Springfield artist Ed Martin has taken to heart the title of one of his glass pieces "Aspiring to Greater Heights." His show at the Washington Park Botanical Garden Conservatory, which runs until early April, has more than two dozen striking works of vivid, vibrant color that work well with the flowers and greenery.
Martin is self-taught, with 30 years into his craft. Operating out of a glass and woodworking shop in his home, he melds and fuses glass into art pieces that are beautiful and at the same time whimsical.
They seem especially suited for a conservatory. "They do have that sort of Dr. Seuss appeal about them, don't they?" Martin said.
Martin's pieces are big on aesthetics and balance. Although there's a mathematical element to them, it is only in the structure. In the conservatory they look like bright flower petals, souped-up leaves, tongues of color, the bright flash of a bird's wing - maybe a gothic birdhouse, a series of waving grasses or the most eye-catching flower vases ever created.
The gothic birdhouse is actually "Gothic Tower." In it Martin uses black opaque glass as well as dichroic glass. Dichroic can give a metallic effect, but the color of the glass can also turn to deep burgundy or explode into maroon. Dichroic glass uses light to manipulate colors. It makes a flat, smooth surface take on the appearance of an oil slick or the changing iridescence of a dragon fly's wing.
"The mood of a piece can completely change with the light. You can play on the light with the materials you use," he said.
Martin said he works on numerous pieces at one time. While other glass artists are content to make little flashy pieces, his works are vibrant spires reaching to the sky. Over the past eight years he has honed his glass craft to fuse and meld glass pieces into huge sculptures.
"I have a giant kiln, its seven feet long and three feet wide," he said. The colored glass, which has different pieces fused inside or over each other, may also have different finishes created by the firing techniques. The pieces can be put in either metal or wooden stands or hung in windows.
"I've done tile for backsplashes or for windows and jewelry. I love primary colors, and I love the bright, vivid pictures you can make with the glass," he said.
He actually started out creating glass art with glassblowing. He honed the techniques he uses now - beveling, fusing and three-dimensional etching - on the smaller pieces.
His art is full-time work now. Transporting the pieces from show to show means lots of bubble wrap. The larger sculptures can be dismantled and transported in pieces.
He participates in numerous juried shows and is really enjoying the show at the conservatory. "The stuff looks good here. The different light throughout the day really shows all the effects off."
Story published Friday, March 6, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 2 )