Thursday, February 26, 2015

Interview with Jodi McRaney-Rusho: Glass With a Past

Jodi McRaney-Rusho

I have followed Glass With a Past for several years now. I admire Jodi McRaney-Rusho's work and approach to recycled glass, as well as how open she is to share valuable information such as firing schedules, tech tips, and project tutorials. The kiln carving patterns she shares on her blog alone will keep anyone busy for months!

Kiln Carving Pattern for Flaming Heart

So I asked Jodi for an email interview and she graciously agreed. I can't say how excited I am about this interview! Jodi really pulled the curtain back on COE for recycled projects for me! So enjoy the interview and don't forget to follow Jodi's blognewsletter or YouTube channel. You won't regret it!

What was your previous job?
Before starting glass work, I was a Merchandising Analyst for Sundance Catalog Company.  My job was relocated to California in 2002. Rather than go with it, I elected to stay in Salt Lake City. I went back to school and finished my Bachelor of Science in Economics.

Did anything you did before help your work or inform your glass business?
Obviously, I've always been an analytical number crunching kind of girl.  My analytics background makes it easy for me to isolate variables and test each permutation of a situation individually, and then figure out which variables are causing the problem, and which are going to solve it.  Analytics jobs require that you can find and figure out problems and explain the issue and solutions to broad groups of people.  I like to think that I can do that with glass as well as numbers.

From an artistic point of view, I feel like the engineering/analytical side of me comes out pretty strongly.  It's almost instinct for me to figure out faster, better, higher volume ways of making something.  The very serious downside is I struggle to make one of a kind pieces, and it is incredibly difficult for me to make whimsical or fun pieces.

I read that you got into recycled glass because an instructor told you that you can’t use recycled glass. Could you tell me a little more about that? (What did they tell you, etc.)
When I began, several seasoned glass artists expressed disdain for artwork made with recycled glass, even going so far as to say glass art could not be made with anything but art glass.  At the time, fusible glass was becoming much more available to beginners and recycling was really not at the forefront.  As recycling and eco-awareness have become more mainstream, we've seen that attitude change and I couldn't be happier.

What kind of things have you learned from projects that didn’t work?

The vast importance of record keeping, for every single piece.  The first few YEARS that I was making glass nothing worked.  It was incredibly disappointing.  Now I take photos of every process, every batch before and after firing, and log every firing schedule in a book.  I also track how long each piece takes, how much materials are used and how much they cost, how long the firing takes, and how much electricity is used.  I love spreadsheets and data bases.

You do a lot of kiln carving. What do you like about kiln carving?
Kiln carving is a great technique.  If you have fiber paper on hand, you can cut it and have a project in the kiln in no time flat.  It's also a highly successful technique which makes it great for beginners or those who don't have a lot of time in the studio.  A few years ago I made a kiln carving pattern and put it up on my website and it was incredibly popular.  Since then I have made something like 45 free downloadable patterns and they still seem to be very popular.
Kiln Carving by Jodi McRaney-Rusho

How do you organize your materials to avoid COE problems?
Ah.  The CoE question.  Everyone asks that, and frankly, I don't even worry about COE.  That sounds cavalier, but there is a very good reason.  I don't mix bottle glass when fusing.  Glass is always self compatible, so if I don't mix bottles, there isn't a COE problem.  If I do mix bottle glass colors and types, I grind them down to fine frit and then mix them, creating a new, unique COE.  I wish I could take credit for that idea, but I read it in a Boyce Lundstrom book 14 years ago, and Bedrock Glass in Seattle has been doing it very successfully for decades.  It is a ton of work though.

For much larger pieces, I use float glass.  I have pieces that measure up to 64 square feet, so I can still stick with the single sheet of glass plan.  Since I've never worked in fusible glass, I don't get hung up on the desire to mix colors, instead I find non-CoE sensitive additions  such as paint, mica, metals and even dirt.

What are your future project goals?
So many goals.  On the artwork front, I know I need to work much harder at pushing myself.  I need to do those things that terrify me.  That's not easy for any artist, so I'm working my way up to it.  I'm also launching a custom mold line including a wide variety of kiln formed bead molds and molds made specifically for bottle glass - bottoms, donuts and rings.

I think I could spend all day reviewing your blogs. Do you have any thoughts of writing a book?
Funny you should ask that, my first book "Fused Bottle Glass Animals" should be ready to ship before the end of March (hopefully earlier) and the next will be a combination of fused bottle glass projects and techniques.

Additional thoughts? Advice?
The single most important piece of advice I can give you is to keep doing something.  Once you are in motion, things will happen, rarely the things you had planned, but always something! 

Cell Panel by Jodi McRaney-Rusho - 30" x 24" x 3/8" recycled pate de verre panel. This panel was created by grinding hundreds of bottles down to frit, separating the frit into 4 sizes and then using one size of frit in multiple colors to build a panel directly on the kiln shelf in a bordering frame.  After firing, the panel was polished on both sides, the edges trimmed and polished and then the entire thing was fired again to fire polish.

May all of your scores run true!

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