Capturing nature’s beauty in molten glass
The extensive views outside Sandra Wank’s Bowen Island studio stretch over hills of green framed by a narrow band of ocean. The North Shore Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop. This scenery stays with Wank when she enters her studio to melt glass into stunning beads that are made into necklaces and other jewelry pieces.
This month, Wank will be showcasing her art at the Ferry Building Gallery as part of the Great Stuff event that runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 17.
“There are 30 to 35 artists involved. It is a juried show and I received a phone call about it four weeks ago,” Wank said.
So she had no time to be idle during the last month.
“I had such a short time to get ready.”
She makes beads of various sizes. Some are covered with dots, others resemble miniature paintings.
“I’ve started with beads with more geometrical designs. Now they tend to be more organic.”
Inside her studio, Wank has her back to the door when she sits down at the torch. She switches it on and reaches for one of the hundred-plus coloured glass rods on her worktable.
“I’m starting with clay on a steel mandrel,” explains Wank, holding the mandrel in her left and the glass rod with her right hand. The molten glass changes from red to orange, then to yellow-hot. While she slowly rotates the mandrel to add the glass, she has to gauge the temperature so that the glass reaches the right consistency. Otherwise it will flow out of control and drip.
If it gets too hot, Wank moves the bead out of reach to let it cool. Then she returns it to the flame for yet another layer.
“When I am creating a scene, I use different colours for layers. I have to build the bead like a cylinder and press it out. That completely changes how it looks,” said Wank.
Wank demonstrates this. She heats the glass, then she shapes it with a press, once the glass cools down, she has to repeat the process. When she is building layers, she might add enamels to create watercolour effects, fine silver, gold leaf or copper foil.
When a basic bead is completed, Wank sometimes adds raised ornaments. “I use thin, thin rods of glass and paint flowers and leaves on the outside.”
It is a lengthy process. “I work for one to one and a half hours on some beads, layer by layer by layer,” Wank says. “Maybe 10 to 15 per cent of them crack and then I have to start all over.”
When finished, the beads are amazing, every one of them a unique work of art.
Great Stuff 2011 is billed as a Christmas art and gift sale. The opening reception will be held at the Ferry Building Gallery on November 18, from 4 to 8 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with extended hours on Fridays until 8 p.m. for late shopping.