Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Small Things

Todd Working In India

More often than not I find interesting details in odd places; like dusty corners, of dusty shelves, in dusty showrooms of dusty factories, which so happens to be my favorite environment.   When I see something interesting, I may react to it immediately and start to make notes for samples of the finish or sit and draw something appropriate for that finish, while other times I will continue to wander the factory until I catch myself staring at that same finish again.  A rule of thumb for me is, if I can’t take my eyes off of it,  then I have to do something with it.  The next instinctive question is;  what should I do with this; is it best suited for serve ware;  is it translucent (good for lighting);  or just plain beautiful.  In the case of the later I  generally  let logic play a role and use the finish on a number of pieces that coordinate together as a small decorative collection.  It may seem adolescent, but I still get chills when I see the “right” finish.  Sometimes the “right” finish is in fact a mistake,  like champagne.  Although to date none of my mistakes has turned into a new food group, I have stumbled onto some wonderful techniques on glass, iron, and wood, that have propelled my collections in meaningful new directions.
I like to visit the glass factories in India, even though they are located on the main highway from Delhi in a very rustic town south of Agra (the city where the Taj Mahal is located), called Firozabad.  I was there once (by accident) on election day and it was like being in Dodge City.  After that experience I understood why the bars all closed on election day!  Every time I go to Firozabad I find some detail or finish that I have not seen before or at least have not yet taken advantage of.  The Indian glass factories are very simple and uncomplicated affairs as they are in Mexico.  They use live electric wires to cut the blown glass (unllike Mexico), whose edge is then polished smooth.  
Over the years, by trial and error, I have learned that the Pomeroy customer accepts the edges finished in a couple of ways which depends on the finish on the glass as well.  If it is clear glass, they (she) prefers that I finish the glass with a sheet metal trim piece which is glued in place on the rim and finished to match the iron base on whatever the  item might be; such as a hurricane.  If however, I have the glass engraved then    
I can leave the raw (semi polished) edge of the glass exposed and the item is acceptable as it is.  My assumption has been that because we are cutting the glass anyway by engraving;  it is consistent to use a similar cut for the top of the glass, and that by doing so the details compliment one another. 
When trying a new technique (like engraving), finish, or color story,  my method is to start with baby steps, because lets face it no matter how much I may like something, I do not posses the crystal ball of fashion and good taste.  We are in the end only designers suggesting ideas to the consumer, and they will either accept (the suggestion) or not;  therefore it is very important to step lightly into a new area and react accordingly, which was the case with engraved glass from Firozabad.  I found myself as I often do, staring at some amazing engraving (with adolescent chills) and (fortunately), had the good sense to exercise my rule of thumb.