Somewhere back in Portland, Oregon,  Susan, Janet and a dozen other serious-minded staffers at the Bullseye Glass Company imagine that their leader, Jim – in Chicago for Bullseye Gallery’s showing at SOFA 2009 – is working hard to uphold the supremely professional reputation of the company and the many fine artists its gallery represents.


Wrong. Made irreparably giddy by the fumes of Sherwin-Williams #7048, the normally no-nonsense Mr Jones has been buzzing about the monkey bars all morning, drunkenly painting and repainting the endless corners and angles that make up the skeleton of Michael Rogers’ Beekeeper’s Staircase.

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Peter and Leslie’s comments to my last post got me to thinking about brainstorming ways for artists to get through a rough economy.  Not that I feel artists really need my two cents on this one – doesn’t the very expression “starving artist” point to the symbiotic nature of adversity and creativity?

But while we’re all waiting for the world’s financial wounds to heal, I’ll throw out a few ideas for thinking outside the casket.

No. 1: Reach beyond your own skill-set.

How about collaborating with an artist, designer or craftsperson whose primary material is not glass? Painters and printmakers bring a wealth of ideas to the table that many of us glass-centrics often overlook.

Alex Hirsch “Island’s Edge” Watercolor and ink.

A couple of years ago Portland artist Alex Hirsch crossed our radar. Her segmented compositions seemed perfectly suited to modular construction, painting-with-light methods, and, most specifically, a project that we’d been approached to fabricate for a recently completed medical office at the Oregon Health Sciences University’s Center for Health and Healing.

Hirsch’s design sense paired with our team’s technical skills (and ample kilns) was the ideal solution to the client’s aesthetic and practical needs.

Hirsch and Bullseye tech Nathan Sandberg discuss pre-fired elements that will eventually be fused to larger Tekta plates and finally laminated.

2. Consider the functional – in addition to the aesthetic – side of art glass

We’re all seduced by the beauty of glass. It’s functionality is sometimes a harder sell. In the case of this project – and many others – art glass offers practical benefits that are easily as appealing as its aesthetic ones. In this case it was the ability to both obscure and allow visibility within an interior environment that demanded both privacy for patients and visual control by staff.

The problem: the client wanted a screen that would…

1) shield the hallway and nurses station adjacent to examining rooms from the view of waiting room visitors;

2) allow nurses to see movement, i.e., the presence of people, in the waiting room;

3) bring the organic and soothing feel of a nearby roof garden into the waiting area.

Hirsch’s design provided the ideal solution.

3. Think retro-fit

The current economy is not being kind to builders. A lot of projects are being delayed or canceled. Property owners – whether home or office – are increasingly thinking about remodeling instead of building new.

The OHSU project was not really a renovation, but the interior glass partition wall had not been planned into the original design of the space. It was only after the waiting room interior had been completed and furnished that the medical staff realized the need for more privacy than the original floor plan provided.

That’s when we were contacted and Hirsch invited to propose an “art wall” that would serve as both mural and veil. Track installed above and below the glass panels provided all the support necessary for the partition wall.

4. Enter Bullseye’s biennial e-merge competition.

Huh? What’s this got to do with it?

We – and ultimately the client – had originally become familiar with Hirsch’s talent through her entry in our 2006 e-merge competition. She’d been working in glass on a smaller scale after being mentored by a local glass artist. When we saw her e-merge entry, we knew that her work would translate into an architectural scale and invited her to work with our technical team to realize the OHSU project.

Hirsch’s “Highway 101″ fused frit panel, 11″ x 31.5″ x .25″. Winner of e-merge 2006 Newcomer Prize.

But no, you don’t have to host a competition to find opportunities for collaboration. Visit non-glass galleries in your area. Enroll in a drawing, painting or design course at a local arts center. Network with artists from other media. Take your glass skills outside the glass world.

Yes, it’s a scary world out there at the moment, but it’s also bursting with opportunity for the creative.

For more views of Hirsch’s glasswork, click here.

To learn more about e-merge, click here.

For even MORE about e-merge, stay tuned for news about e-merge and SOFA later this week.