Featured Artist—JC Herrell
Pura Vida…If you know JC, you know that’s her ‘mantra’ for life…pure life, this is life…satisfaction with life. It must be what gives her that amazing ability that she has with hot glass. Her beads are beautiful and unique. I always have to smile when I see them because they are so colorful and cheerful. And apparently perfect…did I say perfect? J I hope you enjoy MCC’s interview with her.
JC will be teaching at Blue Fire Beads in New Lenox, IL May 24 and 25. I can’t wait for her class and I know I’m not alone. If you are interested, www.bluefirebeads.com There are still places available.
1. How did you get started in lampworking? What was the thing that made you interested?
I’ve always been fascinated with hot things. And I’ve always loved watching flowing liquids. And so I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think that hot glass was awesome. The interest was always there. I started lampworking when my ex-husband urged me to find a stress reliever and dragged me to a stained glass store where he knew the owner had a lampworking studio. Upon starting to order the equipment the owner of the store asked me what I wanted to make. I responded by telling him I just knew I wanted to melt glass but hadn’t thought about what I would make. He then confidently told me I wanted to make beads and told me what I need to do it. Beads seemed like a reasonable reason to melt glass (as opposed to tiny teapots, the other option he offered). And since then I’ve grown to love making beads out of glass.
2. How long have you been lampworking? Is it a business for you or a hobby?
I bought my torch in the fall of 2001 but found it so frustrating (and scary) that I didn’t actually start using it regularly or with any real intent until 2004. And when I started to get the hang of it I couldn’t stop. In January of 2005 I quit my job as the director of a non-profit organization and started making beads full time.
3. What inspires you? How do you get the inspiration/motivation back when you are in a slump?
I tend to be inspired in phases of the types and the quantity of inspiration I’m given. I’m either swimming with ideas or feeling creatively dry. When I actively seek inspiration or work to find new ideas I mostly end up frustrated with my self and my glass. Mostly I find that inspiration finds me and that’s a comfortable process for me. It seems that friends and architecture are my two strongest influences, at least of late. I’ve always loved incorporating architectural elements in my work and watching for them in the buildings around me. I also get a lot of ideas from talking glass with friends or picking up a new technique or idea from the people around me. Customers can also be great inspirations with suggestions of what will work for their designs.
4. Who are your 3 favorite lampworkers? Why?
This is a very difficult question. Very. I want to name friends because I love them and I love torching with them and I love their work and being inspired by it. Other than that I’m a big fan of Emilio Santini for his beautiful theories of perfection.
5. What is the best thing about lampworking? The worst?The worst is definitely the physical hazards including but not limited to: back pain, burns, cuts, and all the toxic yucky stuff that covers my bench. The best part? It’s hard to just pick one most awesome thing about lampworking so I’ll say that the lampworking lifestyle is the best thing about lampworking. I love setting my own hours, traveling, meeting people, seeing all the creativity and defining my life the way it works for me. When you consider all this ON TOP of melting glass all day and night… is there anything better?
6. What is the funniest or scariest thing that ever happened to you when you were torching? Another hard question. Scary and funny stuff happens all the time. I think my scariest moment is when I set myself on fire via synthetic fabric. Big, big flames and many bad smells. Don’t wear fleece when torching. 7. What kind of set up do you use? Torch?
I work on a Bethlehem Barracuda. I love it. It’s just big enough to rage a big bead and the versatility of the pin point flame is a total turn on for me. I used to run it on two Unlimited Oxygen M-20 concentrators (which didn’t quite get the torch to full power, but did get the job done). I’ve been traveling for the last few months and mostly, since then I’ve been using liquid oxygen dewars with my shop hosts and shop mates. I definitely prefer the liquid oxy to the concentrators.
My favorite color of glass is probably electric yellow. I love the glow of it under my enamels. It works so well with cool blues green and just as well with oranges and reds. If you ask me it’s the perfect yellow. I also love dark silver purple plum for stringer work and you’ll find that on almost every bead I make (DSP is much nicer to work with than intense black for very thin lines).
9. What are your favorite color combinations?
I have two favorite color combinations. Of course they involve Thompson Enamels. My first love is electric yellow with an orange to orange red to cherry red to dark red enamel fade on top. My second love is an enamel combo that I adore on all kinds of different base colors: grey green to gray blue green to blue green.
I have two favorite techniques: drawing with fine stringer and sifting enamel. Making flowers (raised, encased or any form) makes me want to scream.
11. Is there a shape that you really HATE to make?
12. Do you have a ‘comfort’ bead?
I don’t have a particular bead that comforts me but I do have a few beads I’m very comfortable making like berry beads or rainbows. I make these beads when I haven’t torched in a while or while I’m getting used to new surroundings.
13. How do you see yourself developing as a lampworker in the future? What are your goals?
I just love glass. I love melting it. Ideally, sometime a long time in the future, I’ll have the skills and equipment to execute any idea or concept I can conceive of. That’s the ultimate goal. Long term I want to learn more about glass casting on a large scale, and laminating, and furnace work. Short term I have some fusing projects I would like to get the facilities to work on more and I would like to have the time to improve my blown boro skills, too.
14. What do you consider as successful? What is the key to getting there? To me, success is happiness. If I’m happy and content I’m as successful as I can be. The key to happiness? I’m still working on figuring that part out…
15. What would be your 3 best tips for new artists?
Do it because you love it. Do what you love and not what you think you ought to do. Don’t let fear or judgment stop you.
16. Do you like to take classes from other lampworkers?
I’ve sat in and acted as TA in a class or two but I’ve never taken a class. I typically learn in my own classroom of experiments and errors.
17. Do you teach? Will you travel to teach?
I do teach occasionally and will travel to do so… after all, that’s one of the great parts of the lampworking lifestyle. I love sharing, being shared with and traveling to do so. 18. What other creative outlets do you have?
Glass is kind of all consuming for me. Though, I recently bought a skateboard. But unfortunately I spend most of my time melting glass so I haven’t really gained many skills on the board… Just scars.