Kiln-formed 21"-diameter platter

Inspired by Morocco

Kiln-formed 21"-diameter platter
Tassel platter
Tasselled end of cord
Four years ago Jay and I spent the first half of March in Morocco. Our niece Rachel was living there after a year in Rabat as a Fulbright Fellow and loved the country so much we wanted to experience it for ourselves. The country inspired our glass designs for several years, mainly in our use of color and expression of the vibrant culture and our adventures.

Friday's restaurant meal
Lamb couscous and olives
We spent four days in Rabat exploring the medina, captivated by it’s painted walls, decorative doorways, fountains, food stalls, and colorful wares. Olives, dates, spices, oranges and shebbakia (deep fried pastry ribbons dipped in hot honey and coated in sesame seeds) tempted us. Camel meat was also available.
Kiln-formed drop-ring bowl
Serving bowl slumped with drop-out-ring
Many stalls specialized in wearables: woven silk scarves, babouches (leather slipper-like shoes), jalabas (loose-fitting garments), and wide women’s belts. Others carried thuya wood objects, hand-made ceramics, tribal hats and musical instruments. One day we walked to the Sala Colonia ruins (100 BC) and the Merinid necropolis (1284), and watched storks building nests atop the Zaouia minaret, ruins, and tree-tops. It seemed incredible to walk among the ancient ruins! We ate wonderful Moroccan tagines except on Friday, a day of prayer, family, and couscous in Morocco.

Village on the way to Erb Chebbi
El Habra, Morocco
Fused glass pasta bowl
Pasta bowl
After four days Air France finally sent our luggage over and we could go on to other parts of the country. On the crowded train to Fes we stood until a couple separate seats emptied. The rest of the ride gave me an opportunity to practice my petit understanding of French and learn some history from a young woman as well as her modern perspective. In Fes we encountered an afternoon downpour and hail storm and wandered around the ancient Fes Jewish quarter while trying in vain to find our way into that city’s maze of a medina.

The following day we continued our journey south. In the Middle Atlas mountains we saw villages with one-story tan brick and clay buildings, and small cities with salmon color clay, trimmed in butter yellow and light bluish green. At Midelt, with its Berbers, orchre buildings, and mix of donkeys and trucks, our driver announced, “Where we start the Sahara.”

Pise-walled entrance to auberge
Auberge Kasbah Mohayut
The nine-hour drive ended at the Auberge Kasbah Mohayut, one of a string of inns along the high dunes on the western Moroccan Sahara. The Kasbah Mohayut was built of pise (mud and straw) with some stone and stucco. It was inward-oriented like a typical Morocaine dwelling, with rooms surrounding courtyards.
12" x 17" fused glass platter
Red and Pise platter
Jay and I enjoyed being welcomed with mint tea, we relaxed in the garden, and we luxuriated among Moroccan artifacts indoors and out, even in our room. We ate well and slept well both at the auberge and during an overnight camel trek into the dunes. Watching the sun set over the dunes, listening to Berber music around a campfire under a canopy of stars, and sleeping in a Berber tent were a magical experience.

Turquoise reservoir
Atlas Mountains reservoir
As we retraced our route north we learned a little about Toureg (Berber tribe) culture and visited a mosque and mausoleum.
Kiln-formed pasta bowl
Wide-rimmed bowl
Another stop overlooked a turquoise reservoir. Along the way we recognized heritage sites we’d read about: ksour (walled desert compounds) falling into decay because the government cannot afford to preserve them. We also noticed Berber shepherds’ tents and a sheepfold in the fields.

Wheat fields
Semolina fields
Over the next few days we explored the Fes medina before a drive north toward Chefchaouen and the Rif mountains. Flooded, washed-out roads forced a retreat. Our driver shared an Arabic saying that roughly translates, “I want and you want, but God does what God wants.” At least we got see some of the “breadbasket” region where semolina fields produce wheat to make couscous. In a drizzle we visited the ancient Roman ruins at Volubis until we were too wet to any longer enjoy studying mosaic floors. Then we descended to Meknes to explore yet another medina. Every one has its own character.

Blue and white-washed riad walls
Lane in Kasbah Oudaia, Rabat
One more day in Rabat gave us the opportunity to participate in Mass at Cathedral Saint Pierre, finish shopping for gifts in the medina, and visit the Oudaia Kasbah, a 12th-century fortified community where people still reside. We strolled the Andalusian Gardens along with families and couples, and walked narrow streets lined with buildings lime-washed in white and blue. During dinner that evening the call to prayer from nearby mosques sounded especially full and melodious.
Kiln-formed 6" square plate
Casbah plate

Recalling these sounds and scenes is still delightful. There may still be inspirations among our photographs. However another trip to another place this year will surely send us in new directions.

1217P11 fused glass platter

Making a rimations platter

First steps in setting up platter for fusing
Three layers
For the past year or so Jay has been experimenting with a technique he devised. He calls the results his “rimations” style. A platter in soft green and blue hues that he made last summer is a good example. Here’s how Jay did it.

First he cut a 12″ x 17″ piece of white Youghioghenny Easy Fuse glass to serve as a base. He also cut clear glass pieces to cover the base glass while leaving narrow “lanes” between the clear pieces.

Jay sprinkled a film of light green powdered glass over the base. He laid plastic mesh on top of the powder, sprinkled light olive finely ground glass over it, and carefully removed the mesh. Next Jay laid out the clear glass pieces on top of the ground glass. The photo on the right shows the work at that stage.

Close-up of platter ready for kiln
Frit between cut glass pieces
View of glass and frit from edge
Platter set-up edge
Now it was time to fill in the spaces between the pieces of clear glass. For that Jay selected five hues of ground glass in medium and coarse grades. He was interested in colors that complemented the yellow-greens along with some accent colors. Using a spoon and a tweezers he filled in the gaps, building to a depth of about 1/2 inch.

Set-up completed
Ready to fuse
After a little tidying up, the glass assembly was ready to go into the kiln. So Jay transferred it to a large section of kiln shelf and positioned the ceramic shelf on top of ceramic posts he’d set up in the kiln. He also added a few smaller projects on two other shelf sections to fill up the kiln. He lowered the kiln lid and set the fusing program to start.

Fusing the kind of glass we use, from the Youghioghenny Glass factory in McConnellsville, Pennsylvania, requires stepped heating to 1450 degrees F, holding it at that temperature awhile, and then slowly cooling it. At the peak temperature the cut and ground glass is sufficiently soft to come together. As the glass cools, it solidifies. There are critical stages in the heating and cooling that we had to find via experimentation. At those points the glass must be held within a narrow temperature range in order to stabilize it.

End of fusing process
Result of fuse
After about twenty hours the kiln had completed the fusing cycle and was ready to open. That’s when we first see with our eyes, not just imagine, what the works we’ve assembled look like. Glass can change color when it is heated. We know a certain blue will be apple green after heating and particular clears will be yellow, red, or red-orange. But we have to picture the final product in our minds until opening the kiln the first time.

Jay removed all the fused pieces from the kiln for cleaning and closer inspection. Sometimes a piece requires more work, with the addition of more ground glass, and another one or two firings. Jay was happy with the way the platter-to-be looked after the first firing (photo at left). At this point it was a 12″ x 17″ rectangle of “designer glass.”

On the mold in the kiln
Ready to slump
Next Jay placed the fused glass rectangle on top of a 12″ x 17″ platter mold with gentle curves. He had removed the kiln shelf and positioned the platter mold and others in the kiln. They rested on kiln posts set on the floor of the kiln. He balanced fused glass pieces on the molds and programed the kiln for a slump. The kiln gradually heated the glass to a little over 1200 degrees F, softening the glass enough to sag into the mold. The total slumping process required about seventeen hours of kiln time including gradual cooling and annealing.

1217P11 fused glass platter
Flow Gently platter
Jay raised the kiln lid again when the glass had reached room temperature. He lifted out his platter and was pleased with the results. He cleaned it, signed and numbered it.

Jay refers to the style as “rimations,” a word he coined for the multi-hued, pebbly streaks that kris-cross or flow through the remaining subtly patterned glass. He sensed a serene flow to the “rimations” in this platter, so he named it “Flow Gently.”

Fused glass pasta bowl

For my Valentine

Kiln-formed candle holder
Red Streak candle holder
What will you give your Valentine on Friday? A loving message or a red gift, or perhaps both? Here are some ideas from writers and our kiln.

Fused glass olive dish
Red Curve oval dish
My heart is ever at your service. (William Shakespeare)

If you do not have anyone to love, your heart may dry up. Love brings happiness to the ones we love. (Thick Nhat Hanh)

Kiln-formed platter
Red and Purple Straws platter
Love is never something ready made, something merely “given” to a man and woman, it is always at the same time a “task,” which they are set. Love should be seen as something which in a sense never “is” but is always only “becoming,” and what it becomes depends upon the contribution of both persons and the depth of their commitment. (John Paul II, Love and Responsibility)

Kiln-formed candle holder
Red candle-bridge
Love consists of not looking each other in the eye, but of looking outwardly in the same direction. (Anais Nin)

Square kiln-formed plate
Red Curve plate
I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them–it was that promise. (Thornton Wilder, The Skin of Our Teeth)

Lit Cattleya windows

Thirty-year favorite

Top catteya orchid window
Upper stairwell window
An architect designed the house and we designed the windows. It was more than thirty years ago but remains one of my favorite projects. Perhaps that’s because it was the first design in what has become my signature style for stained glass. Using a theme from nature, I emphasize shapes and run color through the design abstractly.

After visiting with the couple who were building the house, talking with their architect, and seeing his plans and model, I mused for awhile. The planned house would accentuate rectangular shapes and the architect and I both thought the window designs should feature organic shapes. The husband grew orchids as a hobby and I saw many possibilities using an orchid motif. The couple liked my idea to base the designs for all four windows on orchids.

Cattleya orchid window
Middle stairwell window
Lead lines in the three windows for the three-story stairwell were inspired by cattleya orchids, those showy purple flowers once popular for corsages. Cattleyas had been the principle flowers in the woman’s bridal bouquet, which her groom had created. You can see most of a cattleya orchid in the middle stairwell window.

Residential side lite
Entry window
The entry window design was based on the shapes of yellow lady-slipper orchids which grow wild in northern Minnesota where the couple enjoyed vacationing. The lady-slippers stretch from floor to ceiling, catching southern sunlight filtered through the woods.

Third Cattleya orchid stained glass window
Lowest stairwell window
For color we agreed to follow the home’s interior decorating scheme of teal green and neutrals. To create the design I played first with the sinuous lines of the orchids’ petals, leaves, and tendrils. When I got close to a final design, I tried out passages of color, laying in first the teal, then brown tones. Sometimes I changed shapes or moved lines to make the colors work. In those days I hand-painted acetate until I got the design right, then created a maquette (model) for the clients. They loved the design.

All of the glass in the windows is Fischer (German) mouth-blown glass, which is no longer made. Marked differences in glass thickness create tones within a single piece of glass.

Recently I asked the lady of the house what she thought of living with the windows for thirty-some years. “I still enjoy the colors, especially with the sun shining through.” She’s pleased that she avoided window coverings and those windows connect the house with the outdoors. She says the stained glass has always garnered compliments from guests.

Lit Cattleya windows
Stairwell windows at night, exterior view