Sunday, April 10, 2016

Inspired Bead Maker: The Big Purple Barn

As one of humanity’s earliest inventions, the bead is one of those essential things that connect us all together. Creating beads is a skill that often flourishes in unexpected places. Some of the most talented lampwork artists got their start suddenly, leaving their day jobs to fire up a torch practically overnight. Other artists find their way to bead making and exploring the many possibilities of color and glass by way of another medium. Today’s guest, Harvey Haines of The Big Purple Barn, is an artist, sculptor, and flameworker with a flair for salvaged materials.

Inspirational Beading: How did you first get started with bead making?

Harvey: It was five years ago, I first hit the torch a little while after stumbling on a lampworking demonstration. Steelwork has always been a passion of mine and playing with glass looked like some magic version of welding played back at one-tenth speed. Entrancing, beautiful. Seeing it gave me one of those ‘I should do that’ feelings, the variety that tend to get me into trouble. Two or three months later I had a make-shift glass studio taking over half of my little workshop.

Inspirational Beading: Do you remember your first bead? Where is it today?

Harvey: Normally I am a leap-before-looking kind of guy, but lampworking can be a bit dangerous for the uninitiated. After some searching I found a hippy named Andrew who would let me into his studio and together we took an hour long scratch at the surface of lampworking. Those first few beads are still hanging around, I like to pull them out now and again to see how my work has changed.

Salvage Glass Spacer Beads

Inspirational Beading: Where do you look for inspiration? How does it translate in your designs?

Harvey: Antique tools and hardware; just about any old hunk of metal. Paintings by Dennis Hopper and Chien Fei Chiang, photographs by Stephen Wilkes, sculptures by Rodin. Cars like the 1950 and ’51 Studebakers or the ill-fated Tucker Torpedo. Movies made by Sergio Leone - ‘Duck, You Sucker!” is my current favorite. Rita Hayworth. The material itself is the greatest driving force behind anything that I do, whether I’m using glass or steel. I can take inspiration from any of my favorite places, but that ends up being reimagined through the lens of the medium. Glass is a seductive, sensual thing. It flows and curves in so many wonderfully confusing ways, you just can’t help falling for the stuff once you see the way it plays in the heat. I watch the glass, follow its flow, and make it into whatever it wants to be.

Salvage Glass Lentil Beads

Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite bead style or shape to create?

Harvey: Lentil beads may be a bit simple, but I appreciate their powers of display. A lentil lets the glass stretch its legs and show off more than it could in a spacer, without being as weighty as one of my extra-large focal beads. Aside from that, I don’t use molds or presses which means it takes a lot of extra time and love to make a nice lentil. Maybe I ought not to say it, but I’m proud of every good lentil that makes its way out of my kiln.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite color or combination to work with?

Harvey: My Verdigris and Antique Arctic glasses are tied for favorite color. Verdigris isn’t showy, but it has a great coppery-green hue and the glass is sourced from broken 1940s telegraph pole insulators. Antique Arctic is a particularly icy oceanic blue, so vibrant and pure. That one is made out of glassware from the 1950s, the color just screams of mid-century Americana.

Antique Arctic Glass and Inclusion Glass Beads

Inspirational Beading: What is the most exciting design in your repertoire right now? What makes it special?

Harvey: Sticking to beads, I’d say my Inclusion Glass pieces are undoubtedly the most exciting. In addition to experimenting with recycled glass, I enjoy playing around with different additives, such as seashells. Many of the Inclusion bead ingredients are kept as trade secrets and the beads are always done in limited runs. Some of the ingredients are post-consumer recycled material, like the glass, and others are leftover antique odds and ends. You never know what’s coming!

Inspirational Beading: What is the most rewarding moment in your design process?

Harvey: I think this changes from project to project, but right now I’m going to say that the most rewarding aspect of my work is knowing that a person enjoys what I’ve made. One of the best parts of being a ‘maker’ is having the ability to give, or to help others give, unique, personal, and meaningful gifts. You can’t beat it, really.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have any plans for new bead styles or themes in the works?

Harvey: Mixed-color recycled beads are sort of my white-whale. On account of various scientific mumbo jumbo, mixing different types of glasses will cause the finished piece to crack. Keep in mind that all of my recycled glasses were made by different manufacturers across the past eight or nine decades; they are rarely compatible. Still, I’ve had some promising successes, and I should be offering multi-color pieces quite soon!

Salvage Steel Desk Organizer

Inspirational Beading: What are some of your other creations?

Harvey: My first big commission was from Red Wing Shoes in Minnesota. They hired me to make a shelf of some sort so they could display a few pairs of used workbooks in their headquarters. I ended up building the shelf out of around 100 antique wrenches, it weighed a ton! Another fun project was done as part of an Earth Day celebration at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I gathered all sorts of discarded nonsense from across the campus and made a series of sculptures, one of which remains on permanent display at the school. The best piece was a working potter’s wheel made out of computers, some AV equipment, bicycle parts, and an antique mixer. Somehow I managed to make a handful of decent little pots, as well as an incredible mess.

Salvage Steel Valet Dish

In my Etsy shop you’ll find a variety of products aside from beads. Depending on when you look there will be glass items such as marbles, worry stones, and Honey Stones. Right now you’ll see a new addition - Fossilized shark’s teeth encased in glass from Coca-Cola bottles. There are also a few steel products peppered across the shop. I enjoy making nuclear-grade desk organizers and valet dishes. They’re heavy, nearly indestructible, and personalized with Braille lettering that is drilled into the surface of the steel.

Automotive Glass Worry Stones

Inspirational Beading: Who do you hope to inspire with your work?

Harvey: Maybe it sounds a little corny, but I’ve got to say I’d like to inspire the youngest generation. What I’d like is for kids to have more access and encouragement to find a craft that means something to them. The world would be a better place if more people had a comfortable outlet to share what happens inside their heads. The heart and mind are stimulated by the work, whatever it may be, and it helps people to connect in beautiful ways. As with so many things, this all begins with the kids: that’s why I love doing live demonstrations and teaching young’uns how to make beads. If you’ve got a particular talent, pass it on to as many little humans as you can, that is the most enduring and important artwork that you’ll ever make.

You can see more of Harvey’s designs at The Big Purple Barn on Etsy, and check out The Big Purple Barn website for a gallery of awesome sculptures and designs.


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Copyright 2016 Inspirational Beading and Harvey Haines

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