At this time three years ago I’d just finished cutting 200 mirrored glass stars for table decorations at MASS MoCA‘s annual NY City gala. A few months earlier I’d cut 230 much, much bigger ones -some as big as 4ft across- in 1/4″ thick mirror for Sanford Biggers exhibit “The Cartographer’s Conundrum“. I cut glass by hand. No waterjet, no bandsaw, just a glass cutter, a sturdy pair of running pliers, and my hands.
It was a happy week of pure craftsmanship. I needed to work carefully and sensitively with the glass, paying careful attention to the way it wanted to break. I was observing how it responded to my pressure (1/4″ plate glass is very different to 1/8″, and different yet again to hand-made coloured glasses), and how the precise position of my pliers would result in a successful break (or not!).
The 1/4″ mirror arrived in 5ft x 10ft sheets and I had to cut it right there on the A-frame before lifting sections with suction cups onto my work table. I had the help of a young intern to help lift the mirror, and later take back the sharp edges with a carborundum stone. Mostly, he watched, fascinated.
I was using all my old, familar, glasscutting methods, my knowledge of the material and how it behaves, and pushing the craft of glasscutting to it’s outer boundaries. It was a real delight for a very small person like me to carve into this strong, dense, yet delicate material, and create pile after pile of five-pointed stars.
Here’s a final photo, of the Cartographer’s Conundrum. Note that the colored light you see in the gallery is not stained glass. They are colourful plaxi-glass pews made by Richard Criddle and his crew, the fabulous art installation and fabrication team at MASS MoCA (in 2 mins).
As part of his aesthetic and artistic message, Sanford Biggers smashed around 60% of the stars with a huge iron pole. In the light of the pride I’d taken in my craftsmanship, and the sense of achievement I’d gained from cutting the stars whole, it was a curious thing to witness.