Possibly the most remarkable thing about the Bullseye Glass factory is that it exists at all.
It is the 21st century. Stuff is made in China, Indonesia and Vietnam. That any product can be made by hand on an industrial scale in America today defies the economic odds. That many of those same hands – in their off hours – also make art, is the second miracle of Bullseye.
Last night I went to the awards reception for the factory’s eighth annual show of glassworks made by its people.
The Working Glass exhibition is always fun. This year the minds, eyes and hearts that schedule, ladle, roll, build, sell and teach with Bullseye glass delivered up some of the most engaging pieces I’ve seen in years.
As much as I love the artwork, it’s often the accompanying informational cards with their nuggets of background on the makers that really grab my interest. I’m intrigued by where we’ve all come from on our journey to this place.
A few of the pieces and histories that especially caught my eye this year:
Geraldine works in sales. (I recognize the computer, but I’m a little baffled by the cullet basket!) No less intriguing is her history. I’d never have guessed that the woman with the disarmingly sexy French accent had a former life as a “goat herder in New Zealand”
Among the most over-worn bits of parental advice we all grew up with is undoubtedly “Don’t major in art – you’ll end up working in a factory” (Substitute “waiting tables, washing cars, marrying a hedge fund trader”). Well – for better or worse – a good number of Bullies fulfilled that parental warning/prophecy.
First prize this year went to Stacy, our School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate, with a jaw-dropping piece called “Selection” that was designed with the intent of being broken, one tab at a time, by viewers who were invited to do so.
Anton and friends accepted the invitation. I hesitated.
The awareness that Stacy had worked on the piece for a year paralyzed my ability to interact. But my brain – if not my hand – engaged on so many levels with the piece.
Another art school grad, Erika, created Dan’s whimsical President’s Prize-winning piece.
Dan’s had a love/hate relationship with rabbits his whole life. I’m sure he was as conflicted over this piece as I was over Stacy’s.
Only employees were eligible to cast ballots for the First, Second and Third place prizewinners. There didn’t seem to be much conflict in the voting. Both Second and Third place went to furnace builder Anton for kilncarved Jean Harlow RIP and frit-cast Gyotaku.
(sorry, technical difficulties are only allowing me to post the top half of the piece – Anton’s department should be glad I don’t build furnaces!)
An artist statement that includes a list of one’s favorite bricks (in order of priority: Kricor, Visil, Zircon, IFG and “the classic” silica) could only have broken out of a mind at least as profound as Damian Hirst’s.
And Anton’s fish (Gyotaku – sorry my photo was hopelessly muddy) is available for at least $12,000,000 less than Damian’s.
Something must be going on in the Research and Education department for so many of our teachers to have taken such a textural and pattern-based direction this season. I was as curious about the trend as about each individual entry.
Bonnie, a self-confessed “gatherer and collector” and former “ice cream scooper”, regularly creates captivatingly precious small objects. This year’s buttons did not disappoint.
I was likewise impressed by Jim’s explorations in pattern and reaction in “Compartmentalization” and “Meander”
But I was equally intrigued by his past history. What – pray tell – is a “freight lumper”?
Nathan’s “Pastille”, a kilncast, coldworked and slumped form, skillfully upheld the current Zeitgeist of the R&E Department .
Is this the aftereffect of that fancy schmantsy microscope you guys got last year?
Just about the time I think I can’t take another Stars & Stripes candy dish, one comes along that stops me in my tracks. The fusion of Walter’s background as “Infantryman, Nuclear Biological Chemical Warefare Sergeant” with the simple Yankee patriotism of these lines and colors AND the thought of eating candy out of this vessel is the kind of irony I adore in my art.
So, those are just a few of my impressions of this remarkable show. I feel hugely proud to be associated, in whatever small way, with the people who are the Bullseye factory team.
My own Gallery Director’s Prize went to a seductively quiet little piece hanging white against a white wall, its tack-fused black dots beckoning my hand.
Unlike the ambivalent and intellectual engagement I felt on Stacy’s invitation to break “Selection”, I reached out instantly and almost unconsciously to run my fingers over the cool, clean surface of Charlie’s tile.
Not understanding Braille, I was clueless, until reading the adjacent card, that the dots spell out the message, “Do not touch artwork”
Charlie, I am SO happy that you gave up grass farming in The Palouse to come work at Bullseye!