In 2017 I was invited by the Rockwell Museum and Corning Museum of Glass, in Corning, NY, to be an Artist in Residence. I collaborated twice, once in the hot shop at Corning, and once on the Museum’s Glass Barge, moored in the Erie Canal at Seneca Falls, New York, for Convention Days.
During this time, I experimented with Czech glass beads strung on their hanks: these are the strings beads are strung on when you purchase them. I was drawn to using the Czech beads in part because of their history: they are still being made on machines that have been in continuous operation for two hundred years. I suspect Iroquois beadworkers may have used these beads for their personal work, tourist whimsies, and reticules, not so dissimilar from Victorian applications.
I was also attracted to using glass beads as a way of extending a tradition, however radical and modern, of Indigenous beadwork. I quickly learned from my collaborators (known as gaffers) that glass needs to be compatible for it to fuse. We experimented with the Czech glass seed beads. After creating some glass cylinders rolled into beaded arrangements, it took 24 hours in an annealing oven – in which the glass cools down slowly to room temperature – to see the results. The two types of glass weren’t necessarily compatible, but the story of compatibility and incompatibility is one that made sense to me and further compelled the direction of the vessels we created.
As I reflect on ideas about companion species and our symbiotic relationships with one another, with animals, and with the environment, the conversation of compatibility and incompatibility continues. In some of the cylinders, the fragile fusion between the bead and glass body manifests in crackling and flaked regions. For me, this flaking is part of the work and its story of in/compatibility. We also experimented with dipping the glass back into the glory hole after it had picked up the beads. This created a layer on top of the beads, essentially sealing them into the surface. Closer inspection still reveals some incompatibility, but not flaking.