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The Great


without magnets



January 20, 2002


Brad Walker, Four Corners International, mbwalker@warmglass.com
Barbara Bader, B&B Media, bbmedia@mindspring.com

Voice:(503) 239-7987 / (503) 757-7987 Fax: (503) 239-1167

Artists online

International band of glass fusion artists
hot for first global Fridge Art Swap

Ever wonder what artists really do in their studios all day? Right now, more than 100 "warm-glass"artists around the world have fired up their kilns to make swarms of small, unique works of glass art for the first ever International Fridge Art Glass Magnet Swap.

The terms "warm glass" and "kiln-formed glass" designate glass worked in a kiln.

"The challenge of the magnet is to express your style in a very tiny scale," says Nancy Underwood, Weisser Glass Studio in Kensington, MD. "You want each artist that receives one to pause and to think about your work. The fun will be to see how each artist meets the challenge."

Coming Soon to a Fridge Near You
Thanks to glass fusion artist Brad Walker, a visionary Internet community leader, warm glass workers around the world are firing, packing, and shipping batches of Fridge Art to share with each other for the First International Fridge Art Swap.

Walker, author of the book Contemporary Warm Glass, started the online Warm Glass Bulletin Board (www.warmglass.com) in March 2001 as a central location to share expertise, techniques and tool lore.

"I've been amazed by how quickly the Board has grown," Walker says. "When I started it we were lucky to get a dozen posts a day, and today there are about 100, with a thousand or more visitors a day. There's no doubt that it's provided a great forum for glass artists to exchange ideas and meet each other."

Into the real world
Late last year, some of those friendships jumped off the Internet into the real world when Walker worked with Lani McGregor, Director of Bullseye Glass, already an ongoing sponsor of the Warm Glass website, to exhibit a juried show of work by the online group. Many WGBB artists found their way to the November opening of the show, dubbed WG@BE, at The Bullseye Connection in Portland OR.

Other Warm Glass sponsors are Spectrum Glass, Woodinville, WA; Centre de Verre, Allenstown, NH; and Stained Glass Warehouse, Fletcher, NC.

The Fridge Art Swap was born of the real-world energy generated by WG@BE coupled with extensive jesting online concerning Vancouver, B.C. artist Brock Craig.

"This [the Warm Glass Board] is a good side of the Internet," says Beth Burns, Bethesda MD. "Look at us: older, younger, men, women, bonafide artists, hobbyists, wannabes, from the U.S. to Norway."

From the beginning, Warm Glass Bulletin Board members have been fun-loving jokesters as well as serious artists sharing glass information. Walker's light touch as a moderator is a big part of the friendly atmosphere on board.

"During the early days, we made up amusing contests for each other, awarding glass prizes for winners," recalls veteran board member, Geri Comstock.

After Canadian WGBB member Brock Craig gave studio glass refrigerator magnets to winners of his contests, it became an ongoing joke to post to Brock and to cajole him to give them magnets.

"It sure gained momentum on the board after the Bullseye show when Brock promised Jackie [Beckman, Mesa, AZ] one of his cool fused-glass magnets," reports Barbara Bader, a WGBB regular based in Portland. "In no time, it seemed like everybody was chiming in to rib Brock about the magnets -- but requesting one as well.

Things happen fast on the Internet.

Before long, the Great Fridge Art Magnet Swap grew into this online community's second real/virtual hybrid project. Once Els VandenEnde, a WG@BE award winner, posted the snail-mail address of her home in Snohomish WA as the central repackaging and distribution site, the swap list swelled to more than a hundred participants.

Many have posted links to photos of their Fridge Art straight from the kiln, looking like batches of shiny, jeweled, exquisitely baked cookies.

"Everyone who comes into the studio and sees my magnets is also asking for one" says Colorado arrtist Gale Bez. "I've decided to start packaging them and boxing them away from sight ASAP!"

Real-world Facts
"Has anyone really grasped the "magnetude" (pardon the pun) of our endeavor?" Canadian Bob Leatherbarrow, Leatherbarrow Glass Studio, queried online. With the humorous touch common to most WGBB regulars, Leatherbarrow described the real-world statistics VandenEnde faces.

According to Leatherbarrow's calculations, if 100 participants each send 100 pieces of Fridge Art averaging 1.5 x 1.5 inches and weighing 15 grams before magnets are attached, then [VandenEnde] will receive 10,000 tiny works of glass art weighing about 330 pounds, and requiring 22,500 square inches of floor space to lay out.

"If each of us sends Els a one-pound box of chocolates," Leatherbarrow summed up, "I estimate that will provide just about enough energy -- 94.4 kilocalories -- for her to get the job done, bless her big heart."

For VandenEnde, this latest group project is already more real than virtual, as boxes of glass art arrive almost daily from the WGB group, who hale jointly from eight countries in addition to 32 U.S. states. Fifteen swappers from Oregon and Washington volunteered to join VandenEnde for the "sorting party" on February 9.

The sorters will perform the swap of thousands of glass pieces, and pack them off to snail-mail addresses everywhere from the Isle of Wight to Wisconsin.

What's Next?
Ideas for future group projects sprout regularly on the Warm Glass Board. Project No. 3 may be a benefit e-auction of a carefully selected fridge dressed in a complete set of WGBB Fridge Art.

Also simmering online: 9/11 glass tile memorial, kiln-formed glass bracelet swap, design competition for a WGBB "family crest," and a bevy of WGBB regional gallery exhibitions. Watch for the WG@BE II juried exhibition in October.

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