Meet the Artist: Kristina Logan

Corning Museum of Glass, March 5, 2009

Tina Oldknow: Hi, I’m Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass at The Corning Museum of Glass. I’m standing in front of a case of historic African and Venetian beads from the Museum’s collection. On March 5, 2009, artist Kristina Logan presented a lecture about her work, as part of the Museum’s ongoing Meet the Artist series. We hope that you’ll enjoy the following videocast of that lecture.

Kristina Logan: Thank you all. I am honored to be here. And I want to thank you all individually from my heart for being here, because without your presence, I wouldn’t be able to be here. Making what I do, and sharing it with the world, is really a passion of mine.

I think I will start right away with this photo: I started making glass beads around 1990, which is getting close to 20 years ago. I studied fine arts at the University of New Hampshire and at that time, there was no glass department there—they didn’t even have a bronze foundry. In school, I carved wood, was really afraid of color, and I did a lot of figure drawing at the time.

When I got out of school, I ended up working at a glass studio—and that was really by chance. I had worked in a café, serving coffee and baking bread after art school, like every good artist. Somebody walked into the café one day and he was working for Dan Dailey. I didn’t know anything about glass, and I really didn’t know that glass was a medium for artists. I walked into this studio and I ended up working there for four years. I learned a lot about glass, and I saw it done on a really large scale.

One night, at the very end of those four years, I saw someone working on a torch and flameworking. I thought, “You can do glass by yourself?” I had seen it on this large scale, with all these assistants and these big studios, and these big kilns. So, I was fascinated that you could work glass on such a small scale. And that’s what got me interested in making it for myself.

Beads were the first things that I made. It was this fascination with making something on a scale that you could wear on your body. And these were some of the first beads that I made. The color exploded in my life. I made a postcard—this is my very first postcard—and people would call me up, and they’d say, “Okay, from the top, row number three, count seven beads in…I’d like one of those, please.”

This was my catalog. It represented not only freedom in color, but also freedom in my lifestyle. I then became independent. I was making something that I could then live off of. I slowly started to make jewelry. In the beginning, I was just interested in the beads themselves. These are a pair of earrings. Those little beads—I made them in something like 30 or 40 different colors. This is another pair of earrings that I made, actually more recently, but I made similar ones from the very beginning. Super simple: little bead, little bit of silver. These are cufflinks. So just using the beads in a very primitive way to make jewelry that you could wear on your body.

And then came the beginning part of the rings. I make rings now that are larger, but this is one of the first things that I ever made with my beads. And then slowly my beads got larger. I remember coming here, to The Studio, the first year that it was open, and I showed a slide like this. One of the glassblowers asked me how large it was. And I said, “Wow, well, this is really big. It’s like two inches.” And they proceeded to blow, the next day, a piece that took, you know, four men and three hours to make.

I started to think about beads in a different way. They started to become sculptures on a very small scale: not only something that you would string together and wear on your body, but something that you could look at really close up and imagine it at any scale. And imagine it being a sculpture unto itself.

So then, this was the next postcard that I made. The beads are now starting to become larger, and almost not wearable on a body. I was thinking of the beads as sculpture unto themselves, and I was sort of ignoring the fact that a bead would be worn on a body at all. I worked in all sorts of different situations. Here, I taught a workshop in Venice.

This is Pino Signoretto. He was one of the people at that time who saw my slide and said, “Let’s make it big!” So, here we are making a large bead together. I’m putting all the little dots on there. And we made this enormous bead together: so again, a bead that is really thought of as an object. And then starting to work with these colors that evoke nature. This is sandstone. And here’s the detail of one of those beads with that surface, like a raku pot, or like a fossil.

And here are the beginning stages of me thinking about the jewelry that I wanted to make from the beads. You know, through history, beads have always been strung. You have a hole in a bead, so you string your string right through that hole. You make some knots and you make a clasp. My thought process was first of all just to string them together, with the clasp in the center.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how the clasp could be made. I have a friend who was a machinist. So, I made this out of stainless steel and it screwed together. It was really important to me to incorporate how the metal would be working with the glass. I really think that this was the first stage of my pursuit in combining metal and glass. I had to make a very specific mandrel in order to make that glass fit around that stainless steel, and then carve it and make all those little neurals there—those little decorations.

So again, another large, ivory bead. I feel like this is a little more sophisticated—the direction that the jewelry went into. I call these constellation necklaces. For me, they’re kind of like a constellation of planets.

I started to look at other pieces of jewelry from around the world, and think, well, maybe I don’t need to use just that hole to string the beads then knot them. Instead, I started making disks, and then I would set the disk into a piece of jewelry, as if it were a stone. And then using the center—where that little finial is in the center—that’s where the hole was. I used that to fasten the beads together. On a technical basis, they’re put together by threads. In the center of all those beads are tiny screws that I make. And then I screw them together. So that’s what holds them all together.

This is the kind of jewelry that I’ve always looked at and thought about how it’s put together. Sometimes just those tiniest connections can give me a little inspiration to how these pieces get fit together.

This is much later. This piece I made just last year.

These are more recent beads. I’m starting to think about how I can pull and feather those patterns together.

Tina mentioned that we just filmed a DVD at The Studio, and it will be out in April. I have a little segment that I want to show you that shows me physically making the bead, then talking a little bit about the patterning that I use in order to create a bead very similar to that. I want to show you just two minutes of that. (Audio from DVD)

It’s one of the joys I have, about being in the studio alone and working, is that feeling of time either standing still or just disappearing in a way into a void. I get that feeling when I’m working on patterns. I love patterns. My eye is always drawn to them wherever I’m looking. I find that when I become involved in making a pattern, or working on my own work, even if it’s polishing something or sanding something, the rhythm of my breathing, and my body, and my movements to my hands all seem to get synchronized. It’s the closest way I can feel that my body gets to meditation. It’s like meditation in movement. I have a dedicated yoga practice, and it is very much like that: where your movement and your breath are very connected to your mind at the same time.

It’s not as if when I’m making these dots, I’m feeling like, “Oh, I can’t wait until they’re done,” or, I’m counting them, or I’m angry because they’re not spaced correctly. It is this lack of thought, in a way, being lost in that moment. I try very hard to—as I’m putting a dot down—just be putting that dot down. And so that when I go to my next one, I’m just putting that dot down. It keeps me very much in the moment of it happening, and it’s a great feeling. I’m really proud of the video.

These are the things that I am thinking about constantly and looking for: patterns in my life, in my travels. I’ve had great opportunities to travel to many places and wherever I go I’m looking for these patterns and though they might not end up exactly in my work, they are pretty close. I think it’s just the things that I surround myself with, and that I love, just naturally end up in the work that I make. So mosaic patterns, things on floors, things on walls end up in the beads. And here I’m in my own studio. The DVD was filmed here over across the parking lot in The Studio. This is my own studio. I live in New Hampshire right on the seacoast, just an hour north of Boston. I’m taking one of my beads and I’m grinding it. I’m cold working it on my diamond flat wheel. You can see how sophisticated my water system is: it consists of a plastic bag with a hole in it.

I’m always happy to come here to The Studio to do a little cold working because their setup is a lot nicer than mine. But this works really great and I have another little segment that I want to show you from the DVD. This is the last one that talks about how I actually put the jewelry together, marrying the metal and the glass. (Audio from DVD)

Then I start the drawing process. The drawing process can be either drawings like this one, where I’ve included the chain that I’m following pretty clearly here. Or they can be what I call physical drawings, where I’m not actually drawing in two dimensions but I’m keeping them in three dimensions. I do a lot of that work in the studio. I take elements like this piece of flat sheet that I cut out, and I’ll set that underneath a bead, and I will physically look at it. So instead of a drawing, I can see what it would potentially look like if I turned it into a brooch.

So there it is, finished. This bead right here I made in the DVD, and this following picture, that is the brooch that I was putting together with my hands in that previous segment. It’s first making the glass and then having these elements float around on my various benches in the studio and trying to fit them together: either drawing them or physically making them and putting it together like a puzzle.

This is another brooch. I will play around with the different colors, so for me it’s interesting to see how this one, I think, the next one shows you another – well, there’s another piece of architecture giant brooches on a building. And there ya’ go, all those little details, all the little patterning and then fitting that around the edge of that brooch again with chain.

This particular piece was made with cast crystal. It’s pâte de verre that I cast. After it was finished and taken out of the kiln, I put it into another kiln that I have right by my flame, right by my torch, and then I pick that up hot and flamework on the surface of the pâte de verre. It’s something that I would like to play with a little bit in the future: making pâte de verre and flameworking on the surface, of combining the two materials. That’s how I got that dot pattern. In the center, there, that’s a bead that I made separately and then inlaid that, like a mosaic.

Something as simple as a roof in a French farmhouse, and then thinking about the details around a brooch. These are 18-karat, with a south sea pearl and a Tahitian pearl. And again it’s the pâte de verre that has been flameworked on the surface, so creating little details over this broad palette and then vertical forms, columns, and vertical beads.

This is a brooch that is probably close to four inches long: enormous, sorry. And a bead that I have ground the back side of. A lot of my students ask me, “Why can’t you just cut them in half and then have two pieces to work with?” But I’m often using not exactly the half. Sometimes I just have to cut off a little bit and grind just a little bit and it gives me the opportunity to pick the side that I like best and grind away parts that I might not like as much.

I remember the first couple times that I had to grind beads. I was incredibly nervous about it. And now I really enjoy it. It gives me another facet to work with. So they are made on the torch but then afterwards I can play around with them and cut them, and grind them and set them.

There are some long beads these have gotten enormous (four and a half inches tall) but I’m thinking of them more now. I will show you some slides later about objects. I’m thinking of them more as handles for things, so not necessarily pieces that you would wear on your body, but pieces that would be used for something else. They’re beautiful feeling in your hands, almost like a handle.

This is a shield. I came across this amazing book of shields from all over the world and they really inspired me into these brooches that I made. This is all in sterling silver and glass. And another one like a shield. This one was more recently done. Another shield form: so not only the architecture, but the shields looking like brooches. And this is a piece of architecture. It’s from a building in India, in Jaipur. I love the idea of the perforations and I showed you slides before that had brooches with perforated holes and I’m always looking at those and seeing how you can make something that might be large and give it visual lightness by making those holes. There is something about being in the studio and there is a very specific craft that comes along with glassmaking and this particular kind of bead making.

There is something that you have to train your hands to do, and there’s that patterning. There’s that careful work, there’s that attention to detail. All of that I love and I think it’s just inborn in me because I see it in my daughter now. But making all of those little perforations around there, in the sterling, and then filing them with a little needle file so that they all have the same shape; there’s something about that, that I just love. It makes me then appreciate how instantaneous bead making is because the metal working is so slow.

Another giant shield, and then a bead inspired by the shield. And these arches, this is in India, with the beautiful little sweeping forms. And then this pendant is in 18-karat. They’re two beads that are set inside of each other, so the outside bead has that big hole in the center. And then I made that smaller bead and a setting for it so that it would set in there, and then rivets together. By the way, in that first video I showed you, with that large mandrel and the bead going around that large mandrel, it looks like you could fit your finger in there. That’s enormous in the bead world. That’s very large.

I’ve always been very symmetric about my thought process and working in the studio, and this was a really big departure for me: starting to make things that were not symmetrical and playing around with the weight of pieces on both sides. This piece is made up of two pieces on there that have pâte de verre on them. The upper left hand corner and then right there, that piece of purple is pâte de verre, and then also down here on the lower right, which has been lampworked on the surface as well. Most all of this piece is flameworked glass, except for this piece right here, which includes the pâte de verre.

And then, tiny beads. These are very small. What are they? They’re probably five millimeters round and they’re knotted inbetween.

My daughter is four years old. When she was just eight months old, I made this necklace, which I now call a Sophia necklace, and it was for her. I made it in fun, and in play, and in color, and all of the sudden those muted colors of sandstone, my beads started to have more purples in them, and more greens, and yellows, and pinks, and I really think that is the childlike play that she gave me.

I’m making these now a little bit larger, and in as many colors as I can, so it’s a really nice play, I feel, with the other work. This is the next step: the colors of those beads are now starting to go into the disks, so you can kind of see the progression of more and more color getting in there. And then raking and feathering very carefully with a little metal pick in order to pull those colors. It’s like cake decorating: pulling those colors down so that they blend like that. And now I’m setting them into necklaces and making rings.

So this is coming full circle. Remember the rings at the beginning and how simple they were without any band around them? These are the rings I am making now. The bezels around the outside of them where the silver is and the ring, that is a faux bezel. It’s not really holding the bead in place. What’s holding the bead in place is that little screw that I make in the center.

Here’s more rings, and then a brooch. So, it is interesting, I was speaking to somebody this morning about it, and the watercolor effect of that red-orange color in there. First, I was upset by it, because I really like symmetry. I like those lines to be super clean. But in the end, when this was set into a piece of silver, I was really happy because the outside pattern of the glass is really evenly done. That inside float of color and a little bit of watercolor wiggliness in there is something I don’t think I would have accepted maybe five years ago, and now I’m sort of letting that come in. I like the play of that irregularity with that precision. I like the play of those two feelings together in this brooch.

Here’s another brooch. These are holes in the center. What’s nice, what you wear, you can see into the center of. It’s a big rivet that I make that gets held in there, a big tube rivet.

So, back to India. I don’t know if these were really lightning rods or just more decorations on the top of a building, but they’re beads to me. So, I made candlesticks. These are bronze. And I’m trying to think about how these beads can be used. Some of them I make so large that they really don’t work as something that you could wear on your body, so I want to try to figure out how I can use them in other ways. The candlesticks allowed me to make these large beads and all these patterns and have them out to see in everyday life and not just wearing on a body.

And back traveling in India, my husband and I traveled for two months, and we ended up going in the north to some glass factories. Just by figuring it out and asking people questions and trying to get into them. And that kind of travel, I think, it really impacted my work in the way that’s it’s more about the unknown, it’s more about getting on a bus like this and not really knowing if it’s going where you want it to go, but it’s going to go there for ten hours. So, I like that feeling. Especially when you get to the place you wanted to be, because then you feel like you’ve won the lottery, so you really feel good about that. It’s that intention of going somewhere, but not really knowing what the journey is going to be like, is how I feel about my work. I have a very clear idea in my mind about what I want to make, but I don’t really know how to get there unless I begin it somehow.

The beadmaking is pretty clear because I have done it and I really kind of expect, I know what the glass is going to do on the torch. But, when I start to make things like this, I don’t know how to do it. So I come up with it in my mind. This is what I want to make. I don’t know how to get there and I have made six tea pots in different colors. Even when I begin another one, like the sixth one I made, I still didn’t know how to do it. It was really hard. The body is pâte de verre that I then polish. And then the handle has a stainless, let’s say steel mandrel, armature, that goes through it, and it ends up going into the center of the tea pot. These are non-functional.

It’s like a box so you can lift up the lid and you have a little container on the inside. The handle is held together with that container that goes inside and there is a little cotter pin in there. It was important to me to have a mechanical connection that worked, had integrity to it, and worked, and I was very happy with the result in these little tea pot boxes. A little personality. They’re about a cup and a half. You can almost see how it goes into the center there, there is a little shadow of where the interior would be and the boxes.

This is the direction that I think that I am going in now. I’m still devoted to jewelry and objects that are worn on your body, but I’m also really interested in trying to combine metal and glass and beads in objects. This piece right here is technically the bottom plate that goes around the bottom there. It’s a bezel. Those of you who know, in order to hold a stone, you put a piece of metal around it, and then you tap it, or hammer it, or push it around in order to hold that stone, and so that’s how that is put together. I put the glass down on this dish and then I literally put it on my metal anvil and I hammered it on there. I remember thinking this is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy. It’s amazing how strong glass can be. If you hit it in the wrong way, yes it’s going to crack, but it’s incredibly strong. If you hit it just right, you can just bring that beautiful piece of metal just around there and it fits beautifully and tightly and it held it there. On top, it’s held with a screw.

The next photo shows you the interior loop; no, it doesn’t. This photo is the inspiration to the shape that I am so excited. It is a candlestick that’s here at the Museum on display. From Syria, around 1350. I saw this form in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in bronze. And that’s what was the inspiration for this form. When I came here to the Museum, it was after I had already made it in glass, and got to see one of these candlesticks in glass; I was incredibly excited. And there’s the interior, so it’s fully glass on the interior. I have made it in three different colors. The lid here is tipped over so you can see the little surprise of that little pattern screw in the center.

These are the things that I am thinking about next. I’m going to leave you with the ideas of the future. Boxes and handles. In my mind, when I look at this, I think about the handle being a bead, or the feet being the beads, or the body of it being made with pâte de verre. Or that clasp, where the lock is, something in there being made out of glass. That is the inspiration, there, and I wish I had a photo of my entire family, but I must say that part of the inspiration, of course, is not always the things that you look at, but the people that are around you, that you love. The representation of my entire family will just be my one baby. Those kinds of things in life I think are very meaningful. So that is where I’m at today. Thank you very much.