We take it for granted. It's just about everywhere and used for endless applications. It's pretty, it can be invisible, yet it can help you see. It's a utilitarian resource as much as it is an artistic medium. It's clear, shiny, or can be crafted in gorgeous colors.
I am talking about glass, though not all glass is created equal.
Houston is home to many glass artists and glass installations. Yet it is easy to pass by some of these wonders without paying them the respect and admiration they deserve. That's why the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art's Eyeopener Tour Sunday is dedicated to the brittle substance.
Eyeopener Tours do exactly what their heading implies. They raise awareness of hidden or unnoticed gems in the Bayou City. This time around, the excursion focuses on "The Art of Glass" and visits Lighthouse Glass, Trinity Episcopal Church, Nouveau Antique Art bar, PG Contemporary Gallery and Art Glass Experience to discover pioneer artists, exquisite installations and stained glass.
The end piece may look painted, a trompe l'oeil effect per se, but it's not. Everything come from the glass itself, and it's stunning.
On this "Art and About" adventure, I visited Houston Studio Glass on Jackson Hill just south of Washington for an up close and personal demo.
Nestled in between luxury Mediterranean stucco townhouses, the unassuming workshop has been home for glass artist Kathy Poeppel and retired neurosurgeon Richard Moiel for 15 years. The husband-and-wife team's journey began with collecting.
The 2,700 square-foot atelier has a free standing furnace reaching temperatures up to 2,050 degrees Fahrenheit. That's hot.
There are two working stations, benches, hand torches and a glory hole— the name of the second furnace — where glass is reheated time and time again while shaping, turning, clipping, rolling and blowing it to the desired configuration using tools, water, wood instruments and even wet newspapers.
In Houston, it's best to keep glass making to the cooler months. Once humidity and heat peaks, the workshop's condition would be unbearable — it's not air conditioned. The activity requires a steady firm grip. Perspiration is not a glassblower's best friend.
All glass begins clear. Color is added as desired, sometimes the chemically compatible hue crystals create a beautiful texture.
"The colors come from metal oxides," Moiel explains. "A green would be a copper, a blue would be cobalt and red would be gold."
At times, the activity centers around creating the building blocks for a larger, more complex item — like a weaved vase or the interior of a paperweight. The end piece may look painted, a trompe l'oeil effect per se, but it's not. Everything come from the glass itself, and it's stunning.
This demo focused on how blown techniques were used to then create flat glass to be used in stained installations.
Curious? Watch the video. Can't get enough? Make a reservation and join in "The Art of Glass" Eyeopener Tour.
Tickets are $40 for Orange Show members and $60 for non-members. You'll ride around in a luxury motor coach filled to the brim with adult beverages and snacks, including oranges, and lovely company.