Cold fusion

Artist heats up kiln to expose talent

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While working on a commissioned piece of stained glass, Robin Clow found a love letter from her client to his wife that was written after the birth of their first child.

She used the message in it to inspire the piece she designed for them.

"The love was so evident in that couple and I was trying to portray that," Clow said.

She personalizes all of her glass pieces because she thinks if it is not original, then it is not her work.

Clow has designed stained glass and produced architectural commissions for 25 years. Five years ago, she made the switch to fused glass despite some trepidation.

"The most difficult part is to make the glass unique and make your own artistic statement instead of producing a craft," Clow said. "You have to develop a style and statement with your layers."

Producing fused glass is a very different process than creating stained glass. It involves putting pieces of glass into a kiln at 1,500 degrees three to five times to get the desired result. Each firing takes two days to heat and cool.

"People have never heard of putting glass in a kiln," Clow said. "It's a very old process, about 4,000 years old."

Clow taught herself the art of fused glass. Mistakes can be costly because of the value of the materials.

"There's a price tag when I screw up, so I do tests to find my voice in the medium," Clow said. "Every day I come in and have another idea and make sample pieces. That's how my day proceeds."

Until recently, Clow had no electricity in her studio on Uphill Drive. She still has no water.

"I schlep 20 gallons of water a day (up a flight of stairs) when I am working with it," Clow said. "But my studio space is bigger than where I raised my two girls and three dogs."

Clow's family inspires her. Husband Ron designs and makes the woodwork that surrounds her stained glass and holds her fused glass pieces.

"I married a woodworker, but it's tough to access his talent. I have to take a number and stand in line," Clow said. "But the woodwork is what makes the glass. I'm quite lucky to have his influence."

Clow's other inspiration is her mother, who died when Clow was young.

"I have a genetic art background," she said. "My mother was an artist, and as I get older, I feel more of her influence."

Clow's work portrays her interest in Australian aborigine art and her strong connection to the beach, but she said she finds beauty in the fleeting moments art creates.

"Beauty is what is meaningful to you," Clow said. "It is walking along and seeing something that evokes a memory in you. It all balances out life."

Clow is about to take on the new challenge of beginning to show her new fused glasswork.

"It's hard to put myself out there because I am an introvert," she said. "I've been living in my own fantasy, but now it's time to test the waters."

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