New Commission - Cynthia

Through my art dealer and friend Micaëla of Micaëla Contemporary Projects, I have a new commission.  I'm making an art piece for the alcove above her client Cynthia's fireplace, which is a gorgeous, deep green marble.

Cynthia and her husband have a new home, new gardens, their daughter is graduating, and their son is getting married.  I will design an art piece that signifies growth, becoming, and fertility.


After a week of pondering, sketching, thinking, considering a variety of ideas, I settled on my idea to make garden trellises with botanical elements "growing" on them.  

Cynthia loved my idea so I moved forward with the design, making a mock up of the installation.

We planned to start with three trellis panels and follow with one panel each month until all seven are installed.  I'll make the three panels and then the botanical elements.  Here's the first one.

While making the three trellis panels, I began to mock up the piece with actual glass components.  

First a "sketch" on the floor with tape and yarn.  Here's one panel complete and the outline of the second.  The blue squares are nasty outlets I'll have to deal with.  Hopefully the botanical clusters I place in front of them will sufficiently hide them.  

On to the botanical elements.  I used random spare or "dud" parts from my studio, laid them out on top of my large kiln, "sketching" the elements and how they would fit together.  The little jars are filled with glass powders in a variety of colors.  Over the next weeks I replaced the mock parts with actual parts that will be on the panels - the kunquots (upper left), pears (center top), small yellow buds (center), lantenr pods (middle right) and flower petals (lower right) are done.  I usually start with the fruits so I can see their shapes and colors, then decide on shapes and colors for the leaves.  Leaves are difficult and time consuming so I have a habit of procrastinating on those.  I should probably change my practice and always make the leaves first!

To further the idea of a growing art piece, I made the clusters individual and removable.  This way the clusters can be moved around among all the trellis panels.


In keeping with the idea of a living, growing art piece, I made two little surprises - a caterpillar just preparing to make its chrysalis and a small green chrysalis.  

To avoid damaging Cynthia's wood, I decided to make a wood base for the piece.  My husband Brent helped with cutting, routing and drilling.  I sanded and painted it, then didn't like the surface so I sanded all that paint off and started over with deeper sanding.  (For your car buffs, just behind me is a '57 Chevy Nomad that Brent is rebuilding.)

I kept worrying about lighting and how the piece would show up in that alcove.  Cynthia has just one small spotlight in front of the alcove and that wouldn't be sufficient, so I decided to install a light strip along the back.  Brent routed out a ledge to mount it on.  

Panels, botanical clusters, wood base and steel trellis supports were made.

The light strip turned out to be a glitch.  We found a beautiful kit at Home Depot only to open it and find the plug and cord were black.  Everything in the kit was clean white, and the plug black.  Who invented that?!  I spent hours researching online and calling around for a white plug that would work with the kit.  On the day of installation I still didn't have that resolved, so we decided to install anyway and change it later if needed.

We just temporarily laid the light strip along the back and I hung the panels and botanical clusters.  

They're beautiful ......

... except for those pesky outlets and the clunky black plug!  

We left everything in place, agreeing to return in two days with a solution to the outlets and lighting.  

Two days later...  

Brent, knowing electrical stuff, came up with a solution of splicing a white power source and a new cord and plug onto the connector.  

We uninstalled the whole piece and went to work on the lighting.  

Over the two days, I had scurried to make a new botanical element to cover the big TV outlet.  I treated the surface of the glass with glass with ArmorAll to moisten the sandblasted glass and bring out the colors.   

Cynthia, who does dressage, had just returned from riding, and we had a mid-installation celebration.  The photographer is always left out of the photos, so we are missing Micaëla van Zwoll, our art dealer and friend, who took the photos.

Look at those cookies.  Little art pieces themselves.

It's beautiful!  I was mostly happy.  I installed the new fruit cluster in the back right, over the TV outlet, so that issue is handled beautifully.  The lighting is lovely and it was certainly needed.  The new white cord is perfect.  I popped a small plum cluster to the right front as an interesting accent.

Although it didn't bother anyone else, I wasn't quite happy with the way the two lower clusters overlap the new cluster behind.  To myself I committed to fix that with the next panel installation in August.

Studio images of the first three trellis panels.  Keay Edwards

The fourth panel installation in August went smoothly, with the base and lighting already set.  Here's Keay's studio image.  

The nest is woven and stained reed.  Everything else is glass. 

During installation I re-arranged the botanical elements, moving some around to balance the design.  I placed two light colored elements in front of the plum cluster covering the TV outlet in back.  Although it leaves that cluster relatively unobscured, I'm still not happy with it.  Again next time, I'll come back with a better solution.  

August installation 3.jpg

September 6.  Installation of the fifth panel.  

I've made some small trellises to support a few of the elements.  I love the added texture they bring.

Two  installations ago I took out the pears while rearranging elements, and I brought them back this time.  This piece has a monarch cocoon.

panel 5 install 2.jpg

Growth always includes death, so I sprinkled some fallen leaves and shriveled fruits under the trellises.  The alcove is high enough that they don't show when standing back to look at the piece, especially for shorter people.  Visible is just a hint that something is there, which I hope will draw people closer to look.  

With this installation I swapped the cluster covering the TV outlet in the back with a light colored cluster.  It didn't bother anyone else, but I'm very pleased with the change!

Here's the studio image of the fifth panel.  The cluster at the bottom is now covering the TV outlet behind the trellises.