Featured Artist Holly Cooper

I love Holly’s work. She gives a new meaning to stringer control. Visit her website and see what I mean. www.hollycooper.com You’ll have a totally new respect for a Hot Head torch! Read what she has to say about lampworking.

1. How did you get started in lampworking? What was the thing that made you interested?

A confluence of events over a period of time led me to lampworking.

The first thing that happened was seeing a copy of Cindy Jenkins’ book “Making Glass Beads” at the library. I glanced through it and was intrigued. But since it appeared that a lot of special equipment was needed I set it aside. At this point I had been working in ceramics for several years. I didn’t want to invest time and money in another art form and I was happy with the ceramic work.

One day while I was at the ceramic supply store I saw Cindy’s book on display with the glass fusing supplies. I picked it up to flip through it again when a friend walked up. He told me about the Hothead and Blue Moon Glassworks here in Austin. I filed it in my memory, got my clay and tools and went home.

A few months later I was visiting my mom in Columbus Ohio. We stopped in a bead store and I overheard someone talking about the lampwork beads on the bracelet they were wearing. My mom was fascinated and we hatched a plan to take a class together when she came to Austin in the fall.

I only wanted something fun to do with my mom and to maybe make a bracelet. At first I didn’t care for it and probably wouldn’t have stuck with it except for the guilt I felt every time I saw the HotHead torch kit my mom bought me for an early Christmas gift. I didn’t pick it up again until a few months later and I slowly began to get a feel for what I could do with this new medium. (Not long after, I stopped doing ceramics and recently sold all my pottery equipment.)

The thing that finally captured me was the immediacy of working in glass. With clay there is a broken connection as the clay is fired. The piece is dramatically changed in the kiln and the glazing and further firing change it even more. The time between the initial making and the final work can be weeks. I would often lose my emotional connection to my pieces during this transformation and lag time. With glass my work is started and finished in one sitting. Sometimes a sitting of several hours but the piece changes little from the finish through the annealing if I plan it well. Then there are the nice surprises that also occur in the flame that can’t be planned. That’s the immediacy that draws me to glass.

2. How long have you been lampworking? Is it a business for you or a hobby?

I’ve been working in glass for about six and a half years.

I don’t really consider it a hobby or a business as such. I’m an artist by trade and it’s one of the mediums I use among many. I sell my work occasionally from my website but I’m not focusing on it as a business at this time. I want to keep enjoying it as much as I do now and I haven’t found a way yet to keep doing that while earning my living from it.

3. What inspires you? How do you get the inspiration/motivation back when you are in a slump?

I get inspiration from many sources. My work involves much surface pattern and I look at a lot of art from many periods and places that express it with pattern. Most of the glass works I look at are ancient pieces in museums or books. Lately I’ve been narrowing my focus to Ancient Islamic, Greek and Chinese art.

Another thing that inspires me is looking at my own past work. I often see a new piece to make while looking at an old one. The materials and the process themselves are often inspirational too. Discovering a new reaction or process can send me in an entirely new direction.

If I’m not feeling my work is progressing creatively I take a break. Often it’s a long break of several months until I’m willing to pick it up again. During this time I do other art forms. I value the “fallow” periods because my brain needs time to wander. When I start back up again I’m often surprised with new ideas that just come to me. This wouldn’t be possible for me if I relied on lampworking for my sole income. I’ve learned that this is the only way I can work and still enjoy what I’m doing over the long run.

4. Who are your 3 favorite lampworkers? Why?

The artists I look to for creative inspiration are the anonymous artisans of the ancient world. I’m also awestruck by the 19th century French artists such as Émile Gallé and the Daum brothers.

A contemporary artist I admire is Toni Lutman. Her work has such incredible depth and luscious color. Her beads are like fascinating pools with undulating layers of color and pattern suspended in them. Perhaps it’s partly because her work is so different than mine that I’m drawn to it. Toni’s beads are transparent little worlds that change as they turn while my work is mostly on the surface. I’m also fortunate to call her my friend.

I also love Shane Fero’s birds. The fanciful nature of the subject and the use of surface texture and color make me smile.

5. What is the best thing about lampworking? The worst?

Best thing: I get completely lost in the making.
Worst thing: It’s hot in the summer!

6. What is the funniest or scariest thing that ever happened to you when you were torching?

I’ve only had one scary/funny thing happen. One day I had been using transparent colors for a while. I switched to Ivory and while I was heating the rod I looked away for a while. I had forgotten how fast Ivory heats up because I had been used to the transparent colors. I looked back just in time to see a molten gather ready to fly from the rod into my lap. I dropped the glob onto the tile and the crisis was averted. :^) I’m very slow and focused so I rarely have anything exciting happen. (Knocking on Formica)

7. What kind of set up do you use?

I use a HotHead with a bulk propane tank. Up until last year I used the one pound camping tanks. I like the simplicity of the HotHead and it suits my working style.

8. What is your favorite glass?

Vetrofond, Effetre and a few CIM colors.

9. Do you have a favorite technique?

Stringer work is my favorite technique. I like working with line. I also like the reactions I get from silver leaf.

10. What are your favorite color combinations?

Vetrofond Black and Ivory with a bit of Copper Green for color. I’m still fascinated by all the different ways these three colors work together.

11. What’s your favorite technique? What technique makes you want to bang your (or someone else’s) head against the wall?

Finely detailed stringer work. It’s my favorite and it makes me crazy. Two for one. ;^)

12. Is there a shape that you really HATE to make?

There aren’t any shapes that I “hate” to make but I don’t make true bicones because I don’t like the look of the shape for my beads.

13. Do you have a ‘comfort’ bead?

I can’t say I have a “comfort bead” but I enjoy making small round beads with intricate patterns when I’m playing around. It helps me get focused for the larger more complex beads that take up to four hours to complete.

14. How do you see yourself developing as a lampworker in the future? What are your goals?

My plan is to keep doing what I’m doing and see where that takes me. I want to keep open to what comes my way. Sometimes there are wonderful things waiting for us we can’t foresee.

15. What do you consider as successful? What is the key to getting there?

Success is so personal. For me it’s doing what I enjoy doing exactly as I want to do it. The key for me is to follow my inner desires. Sometimes this requires me to pay very close attention. It’s easy to be swayed by outside influences.

16. What would be your 3 best tips for new artists?

1) Become very familiar with a limited palette of colors, say three or so. Do everything possible with these colors and you’ll learn a lot about glass.

2) Limit your tools for a time to the bare essentials. This will teach you how much you can do with each tool. (I have very few tools and use few colors. My set up is very low tech. I think I’ve learned more working this way than if I had every color and every tool made.)

3) Do it, keep doing it, over and over. If you do this you can’t help but get better at it.

17. Do you like to take classes from other lampworkers?

The only class I’ve taken was my initial beginner class. Maybe one day I’ll take another but it’s not a priority for me right now.

18. Do you teach? Will you travel to teach?

I’ve just begun to consider inquiries about teaching. Travel is one of the perks of teaching! I love seeing new places and meeting new people.


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