Heather Richman

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For as long as I can remember, I have expressed myself through artwork.  After many years of experimenting with various media, I have discovered that glass, as an artistic medium, best expresses my personal vision at this time.  I love the qualities of glass.  Hard, sharp glass is cut, ground and fired to become smooth and inviting to touch.  Solid glass rods become molten and can be stretched, manipulated, shaped, layered, mixed and reshaped to form specialty decorations for fusing, or beads for jewelry.  Crushed glass can be heated to create glass lace with large or small holes throughout.  Inclusions of metal and organic material can create interesting and surprising results.  Glass reflects and shines, but it can also be transparent and layered.  There are many techniques that can bring out various qualities of the medium.

My creations are inspired by the colors, shapes and themes of nature – from the Monterey Bay area, from my travels, and from my imagination.  My work is about seeing, experiencing, and imagining, while often providing a pictorial representation of recognizable objects.  The focus of my glass work is on the qualities of color, line, and texture.  Through my creations I strive to engage the viewer, evoking a sense of excitement and interest in the subject matter.  Illusions of movement, depth, and luminosity are common to many of my pieces.

My love of working with glass encompasses several techniques using the same basic medium.  FUSING/SLUMPING (melting glass in a kiln to create a design, then melting it again to create a 3-dimensional shape, LAMPWORK (melting rods of glass at a torch to create ornaments and beads), and METAL ENAMEL (using powdered glass melted onto a metal surface to create wall art, 3-dimensiaonal pieces and jewelry). 

For virtually all of my fused glass items, I begin my process by making my own "design elements".  These include hand-pulled stringers – thin glass strands that I pull off a glass rod at the torch, twisties – multiple colors of glass that I twist together and pull thin at the torch, frit lace – colored crushed glass that I combine and melt together in the kiln, stringer strips – thin glass strands that I combine and melt together in the kiln, dots and stones – chips of glass rods and small scraps of sheet glass that I melt in the kiln. These objects will be used to embellish my original artwork.

When my elements are ready, I cut a piece of sheet glass with hand tools or an electric saw.  This is my "canvas".  Next I cut various colors and thicknesses of sheet glass into shapes to layer on the base piece of glass and create my design.  The design elements are added and the stacked glass is put in the kiln.  I fire the piece at high temperatures to fuse the glass, then I cool the pieces very slowly to strengthen the glass.  The cooled flat piece of glass is cleaned.  If it is to be shaped, it is set on a ceramic mold in the kiln.  It is fired again at a lower temperature to let the glass “slump” into the mold.  The glass is again cooled slowly to go through the annealing process which strengthens the glass.

My lampwork process is similar to fusing, in that I create design elements before I begin the final piece.  These elements are all made at the torch - by melting glass rods together to form new rods that are then pulled thin at the torch.  Some are pulled into stringers or twisties, others are cooled then sliced into rounds to be applied flat - such as murrini, used for eyes or as miniature sea creatures on my ocean beads.  I dip steel rods into clay and then begin the process of amking the bead.  I melt the tip of a rod of glass in the torch and wind it over the dry clay until I have a good base.  I add other colors, add elements, manipulate the glass with special tools and create my final design. I keep the entire bead warm in the flame of the torch from the time I start it until I finish it - then it goes into a kiln for the annealing process to strengthen the glass.  When the beads are cooled, they are cleaned and made into jewelry.   I make beads with pictures (ocean and octopus), sculpted beads (seahorses, turtles, fish), and hollow beads - mostly as ornaments. 

I intend for my glass creations to provide a source of pleasure to those who see and touch them.  Most of my fused/slumped glass pieces are food-safe and can be used as well as displayed.  However, these glass pieces should NOT be used as hot plates, or for very hot or very cold items, as the glass cannot withstand extreme temperature changes.  Hand washing in mild soapy water is recommended for cleaning these pieces.

I began working with glass in Riverside, CA in 1975, and have been creating art glass in Santa Cruz since 1999.  I exhibit my work in Fine Art Gift Shops, Galleries, and Fine Art Festivals outside and within Santa Cruz County, and have participated in numerous Santa Cruz County Open Studios Art Tours. 

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