Glass is a canvas not lost on artisans at Historic Savage Mill

February 04, 1994|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,Contributing Writer

After a visit to Historic Savage Mill's Classy Glass Weekend, a look in the kitchen cupboard for an ordinary drinking vessel may never be the same.

This weekend's event will spotlight the mill's glass artisans, as well as artists and experts from outside Savage.

The display will feature glass that is flame-worked, etched, stained and leaded, fused, engraved and blown. The exhibit will include a creative collaboration between artists from Maryland and Texas.

R. Foster Holcombe, of the Art of Fire at the mill, has blown glass into bronze cages created by Bill and Deborah Jizzard of Plantersville, Texas, featured artists this weekend. The result are objects, mostly goblets, with bronze stands supporting and wrapping glass vessels.

Mr. Holcombe's wife, Theda Hansen, said Ms. Jizzard came up with the idea of fusing the glass and bronze works.

"Deborah said 'I really think this would be fun to try. Can you blow glass into it?' " Ms. Hansen said.

The process doesn't end when the glass cools. Mr. Holcombe then sends each work to Colorado, where copper, nickel and finally gold are electroplated over the bronze. Prices for each finished piece range from $200 to $900.

Ms. Hansen is noted for selling handcrafted dolls at the mill. This weekend, however, more emphasis will be placed on her fused glass jewelry, created from pieces of glass left over from her husband's work.

The glass pieces are placed in a kiln at 1,400 degrees and melt onto each other. The jewelry is then strung with satin.

Felice Osband, of Rochester, N.Y., a close friend of Mr. Holcombe and Ms. Hansen, also will demonstrate her glass art.

She met the couple at a renaissance festival in Texas, where Ms. Osband noticed Ms. Hansen would quickly buy her best works.

Ms. Osband's specialty is flame-worked glass, which is made by taking a thin rod of glass and a torch and gradually sculpting a work from the rod. Among them are dragons and wizards that would be at home in an off-beat version of "The Glass Menagerie."

She also makes "fused and slumped tableware" that is different from flame-worked glass. This process begins with two pieces of glass with glass powder sprinkled in between for color. The glass is heated in a kiln, fused together and "slumps" into a mold.

"It goes in the kiln, and say a prayer," she said.

Ms. Osband has been an independent artist for 15 years and has studied under Paul Stankard of New Jersey, who was in National Geographic's cover story on glass last year.

Other artists and works at the weekend event will be Jim Richards' etched glass; Alan Ernstein's stained and leaded glass and Phil and Jeanne Ensmenger, glass engravers. The Ensmengers are from St. Michael's. Mr. Richards and Mr. Ernstein work at Historic Savage Mill.

To protect his body from glass dust during his etchings, Mr. Richards must wear a suit and helmet that makes him "look like either Darth Vader or Robocop," said Ellie Butehorn, director of marketing at Historic Savage Mill.

"What's even more remarkable is that his works are so delicate," she said.

Orva Heissenbuttel, a Washington antique glass lecturer and historian, will conduct a glass identification clinic from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday in the Old Weave Building.

Ms. Heissenbuttel can estimate the history, age and value of glass works that people bring to the mill. Organizers request a limit of one piece per person.

"You bring a piece of glass to her and she'll tell you about it. She brings in many books and she'll show you that she's not coming to this off the top of her head," said Ms. Butehorn.

The recently renovated Old Weave Building at the Mill will be the site for exhibits and demonstrations by Ms. Heissenbuttel, Ms. Osband, Mr. Ernstein and the Ensmengers.

Historic Savage Mill will hold its Classy Glass Weekend from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday. The mill is at 8600 Foundry Street in Savage.

A reception for the Jizzards will take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at the Art of Fire. The works will be displayed at the studio through Feb. 27.

For information call 792-2820.

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