Art Glass by Scott Simmons
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1981 with B.S. and M.S. degrees in Forestry and Plant Pathology, I purchased some land outside of Madison with my wife Elizabeth. Together we built a passive solar house and a small commercial passive solar greenhouse, and spent several years growing vegetables year-round for restaurants and markets in Madison. In 1983 I went back to the University to work in an electron microscopy laboratory. I ran this lab for the next 14 years, researching everything from blood cells to dinosaur bones - whatever came through the door.
During the last four years of my tenure at the university I became interested in glassblowing. I studied afternoons and evenings in the University of Wisconsin glass art program, and bartered labor for training in a private studio with a local glass artist. In 1997 I resigned from the microscopy laboratory, built a hot glass studio out behind the greenhouse, and now make glass full time.
My work is hand blown glass. I work alone in my studio, creating primarily functional pieces such as vases and bowls offhand at the furnace.
Color is applied to pieces in several ways. Often I will blend bits of molten colored glasses into a small globule on the end of the blowpipe, using as many as 5 or 6 colors, some as gentle washes of color, others in strong, contrasting patterns. A quantity of clear glass is gathered over the colored bit, and the piece is blown out and shaped by traditional methods and tools.
Other times a color pattern is created by more standard techniques; picking up colored canes, murrini, or shards of colored glass on the side of the hot bubble as it is blown.
My forms range from traditional vases and bowls with tightly controlled shapes to stretched, playful versions of traditional vessels which exploit the fluid nature of the hot glass as they are created. My botanical training and experience shows up in my work in the earthy colors and decorative designs on the pieces and in the soft, organic nature of some of the forms.
My years as an electron microscopist have left me with kind of perceptual dyslexia; disabled my sense of scale. I see life in layers. I see a tree, I see the layers of bark and wood, I see the layers of cell walls and all the tiny mechanical apparatus inside the cell. I see the tiny robot ribosomes crawling along the DNA strands inside the nucleus. I see the earth and sky and the tree caught between and I lose perspective. The layers are all the same scale in my head.
I try to bring a sense of this, the perceptual dislocation, the distortion and blending of size and scale, to my art. Glass is a marvelously pliable medium. A pattern trapped inside a cane for murrini will shrink almost to oblivion as the cane is drawn out. Then, when the murrini are picked up and blown out on the surface of a vase, the pattern magically reappears, stretching like a face in a funhouse mirror. An entire universe can be enclosed in a small paperweight, or a microscopic fungal flower can be brought up large and electric blue to stand on your desk.
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April 20, 2017.
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