While I’m waiting for the next Guest Editor to come to my rescue, I’m going to indulge in one of my longest-running rants, my objection to the term “warm” used to describe kilnforming.
1500°F is NOT warm.
This particular irritant resurrected itself during an otherwise pleasant walk through an otherwise engaging exhibition at the Museum of Glass last week. The exhibition is called Contrasts. It is, mostly, an excellent introduction to glass and its many personalities.
But wait. Ack! Immediately at the entrance to the hall, I run into this, signage contrasting:
HOT • WARM • COLD
Yep, that’s us – kilnformers – sandwiched between a couple of other glassworking modifiers. A tepid, half-baked and wholly inaccurate description of what we do, tarted up into a word that none of us selected. Paraded out by someone without technical experience in our field in order to glue the other ends of the glassworking world together into some tidy little continuum.
But it gets worse. How’s this for a definition:
“WARM: Glass whose shaping occurs at lower heat, usually under 1000°F, is worked warm.”
When was the last time you formed glass in a kiln at temperatures below 1000°F?
As an example of WARM, the curator selected a work by artist Tom Patti, Solar Gray Purple Compound with Planes, 1981-84.
I don’t know a single artist of Patti’s stature who uses the term “warm” to describe his/her work. So I email him. Marilyn Patti replies. To her knowledge, “Tom has never used the expression ‘warm’ to describe his glass…The curator for the Tacoma exhibit has used her own words.”
So where did the word come from? When did this muddy little snowball start its downhill roll and when will it stop?
We have a gallery filled with glasswork that is formed in a kiln. As far as I know, not a single artist we represent describes what he/she does as “warm glass”. They call it “kilnformed or “kilnworked”. If that’s too many letters for you, call it “kiln-glass.”
Just, please, stop calling it WARM. Why? In short, because:
1) None of the pioneers in the field use or ever have used the term. Can we show them some respect?
2) The term is technically inaccurate: there is nothing “warm” about 1200 – 1700°F.
3) To someone unaware of other glassworking methods (e.g.., prospective buyers of your art and/or design work), “warm” is a vague, limp, and unappealing adjective to describe a highly refined and demanding set of methods.
I know, I know. There is a very nice and user-friendly website where people (mostly newcomers) gather to talk about kilnforming that is called Warmglass.com. I have myself visited there many times. Should I have stayed away because I consider it mis-named? Should I have ranted there about what it called itself? Possibly. I didn’t. I thought it was sort of rude to go to a party and complain about the host’s address. But I’m not there now. And, as My Mother used to say, “We don’t use that kind of language in OUR home, Missy!”.
And finally, to be blunt: many respected masters in this field – not the least of whom is Klaus Moje – detest the term. This summer during the Glass Art Society conference while his retrospective runs at the Art Museum, I pray that the only thing we call “warm” in Portland is the weather.