Studio Efficiency

My current professional work concentrates on two areas.  First, and occupying the most of every work day, is blowing glass in collaboration with my wife, Stephanie.  Since 2001 we have operated our own glass studio.  This collaborative teamwork has pushed me to develop my glass skills on a full time long term basis, and has provided for much greater presentation of our work to the public.  We draw on the Big Island environment for our esthetic inspiration.  We don’t strive to report literally what we see, but rather to respond creatively from the experience we have living here.  Through this work, I have gained experience with a wider color pallet, a wider range of cultural shapes, and the blending of color composition and shape to create cohesive final works.

The second area of major effort for me is technical.  Though it is possible to buy and operate glass equipment, I have always chosen to build my own. Since the equipment is so integral to glass working, its operation and construction are skills as essential as glass working itself.  While I was still teaching full time, I began to investigate how to improve the fuel efficiency of the heating equipment basic to glass blowing. At the time it was primarily a budgeting consideration.  Since opening our own studio, it has become more of a survival issue. Development of heat recovery equipment known as recuperators or regenerators has allowed me to lower the energy consumption in the studio by over 60%.  During the same time the cost of our fuel has tripled, keeping the budget impact essentially the same.  I have more recently turned my attention to using vegetable oil, a currently underused and renewable fuel source.  What was initially an economic project has now taken on philosophical, environmental and ethical meaning as well.

Since creativity and technology are organically connected in glass working, and the type of work done is often swayed by market success and income requirements, I consider the improvement of studio operation and lowering energy costs to be critical to creative freedom and even to the survival of the studio.

I have had two main impacts on art in Hawaii.  As an art teacher for twenty six years at Punahou, I introduced thousands of students to hand working in metal and glass.  Several prominent jewelry designers and glass artists got their initial experiences in my classes.  Professional studios in Hawaii and on the mainland are now operated by former students. In my teaching I emphasized refined skills and self expression.  Now as a studio artist I work on those same values daily while I also work to set an example of improved studio operation.

The contribution I am now making to the glass community is to maximize fuel efficiency and to seek alternative ways to operate high heat equipment. For now it is affecting mostly new studios on the Big Island.  In 2002 I presented my efficiency improvements at the Glass Art Society meetings in Seattle, and as a result glass workers nation wide are making strides toward improved energy use. Since then I have continued to refine the equipment for even greater high temperature energy efficiency.  It is my intent to continue to share my new  developments as they evolve, through teaching, publication and workshops.
We all know that energy use and policy is of momentous importance at this time.  Continued waste, abuse and misuse of energy resources will leave its mark on the economy and the environment for years to come.  As artists we are not immune to the causes or impacts of this.  It is time that we take steps on our own to change the way we use energy resources.  The returns go way beyond monetary savings.  I pledge my best efforts to this cause.