Whether gallery work or public installations, Susan Hirsch’s Fire Fusion Studio in Southern California produces glass art that reflects the endless possibilities of her material and techniques. The artist’s signature line of fused and slumped glass sculpture features poetry, lyrics, or other messages embedded in multilayered patterns, textures, and finishes. She believes these words help viewers think differently and more deeply about the work than is possible when using color and form alone.
Hirsch came to glass art from a fine arts education and a 30-year career in advertising and design. As a graphic designer familiar with Illustrator and Photoshop software, Hirsch does most of her design on a computer to give her clients a good representation of the final product. Designing in a vector program such as Illustrator makes on site client presentations possible and transfers smoothly to water jet, where computer aided design (CAD) software can read and cut intricate patterns.
In 2012 at the Glass Craft & Bead Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hirsch came across a booth for Rayzist, a leading manufacturer of photoresist films and sandcarving equipment. It occurred to her that glass fusers could benefit from Rayzist’s offerings. The following year she demonstrated techniques on glass in the company’s booth at Expo and has done so for the past four years. Hirsch also developed and markets workshops to teach other fusers how to use Rayzist products.
Hirsch’s artwork falls into three distinct categories— ancestry work, gallery work, and public installations. Her aesthetic can be described as contemporary and minimalist, appealing to an exclusive group of contemporary art collectors. The artist makes extensive use of Rayzist masking in much of this work, as well as powder sifting, engraving, and enamel imagery to produce contrast and texture.
With the freeform, fragmentary quality of memory, Hirsch’s ancestory work begins with the artist scanning historical family documents and photographs in Photoshop. Transparencies, somewhat like negatives, are developed creating a mask that is exposed to ultraviolet light and rinsed. Multilayer sandblasting using Rayzist photomasks permits the etching of tiny lettering and fine detail to create an historical context for ancestral pieces.
Fire Fusion Studio also produces public artwork and installations including a series of fused trees that line a wall of a Kaiser Permanente facility – one of many Hirsch artworks commissioned by Kaiser. The artist recently produced 40 panels for another hospital that were etched with positive, peaceful, health-promoting sayings, created using Rayzist photomask and etching.
According to Japanese tradition, anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 paper cranes will be granted their most desired wish, because they have exhibited the crane’s loyalty and recreated its beauty. Backed by a successful $92 thousand dollar Kickstarter campaign, Jeremy Grant-Levine, AKA Germ, will flamework no less than 1,000 glass cranes in a year’s time. Exploring one large idea requires the artist to focus on the moment rather than the future. He says, “It’s a step back from feeding a commodity market for a year to focus on one thing rather than what’s next.”
Based in Philadelphia, Germ has been flameworking glass pipes for over 13 years, earning a reputation as one of the most technical and innovative makers in the industry. Mixing classical shapes and modern silhouettes, he transforms functional glass into sculpture that has been exhibited at galleries in Seattle, Philadelphia, New York, Miami, and Tel Aviv. Germ has also taught workshops and collaborated with other artists worldwide.
His 1,000 Cranes project represents more of a fine art move for the veteran functional glass artist, whose smokeable pieces typically sell for thousands of dollars. This, the largest project Germ has undertaken to date, will require up to 250 pounds of glass for flameworking and approximately two miles of wire for display, totaling $20,000 in materials.
As Germ works solo making the cranes, his focus remains on this larger scale, singular artwork rather than the many individualized pieces he typically creates when making pipes. Though he misses the personal aspects and relationships involved with functional glass, the 1,000 Cranes project offers Germ the chance for a more grand impact. Upon completion, his work will be displayed in an immersive installation in conjunction with Arch Enemy Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.