Ancient Form on the front cover of John Michael Kohler

Arts Center newsletter. July/August 1997.

The picture shows a part of a plan for their new Arts Center in Sheboygan that is by now in full operation : )


Ancient Form is on the right side in the picture above.


The making of Ancient Form takes over a long period. I had made the glass part in my first Pilchuck Glass School class ( with the glass sculptor Gene Koss). One of the things Gene wanted to teach us was to cast into a tree mold. He gave all of us a tree stump and that got then split in half. Then hinges where put on so we could close the stump.Next step was to work with a chisel and a mallet on a form on the inside of the two halves and try to make sure that they would match up in the end. I had no idea what to sculpt in the beginning but my passion for conical forms decided to come out and I started chiseling on the wood. I didn't want a simple cone though, that was to easy so I decided that it would have a hole through it in one spot.

When it came to pour the molten glass into the tree stump I had no idea what would really happen and got really surprised with what I saw in the second half of the process.

When the glass lost that red color that told us that it was cold enough to take out of the mold and put it into an annealer.Well I had guessed that the mold would burn but I didn't realize that the glass would be so fluid that it would go into all the fissures that got made in the wood by the fire and create this amazing texture on the surface of the glass. I didn't know what to do with this experimental piece when it came out of the kiln couple of days later. I usually plan everything I make, so no wonder it took me couple of years to figure out what to do with this unusual glass part. It needed something to go with it and I didn't know what. When I got accepted into the Kohler Residency program I decided to take this piece with me and see if I could come up with a partner. After some thinking I decided to make some sort of an extension of the glass part. That meant I had to imitate the fissures of the burned wood on the cast metal. Kohler uses resin bound sand for its castings and I had to do use their mold materials to somehow make negative fissures into my template but to expect that to relieve out of the corse sand mold was out of the question. The mold had to be slick on the inside to get the form out. To get the texture I decided to carved with a homemade tool the negative of the fissures into the slick mold. The mold was in three halves so I had good access to the insides of the mold. After casting a section it is normal to sandblast the surface of the casting to get of all burn-marks and get rid of all sand that wants to stick to the surface. I left it untouched to emphasize the overall old look that the glass piece has also. To get the glass piece and the metal piece together I came up with an idea that had to do with extending the glass pieces so it would fit into the metal. I got some resin from another part of the factory and poured it in to a temporary clay mold that I had made around the end of the glass piece. I then shaped that new end so it fitted snugly into the metal part. When that was done I had still two problems to solve. How was the glass piece going to stay in the metal piece. I didn't want to glue it in. I also wanted to hang the piece somehow. Well I solved that by drilling through the metal and the resin part and putting a metal bar through there that then could be either hung on to a stand of some sort like the picture above shows or be free floating by two chains hanging from above. Now the seam where the glass and the metal meet is rather crude so that had to also be fixed somehow. I thought of rubber strapping, cloth and other things but because the piece had this old quality to it, leather kept popping up into mind. At the end of my residency one of the main workers at the factory that had been following my work all along said that when their welding jackets got to bad to use and they got a new one, they keep the old ones and use them to repair better looking jackets or aprons. I asked him if he could bring me a piece to see if it could work and it did. It had the same color range as the glass and the metal and had that look of having being used. Being a recycle fan, this was just super and that it came from the workers made it just perfect. That same man offered to braid the leather together at the back of the piece for me and I let him do that for at that time it was known that the piece was going to be part of the Sheboigan Art Center collection and would be mainly seen by the workers and their families and having being a part of its making made it worth more both to me and them.




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