Flights of Fancy and Imagination

Day 4 of the 5 day Facebook challenge

Click images for larger views


Let There Be Rock

Day 2 of the 5 day Facebook challenge:   …and she saw that the metal was good and so said, “Let There Be Rock”:


In the Beginning, There Was Metal ….

I was recently invited (I believe, “challenged” is the exact word) to participate in Facebook’s form of what I can only describe as a modern day chain letter for visual artists.  While happy to share my work to the tune of 3 pics a day for 5 days, I find myself reluctant to fulfill the second part: to challenge another artist each of the 5 days.  While thinking of the talented people in my acquaintance I have convinced myself that none would receive such an invitation with enthusiasm.  Then again, maybe I over-think these things.

So with no further ado I present, Day 1:


Art Events, Art Philosopy


Greetings Cube’sters!  New year, new tack on my blog postings.

As many of you already know I am a trained Sociologist with a minor in Philosophy, emphasis in ethics and aesthetics.  I often have strong opinions on things but rarely the time to reflect, adjust and refine enough to share.  I was recently given that opportunity. I am calling these “The Morning After” because I typically require time to assimilate and think about such heady topics. Maybe more of these will follow so I’m calling this “Installment #1”.

On the evening of January 14th I attended a salon, “UnBound Arts Hosts: Group Discussion on “The Death of the Artist – and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur”, with some of the most interesting and talented individuals one could hope to engage in intelligent conversation. We all read the above article in quotes as well as a counterpoint then convened to discuss. There were many salient issues and one chose me to examine it more thoroughly. Later that night and into the next day I could do nothing but think and write about it.  The following essay is a result.

On Agency: Intent, Goals, Making Art and the “Dirty Word” – Marketing

The diversity of opinions expressed in last night’s above mentioned meeting brought some ideas into sharp relief for me.  I recall watching a TV interview with several hair bands that had been wildly popular in the 80’s.  The gist of one of them went something like this:

Interviewer: What do you say to the critics who wrote that you were an untalented musician?

Band member (likely the front-man/vocalist): You know man, that stuff never really bothered me.

Interviewer: Now come on….

Band member: Look, I never even thought about being a musician.  I set out be a rock star.  And that’s exactly what I did!  (Kicks back on sofa with broad grin and general air of confidence and satisfaction).

This speaks volumes to the ways in which intent, goals and efforts to create operate within a given cultural climate. Individual tastes aside some ass kicking music was created that resonated with a lot people.  In the interest of full disclosure I was one of them. The rock star obviously considered himself successful and the critic’s arguments irrelevant.  Time seems to supports the rock star’s opinion.  One thing is for certain; a sweet package of marketing and creativity made that part of rock culture an iconic era, and for a lot of folks a lucrative one.  But was it art?  Should the two even be compared?  Is that important?  Why is it important?  What we should be asking ourselves in forming our opinions and questioning those of others is this: What is AT STAKE?

The works of the relatively few scholars I have had the good fortune to read and reflect upon (from those who lived centuries ago to contemporary authors) have well demonstrated to me that none of us exercise our agency in a vacuum, no matter how much the isolating effects of (post?) modernity may cause us to feel so.  Like it or not we all stand on the shoulders of…well, in this case if not giants, those who came before.  Willful ignorance, or simple neglect, to acknowledge this does nothing to advance the “state of the art”, whatever domain we’re considering.  In thinking about Thomas Kuhn’s work regarding scientific paradigm shifts it seems impossible to do “anything you want”.   Whether broadening the current paradigm or roundly rejecting it in favor of something entirely new one still references the former.  Even if one claims to be unaware of doing so the situation is not likely to escape the notice of others.  And those others usually have a vested interest in the dominant paradigm: be it reputation, integrity, a desire to maintain existing values and quality or (gasp!) money.

Discourse predisposed to dichotomies, for example Artist vs. Creative Entrepreneur, lends itself to bringing out the defensive in the most well-meaning of us (myself included).  After all, these aren’t just free-floating labels we’re batting about.  They have a practical impact: mainly on the legitimacy required that allows us to act autonomously within the socio-economic and political conditions of our time. (Read: create with integrity and still eat, preferably clothed in your own abode).  Make no mistake, regardless of the “democratization” technology has offered we still don’t get to decide these definitions as an amorphous group of individuals.  Democracy is not “anything goes”; its ultimate end is majority rule.  And definitions only exist by majority agreement.

My position is that doing/being BOTH “Artist” AND “Creative Entrepreneur” is unavoidable; perhaps even desirable.  Will this prevent me from mastering my art?  Or being referred to as an artist?  Considering all the pieces I have to “join together” I might incidentally and quite happily become one (as in the root definition of the word).  Maybe that 80’s rock star had it right all along.  Clarity of goals and honesty with ourselves and others about our intent are essential to success: however you define it.

Art Events, Bowls, Kiln Formed Glass, Uncategorized

The Birthstone Collection – Now Available Online!

Hey Cube’sters!

I have two exciting things to share:  First, my Special Edition Collection of kiln sculpted glass is on display for purchase at Picture This Creative Framing and Gallery.  The new location is celebrating a grand re-opening on Dec 4th from 5:00p to 8:00p and I look forward to seeing everyone!   The works are also available for online purchase at http://www.picturethis-gallery.com/alice-e-shepherd-kiln-formed-glass/ thanks to Matt Fischer!  Be sure to click on the “View Details” button in the “Quick View” window to get the whole story.  I do love a good story, don’t you ?      🙂

Say hello to Turquoise Sky, the birthstone of December.  The visual effect of the mix of brilliant blues and sunset colors made it easy to choose her name.  And there’s a piece for every month of the year!  These substantial bowls weigh 22 ounces and are approximately 8-1/2″ in diameter by 2-3″ deep.

Dec - Turquoise Sky
Dec – Turquoise Sky

AND if that isn’t enough…I am just back from setting up at Treasures for the Holidays at Gaylord Hotel and Resort (https://www.facebook.com/treasuresfortheholidays) with the “Birthstone Keepsake Collection”, mini versions (5″ diameter) of the gallery pieces complete with the most precious little “hat box” you’ve ever seen!  It has self-threaded, replaceable ribbon.  You just tie the bow and voila!  Gift!  These are perfect for bedside, bureau, or sink-side as a safe place to hold your valuable rings, earrings and other jewelry while you get on with your busy life.  You might say they’re “Gems for Jewels”!


I love it when a plan comes together.  Stay tuned for updates and enjoy your holidays!

Bowls, Kiln Formed Glass

Sapphire and Moonstone Bowl

Hot out of the kiln this morning! The second in my Birthstone Series: Sapphire and Moonstone for September.  It measures approx. 8 1/2 diameter by 2 1/4 deep and features iridized glass in both sapphire and clear as well a sprinkling of dichroic on top.  An alternate shot appears at the bottom of the post:

Bowl on Reflective Black   And a close up…Close Up-Sapphire Moonstone Bowl

As usual, for my kindred, Cube’ster spirits interested in how things work I present a sketch of the process.   Being quite literally unable to let precious, gorgeous remnants go to waste, first comes the re-purposing of scrap glass:


Next the “gemstones” (technically referred to as “frit balls”) are formed in the kiln.  It took several firings to get all the colors done that follow:

Frit Balls in Kiln


Frit Balls

After which they are fused together to render this:

After Fusing in Kiln

Then another round of firing in a mold to slump into the bowl shape:

Bowl on white

I am grateful to always be genuinely surprised and delighted by these outcomes.  Although this glass is System 96 (because that’s what I had on hand), I thank the folks at Bullseye for sharing this technique on their website (http://www.bullseyeglass.com/).

Bowls, Kiln Formed Glass

Success with the Kiln-Pressed Glass Technique!

In my last post, the first of the year, I promised to do and THEN talk about it.  After several months of home renovation which put both my in-home studio space AND my garage workshop (and ME) out of commission I am FINALLY putting the pieces back together .  So without further ado I bring you —  drum roll please:

Finished Bowl

This 10″ diameter, vibrant bowl was created using the “Kiln Pressed Glass” technique generously shared online at http://www.fusedglass.org.  This multi-step, high temperature process is decidedly NOT for the faint of heart but the results are rewarding.  To my knowledge there is no other way to get this watercolor effect in kiln-formed glass.  For kindred spirits interested in process a picture(s) is worth a thousand words…

DAY 1: First comes the cutting and the weighing.

Assembly on 5.75 inch clear base

After cleaning the glass bits they’re set up in the kiln. Diameter starts at less than 6 inches:

Layup in Kiln 1st Firing

And here’s the “pressed” part: loads of weights are stacked ON TOP OF THE GLASS.  Yes, what you see above is indeed UNDER this:

Under Weights 1st Firing

With breath held and fingers crossed, the lid is closed and the firing cycle is programmed. Target temp is 1500 degrees with a lengthy hold.  Entire cycle lasts nearly 24 hours.  The result is over 8 inches in diameter, nearly 3 inches larger than the start:

After 1st FiringBut wait, there’s more…

DAY 2:  After soaking to remove stuck on kiln wash, coldworking both surfaces with diamond hand laps then re-coating the kiln shelves and curing those (WHEW!) comes more glass cutting, cleaning and weighing (see step one) and THEN…

DAY 2 1/2:  back in the kiln with the additional glass for the second firing:

Layup in Kiln 2nd Firing

It, too, is completely covered with loads of weights:

Under Weights 2nd Firing

The next day…

After 2nd Firing

The piece that started at somewhere between 5 1/2″ – 5 3/4″ is now 10 1/2″D with an overall thickness averaging just under 1/4″ according to my trusty calipers.

DAY 3:  Next the piece went back into the kiln for a “Fire Polishing”: a lower temp and less lengthy process but basically adds a work day to the project.  This provided a glossy top surface and a satin bottom (see pics at end).

DAY 4:  Time to slump.  The piece was centered and leveled on a bowl mold inside the Jen-Ken fiber kiln.  Now when riding my motorcycle I endeavor to keep the shiny side up.  But in this case I decided to go shiny side down and satin finish up top:

Leveled on Slump Mold

DAY 5:  Here’s what I got when I opened the kiln:

After Bowl Slump

And here are alternate snapshots of the finished piece which hopefully show at least a little the glossy exterior vs. satin interior finishes I achieved:

Finished Bowl on Stand_Glossy Exterior_Satin Interior14 Finished Bowl Satin Interior REDUCED

I am thrilled with the results and can’t wait to see how this technique will figure into my craft as a whole. Thanks for reading and stay tuned, Cube’sters!




“I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news”, or “A Door Closes and a Window Opens”

Well, Cube’sters since we can’t speak directly I’ll choose and tell you the not so good news first.  The jury is in (literally) and my “Water, water everywhere…” work is….wait for it…OUT!!!  So no out-of-state gallery exhibit for yours truly. And while it would’ve been nice to be accepted on my first attempt I have to admit being a tad relieved.  I have SO MUCH going on right now and going into production for the installation was a daunting idea.

So meanwhile, back at the ranch…my current awesome artist/mentor hooked me up with another opportunity: the chance to work with the curator of the Parthenon Museum (Centennial Park, Nashville, TN).  We had a chance for a sit down that went exceedingly well but, alas, this time it was I who opted out.   This was a difficult decision but I’m learning to listen to my instincts.  This meeting prompted me to reexamine my journey and begin the process of narrowing, of weeding out, of focusing on exactly what is right for me – in this moment.

So a door closed and window opened.  And I?  Let’s just say I’m enjoying the fresh air.


New Work: Water, Water Everywhere…

Hey Cube’sters!  Just finished a new piece today.  It’s an 8″ x 8″ x 3/4″ deep “sample piece” I’ll ship tomorrow for an out-of-state juried exhibit. If I am chosen to participate I’ll go into production to make the required additional 19 original works within my chosen theme:  “Water, water everywhere…nor any drop to drink”.  My installation will be a visual reminder of the vital role that water plays in all our lives and a reminder that although approximately 3/4’s of the Earth’s surface is covered in water roughly a billion folks still lack access to a clean source. Because glass is neither a solid nor a liquid it behaves differently when exposed to different temperatures so it serves as a perfect representation for water, which also changes forms depending on temperature and conditions.  And as you know I’m a metal-head in many senses of the word; the blue color and bubbles within the glass resulted from thin copper being fired between the layers of glass.  The sides are covered in silver leaf and I’ve also included some re-purposed shim stock for that industrial feel.  So without further ado, here are a couple of pics:

Water, Water Front ViewWater, Water detail sideHere’s to Artwork Cubed meeting Art Squared!  Stay tuned for the results and wish me luck!


Art Events

Stacked Box Community Mural Project

Well, Cube’sters, two things are now official: 1) the Guinness Book of World Records has accepted this massive undertaking for consideration to break the record for largest box mural (I think it’ll be classified as a mosaic) and, 2) I’m hooked!   This post covers the last three, yes THREE, events where I’ve volunteered.  This is so much work, er I mean FUN  🙂 and I’m so lucky to be making such interesting new friends and meeting other, more established artists!   Check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StackedBoxCommunityMuralProject for volunteer opportunities, schedule of events and the like.  In the meantime, hope you enjoy these pics!

(As always, click one for larger images and a self-guided tour.)