Saturday, May 10, 2003

Glass blowing enchanting art

Artisan will bring his 'theatrical' medium to Berea crafts fair

By Joy Kraft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Glass artist Thomas Chapman, of Dayton, Ohio.
"Somewhere between rock 'n' roll and rocket science."

Not everyone can describe his job in those terms.

But when Thomas Chapman puts lips to glass-blowing steel, not many arts and crafts show shoppers can pass him by.

Hard to say whether it's the color or the undulating shapes of his work that stop them first, says the Dayton, Ohio, artist, 55, a newcomer to this year's juried Kentucky Guild of Artists & Craftsmen in Berea. The popular event, showcasing the work of more than 120 artists from quilters to carvers and painters, will be Friday through May 18.

[IMAGE] Pottery by Larry Watson of Alexandria earned him a spot in the juried show.
Thoroughly immersed in work he calls "a passion and a privilege," Chapman fires up the furnace in his home hot shop, a converted 21/2-car garage. He travels to a couple dozen shows a year with his work.

Every December, Chapman throws open the shop door, hosting about 300 people, then heads to Florida's sun after the first of the year.

Not exactly what you'd expect from a one-time journalism student and Vietnam veteran who dabbled in welding, pottery, filmmaking and spent time barn-building in Colorado before picking up glass blowing skills at the elbow of a friend in Los Angeles.

When at work, he "gathers" the clear hot glass from his fiery oven, shaping and turning with a steel blowing pipe, adding color in a gentle twisting stream. Other times he rolls the shape until the soft hues bloom evenly from a lens-like base.

What: Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen 2003 Spring Fair highlighting pottery, glass and fabric art as well as ironwork, photography, caning and crafts.
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. next Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 18.
Where: Berea, Ky. (I-75 south to Berea, exit 76).
Admission: $5 adults, $4 seniors, $1 children 7-12, free under 6.
Information: (850) 986-3192 or Web site.
Chapman describes his most popular flower-like piece - a 10- to 15-inch bowl - as a "kind of handkerchief form with undulating walls resting on a foot ... a nice composition." His work sells for $40 to $600 with $100-$300 works being the most popular.

But his favorites make up what he calls the "Point of Departure Series," sculptures of wing-like, multicolored abstract pieces that manage, somehow, to stand on their own. They are shot through with streams of vibrant color.

"It's a seductive medium with enchanting properties. It's very visceral and quite theatrical to watch," he says.


Events at the art fair

For kids

• Drummer Tripp Bratton and friends will get kids jumping with the basics of drumming 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday.

• Storyteller and author Anne Shelby will re-create tales of Appalachia 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday

• Children can create their own quilt block to keep, all weekend.


• Pickintime bluegrass trio 10 a.m.-1 p.m. next Saturday.

• Wishingchair with songwriters combining contemporary folk, roots rock, country, Celtic and world music, 1-4 p.m. next Saturday.

• Three Wheel Motion roots-rock and solo acoustics, 4-6 p.m. next Saturday.

• Raison D'Etre women's vocal harmonies 1-4 p.m. May 18.

All weekend

• Paul Zimmer's Native American love flute.

• Demonstrations include willow furniture, cane carving, cornshuck flowers, clay masks, wood-turned fishing lures, chair caning and basket-making.

Furniture school selective
Glass blowing enchanting art
Both butterflies and people like this shrub
Before Barbie, kids dressed up paper dolls
Native plants put down roots worth saving
Parkening's hands make strings sing
Alloy mates eager to engage
In the know
Circle This
To do this week
Get to it!