"The Glass Onion: Layers of Imagery & Text for Kilnformed Glass" Workshop by Kari Minnick

January 29th - 31st, 2010

Written by Duncan Scott

Teaching glass artists how to make sand paintings imbedded in glass that will last for posterity may not be the way Kari Minnick would describe her work. But that is what seemed to be happening at her January workshop sponsored by the Tucson Chapter of Arizona Designer Craftsmen as part of their program at the Tucson Parks and Recreation Randolph Center glass studio.  Her workshop hosted 12 local artists while her Friday evening lecture attracted about 25 people, including a couple of ASU grad program art students who made their way to the Old Pueblo from Tempe.

Kari demonstrated her technique of placing layer upon layer of translucent, transparent and opaque, kiln-fused glass to indelibly fix a three dimensional vision within their glass depth. Each work is ‘painted’ between the layers with finely ground colored glass.

These works, unlike our familiar Navajo sand paintings, are unlikely to be swept away by the winds, or indeed, any catastrophe that doesn’t include the 1750 degrees of heat used in the Parks and Recreation facilities’ glass kilns that are needed to fuse these creations during multiple firings.

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An example of a pre-fired single glass tile by Kari with glass frit and patterns scratched through.

Tucson glass artists were fortunate to have Kari visit us for this three day workshop as she was to escape the frigid Maryland winter where she keeps her studio. Kari is no stranger to travel or teaching. She is active not only in her permanent studio in Silver Spring, MD (see her work at www.kariminnick.com) but she  also teaches extensively at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN where Kari was ‘discovered’ by ADC member Pat Glover while attending a workshop there.

Kari sometimes refers to her work as “stained glass on steroids”, sometimes as a “glass onion” built in layers, as many as 14 in sequential firings. The finished work may be 1/4” to 2” inch thick and feature both finished, and smooth unfinished edges in the same piece.

As much as 80% of her pieces incorporate text. Typography or studied calligraphy often fade into esoteric writings. Occasionally the “text just gets lost” during the creative process and can only be glimpsed on the inner surface of bowls and jars. The writing then becomes part of an abstract whole.  At other times it might proclaim a connection with the representational objects Kari most favors; apples, pears, eggs, and occasionally, lemons.

These glass "collages" combine techniques she has acquired in drawing and painting, but instead of paint and canvas, glass powders and frit serve for paint and esoteric instruments such as chopsticks and paperclips as brushes.  Light is an important consideration. “I use transparency and opacity within a piece, choosing where light is allowed to come and go.” she instructs.
Her various series, which go by names like, "Which Came First?”, “Drawing Conclusions", “Circular Logic”, "What Goes Around Comes Around…", and “Deconstructing Fairy Tales”, include  repetitions of color and form together with the ever mysterious medium of text, which may, or may not be a message.

Her students, who arrived with various levels of experience in warm glass technique had quickly taken to her themes and techniques, producing a wide array of original works.

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