Thursday, March 7, 2019

Women in History

March is Women in History month.

Halo Project
We thought we'd go back a little further than usual for our inspirational women. 
The women who have gone before us have shaped us, and shaped our culture, from time immemorial. Their knowledge and experience was passed on through stories and tales.
 We are lucky that Celtic culture has travelled across the centuries so packed with strong goddesses figures that all attempts to replace, disguise, or silence them have ultimately failed.  Celtic artistic traditions protected them and transmitted them to this very day; their matriarchal spirituality continues to manifest its enduring power through objects of art and stories of the goddess.

Faerie Flower Crown Project
Venerated not only as Christian saint but also as pagan deity, Brigid is perhaps the most powerful religious figure in all of Irish history. A multifaceted, complex, contradictory figure, she is revered under many names throughout the Celtic and Christian world and her story has woven together many intricate traditions.  This makes Brigid a complicated and fascinating character and has enabled her to move effortlessly through the centuries, fulfilling different roles for different times.
The Christian Saint Brigid’s feast day is February 1.  In pre-Christian times, this was the day of the pagan Goddess Brigid’s spring festival, Imbolc.  To understand the significance of Imbolc, imagine for a moment that you have just spent a long winter in the agrarian Ireland of five thousand years ago. Winter was a dark world lit only by fire. Food was scarce, the cold relentless.   

Faerie Lantern Project
 You have nearly survived those long, hungry months, but food supplies are finally running out. At this crucial time of year the milk, cheese, and curds of pregnant cows and ewes might make the difference between life and death! Luckily, by February, the animals have given birth; their milk is flowing. The old crone months of winter are departing and youthful spring is on the way!  This unique, late-winter prosperity was a central theme of Brigid’s feminine festival.
Imbolc ushered in the new year with the lighting of fires and purification by well water. Women and girls gathered together. Corn cakes were made from the first and last of the harvest and distributed from house to house. The goddess Brigid - and later Saint Brigid - were represented with a doll dressed in white. This little effigy, usually a Corn Dolly, was carried in procession by maidens, also dressed in white. A feast of special foods were presented to the Goddess.  Young men were invited too, perhaps to take part in ritual mating to generate new souls to replace those lost in winter.

Powerful.  Word Pendants
After the conquest of the Celtic lands by the Holy Roman Empire, the church worked to replace the worship of the powerful, fecund Goddess Brigid with worship of the virgin-Saint Brigid.  This posed a particular challenge because Celtic religion was matriarchal and society had been organized matrilineally.   From ancient time, Irish ancestry had been traced through the mother's line; blood relationships of importance would be on your mother’s side, so much so that the children of sisters were considered siblings rather than cousins.
The ancient Irish idea of “sin” was not even about sex.  Sex brings about sacred motherhood and so was a good thing. To do wrong was to act against your maternal kin.  The Christian emphasis on virginity, on the other hand, stemmed completely from patriarchy. To remove the revered Goddess Brigid from sexuality the church was to remove motherhood from its revered position in Celtic society.

Custom Hand Etched tiles
Christian Saint Brigid grew up in a pagan, perhaps druidic house.  As a baby, she was fed the milk of magical Otherworld cows. But as a young maiden, she professed her Christianity.  Her father was enraged to learn that she aspired to live a celibate life tending to the poor rather than fulfill her pagan promise of sacred motherhood.  Yet, even after Christianization Saint Brigid remained strongly connected to feminine fertility. She was an unusually magical nun and could provide a lake of milk from from her cloak, for example.

 The Triple Goddess heads that once represented her primary aspects were replaced by the Trinity, but rays of sunlight still emanate from Saint Brigid’s head, just as they did from her Goddess crown. Themes of milk, fire, Sun and serpents followed her through the centuries and she continues to represent spinning and weaving, smithwork, healing and agriculture throughout her evolution. And it is easy to imagine that Saint Brigid’s cross, a rough-hewn widdershins sun made of straw, might once have been a corn-dolly representation of the Goddess.

That Brigid has traversed the centuries and come to us with most of her traditions still intact reflects the fluidity of an ancient Celtic worldview in which there was no separation between the inner and the outer worlds; Brigid was intrinsic to daily life in the fires of poetic inspiration as she was to the fires of the cooking pot on the hearth and the iron in the smith’s forge.  
In March we celebrate both women’s history and the lovely, verdant nation of Ireland. Without disparaging dear old Saint Patrick - a man of course, and English rather than Irish - we invite you to celebrate the protective and generative spirit of Brigid.
Every one of us has a creative spark from her fire.

We love to encourage that spark! Please join us for our project of the month and create your own beautiful original meaningful goddess. 

For more information about our project Click Here

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Mystery of St Valentine's

When she first came to America, artist Debbie Solan was surprised to find that we sign our valentines!   In Ireland, the great game of the holiday is to reveal your affection without revealing your identity.  And for the recipient, a delightful puzzle...who might your admirer be?

So at The Idea Field / Fusionglass Co, we are thinking this year of mystery and anonymity, in art and in love.

The identity of St. Valentine is itself mysterious, as the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints by the name.  Perhaps he was a third-century Roman priest executed for performing marriages in secret even after Emperor Claudius, who believed that single men made better soldiers, had outlawed matrimony for men of military age.   

Or was he martyred for helping Christian prisoners escape from Roman prisons? Perhaps, as the legend goes, the imprisoned Valentine fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and in the final hour of his execution he sent her a message.  “Your Valentine,” he signed the note, thereby sending the first Valentine.

The church celebrated Saint Valentine in February to commemorate the supposed day of his death around 270 AD. It is likely, however, that February was actually chosen to undermine  and appropriate the power of pagan beliefs. The beginning of spring was a time of purification and ritual cleansing. In ancient, pre-Christian Rome, culminated with the Luppercalia, a pastoral fertility festival dedicated to the wild, horned goat-god Faunus. The celebrations included goat sacrifice and the playful, ritualistic whipping of the city’s young women to insure fertility.  

By the middle ages mysterious Valentine had successfully Christianized the day and was among the most venerated, beloved Saints in England and France.  Common wisdom of the day held that birds began to mate on February 14.  

This seems a fitting, albeit unwitting homage to Faunus, god of forest and field.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

DNA of Creativity & "Jellies Forever"

IN the summer of 2012 I was invited to join a project called the "DNA of Creativity" 

The project came from the brilliant & creative mind of San Diego Visual Arts Networks Founder Patricia Frischer. Ms. Frischer is dedicated to growing the arts community & creating collaborations with local business & science. The goal of the "DNA" project is to encourage collaborations between the arts and sciences, and to instigate innovative research and create positive change. For me part of the project was also documenting its process.

The team I was invited to join "Sea Changes: ACT!, is one of four teams, consisting of artists and scientists.  Their goal is to raise awareness for issues affecting our ecosystem, particularly our Oceans. Over fishing, plastic pollution, climate change and acidification.

Ireland (MODIS).jpg
Ireland (32,595 sq mi)
Coming from a small island country like Ireland, you are always aware of the ocean.  It's part of everything. it's in the blood! The island itself is a bit smaller than the state of Indiana, and it's only 1 hour and 27 minutes drive from the center-most point of the country, near Athlone, County Roscommon to the coast at Blackrock, Dublin.

In an article I read in the NYTIMES about Ireland's PlasTAX they say "Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable".  Introduced on 4th March 2002, according to the Department of the Environment the law had an immediate effect on consumer behaviour with a decrease in plastic bag usage from an estimated 328 bags per capita to 21 bags per capita overnight!  I'd love to see this happen everywhere. But of course it won't happen until we change something and I want to be part of changing something.

Palette to Palate projectSo I was delighted to say yes and take a deep dive into helping to bring awareness to the plight of our oceans. I believe artists can help create a paradigm shift in how people think. We have the ability to help people see something in a new way. I hope to bring a sense of connection with this project, to help people remember  they are part of the great circle of  life. That small actions repeated many times have an impact, that impact can be for our good or for our detriment.We have the ability to choose. I want to encourage people to make the effort.

Another reason I was so happy to say yes is because my good friend & talented local silk/glass artist Marjorie Pezzoli was also on the team. We created a hand painted silk sculpture together for a Feeding America (San Diego chapter) Fundraiser

 Marjorie had been working on large scale silk paintings with Kira Corser, our Sea Changes team leader. Kira is also a multi faceted artists and produced beautiful hand painted silks,  photographs as well as a video for the project.

Jellyfish are truly beautiful, ethereal almost magical looking creatures. Translucent as glass & every color of the rainbow. With frills and long tentacles and sometimes pulsating lights. These beautiful creatures en-captured our hearts, and artistic vision.

We discovered that juvenile sea turtles are carnivorous and survive on jellyfish. However they are ingesting increasing amounts of plastic in their diet.

Green Jelly
We discovered that on Midway Atoll, 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the albatross feeds its chicks plastic bottle tops, razors and garbage bags until it dies of malnutrition.

How much more do we need to see before we stop what we're doing?
We discovered there is a larger than normal bloom of jellies happening in our oceans.
Scientists are wondering "Why is this?"

There is an indication that their spread is human-based, although some scientists have argued that the blooms are part of a natural cycle. If the blooms are human-caused, there are several probable culprits... including overfishing, extra nutrients from fertilizer run offs, climate change & ocean sprawl.

My mind started working on how it might be achieved. The first idea I came up with was using a wire frame with silk over it. then airbrushing with color. This idea was discarded for a few reasons, 1,  Silk is expensive,  2, Silk is not clogging up the ocean. 3. This would involve a lot of sewing and the biggest issue for me was 4. it is not translucent enough.

The first Jelly!
 The next idea was to use a couple of mosquito nets I had hanging around the studio. The netting is more translucent than the silk,  and seemed like it would communicate the idea of jellyfish better.

At 3am one morning while I was working in the studio I remembered the beautiful green jellies I had seen online that day. My mind immediately went to the large roll of green cling wrap my friend Jeff Mills had donated to a previous project. The connection came in a literal flash and I instantly felt it's perfection. It communicated aspects of the project the silk could not. I felt this was an elegant solution of which any scientist would be proud.

Some of the first Jellies
I sat in my studio and worked on a sample to show Marjorie the next day. I wasn't sure what her reaction would be! I waited all day for her to stop by after work. I had the green jelly sample and the big roll of green  plastic out on the table... and the pictures of the "green jellies" ready.

 I didn't need them! Marjorie was as delighted with the idea!

I decided to do the tentacles, by spiral cutting plastic bags to create really long wavy pieces. To get the plastic to hug the frames I utilized another item donated to the studio by our friend Jeff. A heat gun! It was perfect for forming the body around the wire frame. The bodies are airbrushed to add color. Marjorie used all kinds of cutting techniques to create the miles and miles of tentacles we needed.

I was greatly inspired by Alexander Semenov's photographs of the majestic lion's mane captured in the crystal clear waters of the White Sea. With caps as large as 8 feet in diameter and tentacles reaching 130 feet long, the idea of creating this magnificent beast captured my imagination. I also referenced his photos for color and anatomy.

Initially we worked to create large  "smacks" of  jellyfish for the Museum of Monterey & Oceanside Museum of Art in California.  Since then we have been hosted at The Carter Center, The Monterey Convention Center, The Monterey Bay Sanctuary Exploration center (on permanent exhibition), The Living Coast Discovery Center.

The jellies were made using donated plastic painters tarps, grocery bags and salvaged plastic wrap. I created hundreds or wire body frames, and added a recycled plastic body and Marjorie cut literally thousands of feet of jelly tentacles from grocery bags, old vhs tapes and painters tarps!

Our intent is to bring a visual aid to the scientific research.
It is pitiful to see the ever increasing number of juvenile sea turtles dying because they ingest plastics. The juvenile sea turtles eat jellies until they reach maturity at age 4 years. At which time they become herbivorous.

Many of these photos were taken during the installation process in the Museum of Monterey between March 6th 2014 and March 8th 2014. We drove up the coast on a mini adventure that turned out to be epic.

Kira Corser our team leader was a joy to live and work with. Her motivation to do good comes from deep within and is born of the trials and tribulations of a life that would have knocked some of us to the ground. But not Kira. She took it all as a challenge and forged ahead with a heart full of love for humanity and a dedication to leaving this planet a better place. Her knowledge and experience were our guide on this adventure and we couldn't have asked for a better mentor. Thank you KIRA for your beautiful big and loving heart, and for your wisdom ♥


& to my team mate Marjorie Pezzoli for her motivation, her dedication, her brilliant ideas, her creativity and her willingness to do what it takes to get the job done! oh yeah... and her awesome sense of humor.  That really helps at 3am when you have a whole sea of jelllies still to create! 
Together We have become known as "the Jellygirls"
the link will take you to a very sweet website built by Marjorie where you can find all the latest info on "the Jellygirls" and the "Jellies Forever" project.

The jellies are on a roll, they have now been shown at a number of different places including: 
Museum of Monterey. 
The Monterey Convention Center/ First Night Monterey, 
NOAA Exploration Center
Oceanside Museum of Art.
The Living Coast Discovery Center
Fusionglass Co
BroAm Del Mar

Everyone we have been involved with in any aspect of this project has been unbelievably helpful, enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable. Their willingness to assist in any way to facilitate the installation of this project was more than we could possibly have expected.  As always the people you meet and interact with are the most important aspect of a project. We couldn't have asked more anything more! 
Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts! 


Why are jellies becoming more common around the world? It seems likely that their spread is human-caused, although some scientists have argued that the blooms are part of a natural cycle. If the blooms are human-caused, there are several probable culprits.
OVERFISHING Over the past two decades, between 100 and 120 million tons of marine life have been removed from the ocean by fisheries each year on average. A lot of these marine species, including fish and invertebrates such as squid, eat some of the same food that jellies do: mainly, zooplankton. As these other predators of plankton are fished from the sea, jellies have less competition for food, and are able to grow and reproduce with fewer limits.
NUTRIENTS When fertilizers runoff from the rivers to the seas, they can create dead zones: areas of ocean where little life survives. The nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer helps phytoplankton grow very quickly, and there can be so many of these single-celled plant-like animals that they deplete oxygen from the water. Most animals can't survive in these conditions, but many jellies can better tolerate low-oxygen environments.
CLIMATE CHANGE The ocean is warming, and this might give some jellies a boost. The warmer water could help jelly embryos and larvae develop more quickly, allowing their populations to grow more quickly. And jellies that prefer warmer water will have more area to live in. However, this could also hurt some species as cold-water jelly species see their habitat shrink.
SUBMARINE SPRAWL Many industries, such as shipping, drilling and aquaculture, build docks, oil platforms and other structures in the water—sometimes referred to as “ocean sprawl"—which can serve as nurseries for jellyfish. To undergo their polyp stage, jellyfish need solid surfaces to settle upon. It’s much easier for jellyfish polyps to attach to man-made structures made of wood, brick and concrete than sand. Ocean sprawl provides more and better habitat for jellyfish to reproduce and complete their lifecycles.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Everyday Heroes"

 "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."                                      

                                                                                           Leo Buscaglia

We all know an "Everyday Hero", someone who consistently shows in big or small ways how much they care. It might be a school teacher, babysitter, grandma, or neighbor. It might be someone you know or someone who just passes through your day never to be seen again. Everyday heroes know that small things matter. They know a kind word or a smile can go a long way.  

I met an "Everyday Hero" this week. His name is Scooter. He stopped into the Fusionglass Co. gallery to ask for directions to a local costume store Gypsy Treasures. I knew exactly where it was and directed him with visual clues included.  
"Look for a baseball field on the right" I said... "a big red building on the left..."  

He thanked me profusely for the visual clues and I said "I'm an artist, that's how I see things". 

He said "You're an artist! me too!"  he then proceeded to dig around in his backpack and pulled out a bunch of balloons and a little pump. He asked me my favorite color (green), and while he fashioned me this lovely green flower he told me a little about himself.

Photo: In the neighborhood, this guy stopped by to ask for directions. His name is "Scooter"  
He rides around on his Scooter & makes balloon gifts for people. He made a green flower for Debb 󾌫 Give him a wave if you see him riding along! He brings smiles wherever he goes!

He was on his way to the costume store to buy more balloons. He took up balloon art years ago after suffering a brain injury during a motorbike accident. He said the visual clues I gave  him using color and shape would really help. He rides around on a scooter (and hence the nickname) and when he sees someone sad or mad or in need of a smile, he makes them a balloon gift!  Scooter knows it's the little things that count. I was so glad to meet him and as I thanked him I told him he had made my day!

If you live in my neighborhood and happen to meet Scooter or see him riding along, give him a wave and a smile, I know it will make his day!

I'm writing this blog a week before "Valentines" day and know it can be an especially hard time for many people. As any holiday can. The focus on couples and being part of something can leave many people feeling discarded and uncared for. Which is sad for a holiday about making people feel special and loved.

"They" say that doing something for 21 days in a row makes it a habit. So we have just enough time left in the month of February to form a new habit. 
I am going to concentrate of letting people know I care. For the next 21 days (I don't plan to stop after 21 days) I will focus on doing at least one nice "unexpected" thing for someone.

There are all kinds of free or inexpensive ways to show someone you care.

 heartcard 2012One of my favorites is to share a beautiful
  inspirational quote.   

Dropped into a colleagues inbox on a busy day it can be uplifting and re-energizing 
Inspiration on a note tucked under the wiper-blades instead of the usual junk you find there! 

How about bringing in the garbage cans for a neighbor. This is one I especially appreciate!


Do you know an "Everyday Hero"?

Just use this link to email your nomination to us at Fusionglass Co. Please include one paragraph on why you think your nominee is an "Everyday Hero". Only nominations received before midnight on Feb 26th 2015 will be considered.

On Saturday February 28th we'll announce our winner on Facebook.
The winner & the person who nominated them will each receive a beautiful fused glass heart pendant created by one of our Fusionglass Co. artists. Right from our Heart to yours!

 The photos below include my very own "Everyday Heroes"  I am lucky to be surrounded by wonderful giving loving people. Thank you all for your support and love, It sure makes life grander to know you!