The process of applying copper and other metals to glass aka electroforming is a mysterious and entrancing art. It seems as though every “e-former” has their own specific set of techniques and materials they use to manifest their signature style. This being said we here at IgniteMe love all electroformed works simply because they are truly unique. One of our favorite artists Chip Steeler aka Shipwreck Glass has just finished up some tantalizing collaborations with U.S. Tubes, a brand well known for their over the top quality and strength. We got the chance to sit down with shipwreck to learn more about these collaborations as well as his constantly progressing style.
So how did this collab come together? US Tubes and Shipwreck sound like heaven!
“…I’ve been a fan of US Tubes for many years. I’ve always enjoyed both their simplicity and the weight. As far as electroforming them goes, they have so much open area on the surface. They provide me with perfect blank canvass to get creative on. My older brother had been a friend of Scott and Fernando for many years, and another good friend, Bit Freak, introduced me to them at AGE last spring. I told them how much I appreciate their work for it’s simplicity in function, and how I would love to take advantage of their smooth planes of glass to showcase some new electroforming techniques that I had been working on. Next thing I knew I was back at the farm in Oregon, opening a box of the first eight pieces I have been working on. This brings up something I would like to express in this article. My experience with US Tubes is just another example of how supportive this industry has been to me. I love my work, and to be able to do this in such a supportive industry is truly awesome. It is something I am supremely grateful for. It blows me away sometimes. I’m not sure how much glass artists in general realize just how cool and supportive this community is, and how uncommonly lucky we are to be able to work together. I’ve worked in the fine arts realm for my entire professional career, and have never seen a discipline so entrenched with this spirit of camaraderie and collaborative spirit as I see in the borosilicate glass community…”
How many in all will be done? What particular US tubes models will you be doing?
“…Right now I have eight pieces. Four of them will be at AGE in Vegas this month. I am hoping that these will be just the tip of the iceberg…”
Since our last article how has your approach to electroforming changed? (style, technique, etc.)
“…I am able to work more creatively, not having to do quite as much production and focus on the bigger pieces. Pushing my own boundaries. When I first started forming, it was about how to get the nice quality of copper formed onto the glass, how to machine it to achieve whatever surface I was looking for, from rough and gritty to polished like a mirror. Then I got into stenciling the conductive paint onto the glass, a process that I still use quite a bit to achieve the images you see in the shape of the copper. Now I’m working with the patinas and etching, to further increase the pallet that I have at my disposal. I am quickly becoming more expressive in the work. I think I am beginning to treat the copper work in much the same way as I do paintings. So how has my approach changed? I would say that my approach has gotten bigger. I have a much larger vocabulary now than I did a year ago…”
That dragon tube is SICK! how what techniques did you use to achieve that effect?
“…The new thing, with that one, is that I am now etching designs into the copper surface, in much the same way that one would make a plate for printing. It is a technique that I am borrowing from the fine art print world, and employing on the copper that I form onto the glass. When I was in art school, way back when, I remember thinking that the inked printing plates were so beautiful, that I didn’t want to print, just make the plates. Through facebook I have made friends with Barry, an engraver from Australia. He has been helping me with a few of the technical issues that I have come up against in transferring the flat image of a plate to a three dimensional surface. In the process Ive tried new things that I might not have, and truly appreciate his help and support. That man knows the meaning of being generous with information, and you can tell by looking at his work, that he truly loves his profession…”
One tube looks like it has real flowers on it, does it?
“…No actual flowers. I achieved that with a lot of patience, stencils, and many trips through the electroform bath. In this style, I am getting the copper to grow up and off the glass. There are many different thicknesses of copper that help add to the depth of the image…”
What has been your favorite part about these collaborations with U.S. Tubes? What have been your biggest challenges?
“…My favorite part of working on these tubes, is that part about how I can see them as blank canvasses. Their design is simple and not so expressive in form that I worry about covering up another artist’s vision. I feel free and liberated to create and transform the glass into a unique piece of art. My biggest challenge is committing to an image that I want to create with, and on the copper. I have so many designs and ideas in my head. I feel like I’m just getting started…”
What inspires your work? any inspirations you’re looking to take into the realm of copper?
“…I have always been inspired by Japanese, and Korean artwork from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I am inspired by antiquity. Decorating vessels is an artistic tradition that dates back to very early human civilization. The earliest known vessel decorations, to enter the cannon of art history was in 6,000 – 5,000 BC in Susa, Iran. The human figure first appeared on a vessel in 500 – 400 B.C. in Greece. There is a very long tradition of adorning vessels. I am happy and proud to be a part of this tradition…”
Any artists in particular who you’d like to collaborate with?
“…I have been very lucky to work with a lot of my favorite glass artists already, but there are many more who I am hoping to be able to work with in the future. I really love the shapes in Boxfan Willy’s Helix pieces. I love the curves he employs in his work. I am going to be doing a piece with Contrabasso that I am very excited about. When I am working with artists outside of the production or scientific realms, I look for work that I respond to through shapes and form. I have been looking at work from Carver B, Clinton Roman, Elks that Run, Lewis Wilson, Jess Durfee, and so many others, I could go on and on. I have always wanted to do a fish sculpture with Buck. I think we share a passion for fish that I would like to explore more through artwork. There are just so many great glass artists out there, and more emerging every day. It is really an exciting time to be involved with this art form…”
You can check out these tasty collaboration out at the US Tubes Room at the American Glass Expo. We can’t wait to see what else he comes up with.