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The Creative Process

Seaver Leslie’s love of storytelling in visual and literary terms fuels his art. Influenced by American figurative painters such as George Bellows, Ben Shahn, and Erastus Salisbury Field, his narrative style interweaves literary, physical, and auditory experiences.  Leslie’s preferred medium is transparent watercolour. He sees similarities between its luminosity and glass.

Although this new group of Cylinders follows the eighteen episodes of the book, forming a timeline, they were not made in chronological sequence.  Rather, they followed Leslie’s random fashion of drawing.  Inspired by the text, he plucked images from streams of thoughts and loosely jotted down ideas on scraps of paper.  For these pieces, Leslie drew with a fluid line, in fine pen, with no added colour.

Shortly after co-founding the Pilchuck Glass School in 1971, Dale Chihuly began experimenting with a new glassblowing technique, the pickup.  By fusing thin rods of glass directly to hot glass vessels during the blowing process, the pickup technique closely approximated the effect of a drawing on the curved surfaces of vessels. Through his collaboration with artist Flora C. Mace, this technique was perfected.

Wishing to interpret Leslie’s drawing as faithfully as possible to the original artist’s marks, Chihuly once again called on Mace, together with Joey Kirkpatrick, to adapt the sketches into glass drawings.

First, Mace lays out a preparatory cartoon drawing on heat-resistant fibre.  Following this guide, she fuses each line to the next by melting the tip of each glass thread.  Each spaghettini-thin line of glass is pulled and refined to create thicker or thinner lines, making a wire like contour drawing, as fragile as a confectioner’s sugar threads.

Kirkpatrick and Leslie give the drawings a colourful, painterly effect using crushed glass powder, which is fused onto the surface of the hot glass. 

Chihuly carefully considers the forms.  Their height, colour, and thickness change both the impression of their volume and the nature of the drawing.  The relationship of the scale of the drawing to the piece, and one Cylinder to another, is significant.  The fused image becomes part of the mass, showing the memory of the hand that formed it, the continual circular movements that shaped the cylindrical form, and the heat that caused it to melt into a single even plane.

Adapted from the essay “A Golden Odyssey.”