Call for entries: Send us your Outdoor Palette submissions. Contact Adelaide Tyrol at (802) 454-7841 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
the outdoor PALETTE
By Adelaide Tyrol
Anneal, caliper, cane, chord, chill mark, fritt, jack, lear, marver,
parison, punty, pegging … these are just a dozen terms in
the vast glossary of glassblowing. The obscure words speak
to a craft that’s so hard and frustrating, so unpredictable and
mercurial, that few undertake it.
What is glass? It is an enigma: hard as flint and also the
definition of fragility. It is made from sand and metallic oxide
that’s heated to 2,000 degrees centigrade and then cooled. When
hot, it is fluid and malleable like honey and, kept molten and
in constant motion, it can be manipulated into various forms.
Once cooled, it is an amphorous solid, hard and chemically
inert, but it can also be persnickety – if adjustments in time
and temperature in the making don’t work out, the glass cracks.
Producing a pane of glass is one thing; creating a dense globe
with a full palette of color, form, and texture is another.
Josh Simpson of Shelburne, Massachusetts, is a master glass-
blower – one of the top artisans of his craft in the world. Simpson
is probably best known for his other-worldly glass spheres full
of imaginary landscapes. These planets, born of fire, reflect his
decades-long interest in astronomy. During the 1970s, while
exploring glassblowing at Vermont’s Goddard College, Simpson
was inspired by the photographs emerging from NASA’s Apollo
program. For the first time, we all saw our earth as a beautiful
blue marble hanging in space. Simpson’s spherical creations
grew out of those first images. In his globes, we can imagine
different worlds, different ecosystems with their own oceans,
green mountains, circuitous rivers, sand bars, coral reefs,
orbiting satellites – reconfigurations of all the things we know.
In a world where most art hangs on a museum wall and
docents wag a finger if you step too close, it is the most wonderful
feeling to hold a weighty, smooth glass orb, full of an imaginary
biosphere, in the palm of your hand.
Josh Simpson’s work is displayed in museums and public
collections worldwide. His Salmon Falls Gallery in Shelburne
Falls, Massachusetts, is open to the public year round. “Where
Earth Meets Sky,” a PBS production, provides a hands-on
explanation of his glassblowing process. The public is encouraged
to participate in The Infinity Project: www.megaplanet.com/
Josh Simpson, Megaworld, blown glass, 5. 25” diameter
Josh Simpson creates planets that are midway between the micro and the macro.
They have some of the mystery of the atomic level and much of the complexity of the cosmic.
NEIL ARMSTRONG, Commander, Apollo II