Spring 2014 Fellow
“I’ve been making glass for eleven years. I started out as a production maker. I’m a glass blower. That’s who I was. Then I came to this place where I needed to branch out from that; I needed to figure out: what is my place in all this?”
For Danish artist Karin Forslund, a Spring, 2014 Fellowship at the Creative Glass Center of America presented an occasion and a setting to consider her goals, her processes; her vision of glass and her relationship to it. She trained at the Swedish school Orrefors Kosta Boda. Founded in 1898 Orrefors was an elite trade school preserving elements of the medieval tradition of apprenticeship. In 2013 Orrefors was closed by Kosta Boda’s current owner New Wave Group AB because it was not profitable.
Forslund is among the last of her kind. “I have been taught all these techniques. I sat and engraved a deer in the woods for three weeks because it was part of my training. You can’t get that anywhere anymore — and working at the factory and being in love with all these old grumpy men. Their grandfathers had been glass blowers and their grandfathers. They taught me everything about glass and about life. I am so grateful that I was a part of that because it’s not there anymore. …I was rebellious but … I realize how important everything from that time is to me. That doesn’t necessarily show in my work now but I carry that value with me all the time.”
The meaning of glass was central to her CGCA project which she called “Frameworks.” She constructed it as a theoretical framework for herself, a “dogma” that would address the nature of glass and its material and cultural settings. “The whole theoretical, conceptual start of this project was that I was very interested in how we value things depending on material and craft. . . . The whole dogma is about letting control go and letting the material work. . . . So, the outcome is kind of unknown.”
The concept has parallels with the rules of filmmaking proposed in the Dogme 95 manifesto issued by Danish film directors Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg. These filmakers and others who joined the group rejected the use of elaborate, artificial technology in making movies. Their hope was to revive authenticity and to return power to artists and to traditional storytelling. Forslund’s approach is similarly noninterventionist — at least as non-interventionist as one can be when dealing with a material like glass. Questioning her role as creator or maker, she devised protocols in which hot glass is allowed to behave freely in certain situations without the intervention of artistry. “[A]t a certain point I let the material do whatever it needs to do. [I]t’s out of my hand.” By accepting and even embracing events that would typically be perceived as mistakes, Forslund echoes and even formalizes Marcel Duchamp’s famous decision to regard the (accidental) cracking of his masterwork “The Large Glass” (1912) as a final act of creation.
Forslund made a mold made in Wheaton’s metal shop which when filled with hot glass could be flipped to allow the molten glass to pour out unhindered. “It has this luscious movement about it.” The process freezes the flow of glass resulting in structures that echo the art nouveau obsession with lines in nature: the twining of smoke in the air, curling waves and various plant forms. Unexpected developments can be fortuitous: Forslund was pleased when on one occasion the fluid glass poured faster and further than anticipated and began to flow off the prepared surface. She recalls, “Deb (Czeresko) was helping me and she’s like, “Oh no! It’s coming off the shelf you have to move it and I said, ‘Oh leave it. Let it run. I love it.’
“It’s such a gratifying thing to … give some [control] back to the material where the material gets to decide.” Forslund’s dogma isolates a primal act of creation: setting the wheels in motion and stepping back to see what happens. It’s a dance in which the material becomes an equal partner with the artist.
“I am using my own sort of personal dogma. I set up the rules and then I let go. I’m having a really intimate conversation with my material,” she explains. Forslund takes a similar non-interventionist approach when she causes glass to boil by introducing foreign materials. The resulting shapes have a bubbly textured porous surface that resembles pumice. “i love the fact that when people look at them they are like, ‘It doesn’t look like glass. It doesn’t have the weight of glass. But it is glass.”
She also extended her experimentation into the field of pottery. “I was really interested in curves and I figured out turning clay is a good way to explore curves.” Learning to throw at the clay studio at Wheaton, she casts the pieces she throws, conflating two revolving techniques and interweaving processes of mold-making positives and negatives.
All these activities suggest the experiments of the early surrealists and their goal of breaking down the sense of control to explore more basic, more intrinsic structures. Forslund says, “A big part of being an artist is letting your subconsciousness come into the work — putting your body and subconscious in the work…. It’s very personal and it’s very challenging. I think it’s healthy to put yourself in that situation. Sometimes it hurts and sometime it’s wonderful. Then, again, what would life be without it.”
Written by Robin Rice