HOT CREATIONS: GLASS BLOWER MAKES ART FROM GLASS

August 15, 2003 11:00 pm
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Pilot story and photos

by Lynn Davis

Like most artists, Roger Vines and his apprentice, Michael McFadden, have a poetic relationship with their craft.

To watch them work is much like watching a tango. In a state of choreographed synergism, the two use their imagination, and temperatures as hot as molten lava, to create splendor out of sand.

Twirling and dipping liquid glass (2,000 degrees F.) in and out of ovens, and back and forth between each other, is a site to behold.

"The glass has this incredible movement. You're sort of dancing with it," Vines said. "Each person has a job that has to be timed perfectly. It's a very graceful medium to work with."

Many people who watch Vines' work become participants in his dance as he creates curves that bring out the light, depth and movement of the piece. What was an inanimate object has become transformed, and takes on a life of its own.

"When they experience a glimpse of the relationship I have with the material, I've done my job right," he said.

"It sounds kind of strange, but you almost become one with the material. When an artist understands and makes this connection, it really shows in the results," Vines said.

Vines said most of the time he is working within a window of one to two seconds. After heating an original gathering of glass, he has only seconds to connect any additional sections, add color, or perform any other treatment.

"When the glass is 2,000 degrees, it has the consistency of honey," he explained. "If it cools off too much when I am blowing, it just pops like bubble gum."

He has to keep the glass above 900 degrees while working with it. The entire process can take an hour or two before the piece is ready to be placed in the annealing oven, in which it is allowed to cool down slowly over a period of 12 to 14 hours.

Soda ash is added to the raw glass, or silica, to lower melting temperature, and make the glass stay pliable longer.

"You get a feel for it after a while," he said. "As long as you keep it above that temperature, you're OK."

Vines's love of art glass began 35 years ago. In that time he has gained an understanding of its intricacies, capabilities, and limits.

"In 1968, I had a chance meeting with a guy who was a glassblower. I became fascinated with the art and decided to make it my career," he said. In the late 1970s, Vines was invited to head the glass art program at Lower Columbia College where his sculpture and design class was received with much enthusiasm.

"I've had several students go on to become successful glass artists. I'm really proud of them," he said.

Vines grew up in Seattle and moved to Bandon six years ago where he established Vines Art Glass. The studio, located at 47074 Highway 101, is a quarter mile north of Bandon's game park.

Vines's masterpieces are on display inside more than 300 galleries, in both private and public collections, including the Renwick Gallery, a part of the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

He has been featured in national magazine publications including Home, Glass Art, Niche, and others

He has been commissioned by two governors of Washington state. For several years, Vines furnished them with bushels of red, glass apples that they presented as good will gestures to dignitaries.

In addition to exhibiting at this weekend's Festival of the Arts, Vines has been asked to perform as a musical entertainer during the event, which runs both Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Port of Brookings Harbor boardwalk.

"I think it's a wonderful fair, and I've been to a lot of them over the past 35 years. You couldn't ask for a better setting," Vines said. "The people, art, food, and entertainment are all great. A lot of them are work, but this one is fun!"