step in the entire process -- so much so that I often don't know if I'm going to like a piece until I have grouted it and put it up so the light can shine through it!

The actual journey of the designs is so much more elaborate than I can describe here -- perhaps especially because it is not a verbal process.  Shapes and colors surprise me; they lead me to images that I must have seen somewhere in my life -- and these shoot into my mind unbidden.  At night, I can close my eyes and numerous window designs come to me.  But, unlike words, I cannot capture them on a page.  Yes, I could jump out of bed and sketch them.  But I'm not particularly good at drawing.  I like to just enjoy the show and wait to see what is persistant the next time I sit down with the glass or come across an interesting shaped window or frame. Sometimes, this persistance is almost uncomfortable.  A quote I read recently by the poet Louise Gluck captures this best:

"It seems to me that the desire to make art produces an ongoing experience of longing, a restlessness sometimes, but not inevitably, played out romantically, or sexually. Always there seems something ahead, the next poem or story, visible, at least, apprehensible, but unreachable. To perceive it at all is to be haunted by it; some sound, some tone, becomes a torment—the poem embodying that sound seems to exist somewhere already finished. It’s like a lighthouse, except that, as one swims towards it, it backs away."

Vikki, I thank you for inviting me to think about this!  I know you asked about style influences and workspace: I thought I might wait and address these in another post.


  1. That is fantastic, thank you! I look forward to the next article on workspace, this is so interesting!

  2. The grouting IS a magical process! Wow I love your tree.

  3. Yes. I love that every piece is a surprise (not a complete surprise, of course!).

  4. Absolutely love this - could you share pictures of both sides of a window?

  5. Sure, raecp. But I should warn you that I have not yet found a glue that is entirely invisible -- so the back always shows the glue. When I do the post, I'll do a close-up so you can see what I mean.
    Thanks for asking.

  6. I LOVE reading about your process, and that quote from Gluck speaks to me, too. That is in many ways how I experience the creative process.

    Your windows inspire me more than I can say! xoxo