Monday, November 8, 2010

Jane Cairns Irvine, magic of fused glass

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Jane Cairns Irvine, glass artist from Glen Head, comes from a family of Scots from Edinburgh. True to her Scottish origin Jane played drums in a Scottish band where her father played bagpipe. Jane attributes some of the characteristics of her more complex artistic designs to her heritage.

The family had a well exercised creative touch - her father, an electrical engineer, built a model space ship with an airplane control for the kids ("it was called the X15!  it was made of wood and masonite panels, painted, with cut out little airplane style windows and real airplane controls inside.  it was wonderful! :)  we spent hours and hours, weeks, years playing in it. we took many wonderful adventures with friends!") and is now designing architectural lighting installations; Jane's mother engaged in crafts of all kinds. Growing up Jane participated in the 4H program of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, an activity she remembers fondly.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Though Jane's formal art training included painting lessons at the Stevenson Academy in Oyster Bay and training with Nan Coffey, portrait artist from Locust Valley, she is entirely self taught in the matters of glass art. She has and is experimenting with designs, shapes, colors and techniques. This gives her an expertise that comes with a fearless trial and error approach. Jane can now well predict the outcome, with, as she modestly adds, occasional surprises.

She does her own firing in one of her four kilns. Firing is a lengthy and expensive process; it takes about 14 - 16 hours to fire the kiln to 1,440F and then to cool it down to the room temperature. Fused glass can be surprisingly sturdy as a result of the process; it is strong enough to withstand the beating of strong northeasters as tested by Jane on a few sets of wind chimes on her own porch.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Fusing glass into submission involves various steps and techniques; some cheerful like color and pattern selection, some a bit dangerous like glass grinding and sawing which should be exercised with caution. Jane created a wonderful piece called "Shattered Dreams", a work of personal significance, where crashed glass was used to a great effect.

Jane designs glass jewelry, glass sculptures and wall hangings of various proportions. Some of the larger formats are on display at the gift shop of the Nassau County Museum of Art. Jane's website displays photos of many of her works. Our store carries her colorful jewelry and the captivating wind chimes made from recycled bottles.

Jane is not only a working artist, she also teaches classes at her workshop Studio 44 at 44 Railroad Plaza in Glen Head (phone: 516.216.4630) and also at the Art League of Long Island in Dix Hills and at the Great Neck Adult Program in Great Neck. One of her former teaching projects, a month long undertaking at a Sea Cliff school attended by her daughter, had students create a school mural of their own design; Jane donated her time and firing.

Jane will be our guest artist at the Meet the Maker event at the store on December 2nd, between 5 pm and 7 pm.

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