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Mirroring big flaws to create cool glass

Post Time:Jan 05,2012Classify:Industry NewsView:293

When Mark Peiser became the first resident glass maker at the Penland School of Crafts in 1967, he sort of became a variable in a big experiment to see if anyone could actually make a living as a craftsman of glass. The odds were against him.


“Glass was very expensive with fuel costs back then,” Peiser said. “It really seemed like a long shot. There was a sense of impending doom and futility.”


That's because in 1967, studio glass art didn't really exist.


“Prior to that,” Peiser said, “nobody had really done glass on an individual scale. There was very little to judge it against from an aesthetic point of view. Nobody really had the skills or the knowledge, or even the materials, to do hardly anything that you see today that people take for granted.”


In November 2011,


Peiser received the award in concert with Richard Ritter, another glass maker who has a long history nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the Penland School.


“Richard and I have known each other for over 40 years,” Peiser said. “We were both at Penland School. We’ve shared a lot of experiences over the years … I think I know a lot of people who deserve this award. I would have felt self conscious in some ways if he hadn’t (received it, too).”




Peiser's exhibition features his reinterpretation of the 1934 first casting of the Palomar Mirror, a mirror intended to become a component of the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California. Though the second casting went on to allow astronomers to peer deep into space to gather direct evidence of stars in distant galaxies, the first failed. Because of its sheer size and beauty, however, it has since remained on display in


“It was just transforming,” Peiser said. “It was like looking at the monolith in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,' like, ‘What in the world is that?' It's enormous.”


The Palomar Mirror is 200 inches in diameter, the largest single glass casting achieved in its time. Because of its complex, irregular patterns and faintly opal opacity – all unintentional and random mistakes due to the accidental disintegration of the mold during the first casting – a young Peiser was stunned and humbled by it. He said that when he first saw it, he thought of these irregularities as artistic achievements. He didn’t even process them with as the results of a failure.


“When I saw it in ‘71, I guess part of me didn’t really know about that part of the story,” Peiser said. “It was like looking at the Rosetta Stone or something. It was like, ‘Jeez there must be a reason why the pattern is irregular.’ I was just plain inspired by the dang thing. And I had been working with glass for four years, and it was extraordinarily humbling. I mean, jeez, I thought I knew something about glass. It was just transcendence.”


Thirty-seven years later, in 2008, Peiser began his Palomar series, which is on display at the CAM through April 1. The pieces in it are scaled-down attempts to intentionally capture that unintentional beauty achieved in the first casting of the mirror. It is done as a tribute to the expanding boundaries of glass.


“Over the years, it’s always been in the back of the mind,” Peiser said of the mirror. “If anybody ever asks me, I always say it’s my favorite piece of glass in the whole world. It’s an amazing thing.”

Source: www.starnewsonline.com Author: shangyi

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