Steven Easton, 2007
In antiquity, beeswax was fashioned into objects, then encased in river mud. The resulting molds were heated to remove the wax, and molten metal was poured in. "Lost wax" casting, which I use today with glass, is an ancient technology.
In my studio. I use micro-crystalline wax, a by-product of the petroleum industry, and cast it into rubber molds, or sculpt it by hand. The artwork I make is then encased in a plaster-like material called cristobolite that can withstand the hear of the kiln. The wax is removed by steam heating, and the resulting "negative" goes into the kiln with crushed pieces of tinted lead crystal or soda-lime glass (called frit), in a container directly above the mold. When brought to a very high temperature, the glass flows down and fills the mold.
The artwork is then cooled over a period of days. weeks, or sometimes months, depending on the size of the piece.
By using electricity and controlling the rate of cooling by computer, it is possible to align potential stresses in the glass, and make pieces much thicker and much larger than was possible in ancient times.
Finishing these works is accomplished with electrically powered rotating wheels of metal, rubber, cork and felt imbedded with powdered silicon carbide, diamonds of different grit size, a rare earth called cerium and other fine abrasives. This process of polishing imparts increasingly fine scratches. into a glass surface to create the illusion of clarity. This is a technique that has remained essentially unchanged in principle through history.
Glass is treasure. I see the little droplets that form on the edges of my molds in the kiln during firing as cabochon rubies and emeralds. Though tiny, I can't bear to throw them out. In the ancient world, this material was used interchangeably with cut jewels: sapphires, amethyst, fossilized amber, and everything considered precious. Understanding the medium in this way is one important connection between ancient glassmaking and my own studio practice.
Imagery, as well as process, of the work I make derives much from antiquity; the visual vocabulary of capitals and plinths, cast-bronze portraits, carved marble these all inspire me and echo in my castings, used as building blocks to then create modern sculptures. The ability to work at a larger scale than was possible thousands of years ago, in conjunction with contemporary concepts of the identity of the artist and self in narrative, are what drive me forward in creating my kiln cast glass constructions.
I am frequently struck by the way art from antiquity still lives and speaks to us, imbued by a persistent spirit and grace.
Its fragmentary nature does not diminish it. My sculptures are organizations using repetition of the elements of simple classical shapes, to create pieces that are abstract yet resonate as artifacts and come into being alive with the tension of time past brought into the present, and of solidity made transparent by the cast glass.