Paul M. Hollister Collection, The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass
Transcribed by Bard Graduate Center
Title: Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace Interview for Paul Hollister, September 30, 1983 (Rakow title: Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace interview [sound recording] / with Paul Hollister, BIB ID: 168374).
Joey Kirkpatrick, Narrator
Flora Mace, Narrator
Colleen Terrell, Transcriber
Barb Elam and Michelle Jackson-Beckett, Editors
Lauren Drapala and Colleen Terrell, Summary
Duration: 19:00
Length: 5 pages

Note: This transcript is based upon an audiotaped recording that has been digitally converted. The recording is part of the Paul M. Hollister Collection at The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, and was transcribed at Bard Graduate Center, New York, New York, for the digital exhibition and archive Voices in Studio Glass History: Art and Craft, Maker and Place, and the Critical Writings and Photography of Paul Hollister. Usage requests for all or part of this transcript must be obtained from The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass. 

Paul Hollister often made audio recordings for research purposes in preparation for writing, including interviews with artists and curators, and lectures. The reader should bear in mind that transcriptions of these recordings reflect spoken, rather than written, prose. While every effort was made to be as accurate as possible, the sound quality of the recordings in the Paul Hollister Collection varies greatly. Transcripts have been edited for readability and occasionally condensed. They should serve as a best-effort guide to the original only and not be considered verbatim.

Flora C. Mace (1949– ) studied sculpture and ceramics at Plymouth State University where she earned a BS in fine art in 1972. She began experimenting with glass while a graduate student in the sculpture program at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (MFA, 1976). She also studied glass at Illinois State University in Bloomington, doing work with Joel Philip Myers on the weekends. In 1974, she became the first-ever resident glass artist at Wheaton Art and Cultural Center (then Wheaton Village). In 1975, through an invitation from Dale Chihuly, she attended a summer workshop in glass at the University of Utah at Snowbird. Mace began producing designs for Dale Chihuly in the mid-1970s and had an early interest in translating two-dimensional lines into glass imagery using drawn-glass threads. While teaching at Pilchuck Glass School in 1979, Mace met fellow artist Joey Kirkpatrick. Joey Kirkpatrick (1952– ) received a BFA in drawing from the University of Iowa in 1975 and took graduate classes in glass at Iowa State University from 1978 to 1979. She also taught drawing classes at the Art Center in Des Moines, where she acquired a collection of dolls used in life-drawing classes that became a primary inspiration for her work. She met fellow artist Flora Mace in 1979 at Pilchuck Glass School. Mace helped Kirkpatrick produce her drawings in glass, first with glass threads and then with wire. The two have worked collaboratively on both blown-glass vessels and sculptures fabricated with wood, glass, and other media. Kirkpatrick and Mace have had a long relationship with Pilchuck and have shared a home and studio in Seattle, Washington. Since 2016, they live and work on a farm on the Olympic Peninsula.

Summary: In this recording made for Paul Hollister by Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace, Mace explains how she learned to weld growing up on a farm and later applied the skill as a sculpture student, which eventually led to her embrace of glass as a medium. Kirkpatrick talks about the appeal of glassblowing and the desire for artistic self-expression. Both discuss their interest in working with specific figural imagery and the process of translating drawings into glass.

Mentioned: Dale Chihuly, drawing, glassblowing, Pilchuck Glass School, Plymouth State College, sculpture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, welding, wire, woodworking

Related asset: Paul Hollister, “Gefühle—personifiziert: Arbeiten von Flora Mace und Joey Kirkpatrick/Personification of Feelings: The Mace/Kirkpatrick Collaboration.” Neues Glas, no. 1 (January/March 1984): 14-19.

Joey Kirkpatrick (JK): It’s September 30. This is Joey. We got your postcard yesterday, and just wanted to mention that I realize that the slides we just sent you crossed in the mail. We sent you one and a quarter of a close-up and a couple of working shots. We now know what you want and will be glad to put a slide sheet together with some four by fives on it, and hopefully they will be exactly what you want. We also wanted to answer a couple more questions. First off, I think Flora wants to talk about her beginnings as a welder.

Flora Mace (FM): I think it’s very easy to learn how to weld if you grow up on a farm with a welding torch and lots of equipment that needs to be repaired. And growing up on a farm, I did, in New Hampshire, and my dad really did believe that, girl or boy, you learned to weld. So, practical application was the way that I started out. Going to undergraduate school at Plymouth State College, part of the University of New Hampshire, I learned welding for a different purpose, and that was purely a sculptural aesthetic development, joining beads and rods and wire together to form sometimes very large sculptures. That I believe was the first time that I ever contacted any glass, because I built this big armature and then took stained glass and set it into the wire sculpture, and thought of this as a maquette for a big plaza piece. Going to graduate school, I also went as a sculpture major with welding and woodcarving. Unfortunately, going to the University of Illinois made woodcarving, unless I was into cornstalks, virtually impossible; in New Hampshire I was doing direct woodcarving. And so I took my other option, and that was welding. So at the University of Illinois, the ceramic department was starting up a glass department at the sculpture building. Since all the graduate students have to take other courses, and they needed someone that could weld, the ceramic professor at that point asked me to take the opportunity to help him weld up a glass studio. Both of us were a little unsure at that point of how to go about it, but with welding and cutting and tacking, we came up with a glass shop. Of course, at that point, there were very few students that knew how, knew how to blow glass, and so the enrollment in the course was really down. So, since it was right there in the building, and I helped build the studio, I thought it was a good opportunity to take this course, and being a very bad glassblower in the beginning, catching the glass on the side of the door—the furnace—and walking out of the furnace would bring long threads of glass across the floor. One day I thought it’d be a great idea to try to weld these two or three or four rods together, of glass. And by doing so, that brought in my welding application. I would take one rod of glass and bead it or join it to another. And at this point, I was making pieces that had imagery in them, and that’s really what I wanted to deal with, was imagery on glass. And of course the designs that I made were much larger than I could even put on the surface of glass, so really only a small portion of the imagery was ever picked up in the beginning. Because of the welding process I was used to a larger scale, and because of my abilities, I was limited by the glass itself. So the combination of the two brought the scales together, and the development of the welding and the glass process together. But glass and steel were very close because of the heat and the motion and the flowing, and so I got really excited about it. There were, you know, lots of times in the studio that I had a chance to play with the material because other students of course didn’t show up, and that gave me a chance to really develop my work. And at that point I met Dale Chihuly and started doing some work for him using my thread drawing technique. At the point that I met Dale I thought that I didn’t ever believe that I would be in glass. I was more three-dimensionally oriented. I loved the physicalness of the glass, but it was really the welding that brought me into it, and through welding, or that flow of line—got me into it and gave me that excitement to carry me as far as I’ve gotten. So at this point I think that with our relationship to the first tape and this tape, we’ve covered some more ground on that, and we’ll address the question of why we make what we make.

JK: Paul, this is Joey again on why we make what we make. That feels like such a difficult question because there are so many ways that you can approach a question like this. Originally, why we make what we make in glass, I think both of us were caught up into the seduction of glassblowing—which you’ve probably heard a million times—about the physical qualities of, of the process of it. And I think initially that has to play a major part in why people get into glass. But more importantly, I think that why we make what we make comes from inside and outside in kind of an odd way. There are days when you make an image or you want to express an image that needs to come out of you somehow, and somehow then you are almost forced to express yourself. There are other days when I look at things I’ve already made, like a drawing on a piece of glass that works for me, in the sense of it portrays what I’m trying to say, an inner reflection of that—it said what I wanted to, it says something back to me. It makes me want to make more. So, in a way, we make what we make for different reasons at different moments in time. I think that, as Flora brought up again on this tape, that oddly enough we both were very interested apart from one another, when we didn’t even know each other, about putting specific imagery on glass. And maybe we were meant to meet and try to find a new way to get more specific. Because I think that if we look back historically, there aren’t a lot of specific images dealt with in glass. Form, color, are things that are more easily dealt with, in terms of technically—people didn’t really know how to do it. And Flora, I know, was doing it before most people were, with her thread drawings and dust drawings, her earlier pieces. It’s obviously a need that we both have to express something, and, and it’s a compelling need in us both personally. And how we come to bring our concepts together oftentimes is after much personal thought and much individual thought. Obviously, we both don’t stand at a piece of paper and do a drawing together. Actually, maybe that isn’t obvious, but we don’t. Oftentimes I go away and I do a number of drawings. Flora goes away and does a number of drawings or a lot of thinking. And there’s specific imagery concepts that then we bring together and discuss and talk about, wouldn’t you say?

FM: Yeah. I think as I glance around the room here and look at some of the imagery that we are working with at this point, I myself—I want to say it’s technically—it’s exciting to me to see how specific I can get. The patterns that I make on the surface of say, a shirt, or the belt lines or the face, the expressions in the face, the glances of eyes—how, you know, just to put the dark areas in the eye to get maybe the dolls to look at each other, or the hands to reach out to one another to express a feeling or a mood is a real important aspect to that. But it is a technical one. It just doesn’t happen by putting little globs of color; they really have to be thought out.

JK: I think, too, it’s important to reiterate that the reason to go through this technical process is because we want to share some kind of an emotional content with the audience, whoever the audience is. And sometimes I think of ourselves as being the largest audience to our own work. And I think that when I act as my own audience, and I look at a piece that speaks to me with the feeling that I’ve put into it to make it, then that’s what makes me want to make what I make again and again, because it does speak to me. And I think that sharing is an important word to use when we’re talking about why we make what we make, because really what we’re doing is we’re expressing a lot of feelings here. And I know that I’ve talked about that with you before, Paul, the sort of personification of feelings. And that’s [a] very, very important part of why we do what we do, and glass works well with this, because it is such—I guess it’s such an expressive medium. And I think part of it’s function as an expressive medium is how you have to go about the process of making it. And I think that’s really interesting, because when you walk up to a piece of paper and try and make a drawing, the paper pretty much acts as a non-living sort of taker of your feelings. You put your feelings onto the paper. Whereas glass, being so mobile, so alive, so fiery, so movable, it really gives a lot back to you, so it isn’t just acting as a receiver. And that’s an incredible thing. And again, when you see those drawings being manipulated not only by Flora, not only by myself, but manipulated by the glass also, you’re dealing with a medium that is very, very strong, and very, very expressive, and very, very different than paper, or canvas. And so the glass acts as a paper or a canvas, but in a way that real paper can’t. And I think that is an answer to a question that we ask often, why do we do it on glass?

FM: Think, too, Paul, that an interesting thing is Joey and I blow all our own pieces. You know, a number of people have offered to—you know, would love to try to blow one of our pieces. And it’s always been very important for us to take the drawings that we do and set up the environment for them on the glass and to blow the glass, sometimes as difficult as it is for us, because we get so emotionally involved in the drawings themselves. But the process of blowing, when the drawings go into the glory hole or the furnace to be reheated, and then the blowing, and putting them back, the images—how they move on the surface of the glass, and arms move, and heads tilt and, and animals start to run or wind kites start to fill up—all those things are so important. Maybe we see a very exciting part of the piece itself. We see the images come alive; we see the wind kites fill with wind, and move on the pieces, something that the public will never really ever see, is the life that they really had. And we’re just stopping that motion, but with seeing, you know, the dolls stand up and their arms lift to touch each other, and that, that to us—we see those images alive, alive and moving. And that’s a really exciting part for me. And so the blowing process, and why we do it on the glass is very important for me, too, in that the colors of the images, and how the arms open, and how the colors become more transparent, and making those decisions about more light and less light are very important. The decision-making that happens all along, from the time that we bend the first wire ’til the piece goes in the annealing box, is a very important aspect.

JK: I think, too, something just in reaction to what Flora just said, is that for me one of the frustrating things right now in the work is that the limits of our physical capacities do play a part in this. The pieces now are quite large, Paul. I think the last couple of pieces we blew were at least fifteen, some of them are sixteen inches tall. And some of them have quite a bit of weight to ’em, because of the size and because of the thickness. Sometimes we’ll let a piece be thicker than another piece because the drawing is the most important thing. If we’ve blown it out to the point at which we don’t want to see it blown out anymore, then we’ll feel very free to leave the piece thicker. But this adds another point to the work, which is that you’ve got a very, very large, heavy piece on the end of this five-foot, six-foot pipe, that you’re carrying around for a period of three hours, and the concentration, and the ability to keep your concentration for that three hours really enters into it. And I think one thing that allows our concentration to stay with it is that we are having this integrating sort of work period with these figures on the glass that as we’ve said, really serve as almost a third party in the process of making.

FM: I think we think of it as more of a dialogue with a third party, and that third party is in fact the glass and the expression, what we’re trying to express.

JK: So, Paul, once again I hope this does answer a few questions. We’ll send this off today as well as the slides. Hope things are going well for you. And if you need any more questions answered, just let us know. Goodbye.

[. . .]

[recording ends]