Students’ minds and hands seemed to flex and stretch as much as the hot glass they manipulated, as William Geffroy guided them through making the flowing tentacles, bulbous head and curious eyes of an octopus at Potekglass Studio in the California Building on June 11. From France, Geffroy is a glass artist in “monde & object de curiosite” (world and object of curiosity).
“Turn, turn, turn” Geffroy commanded, holding a stick of color to the hot edge of a clear rod as he turned it in the torch flame, “push” to gather mass. And later, “notice how he gathers a little color on the punty so it doesn’t leave a clear spot,” said studio owner and glass artist Malcom Potek. A punty is the rod connected to the glass that is being worked in the flame. Building the octopus, working the second set of four tentacles relied on a punty attached to one of the previous four.
Class members found out first-hand what happens if the punty contact is not at a point of balance. Hot glass starts to collapse toward a right angle and has to be realigned with some quick back and forth turns for even heat. Sometimes, a tentacle has to be sacrificed and another teased out from a better contact point. Heat and gravity create flowing tentacles if the initial pull was too straight.
“Difficile,” Geffroy smiled. “Especially when you’re shaking,” laughed a student after a harrowing save.
In this Visiting Artist master class at Potekglass Studio in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, eight students ranging in aptitude from beginner to teacher kept up pretty well. Geffroy stepped in to help as appropriate, and while a translator friend was standing by, demonstration, gesture, and a few English commands usually sufficed. It was Geffroy’s first master class. He explained that in France, he teaches “one student, not eight.”
On the first of the two days, the class learned to make sea horses, turtles, dolphins, fish and jellyfish.
“As an artist it is invaluable to be able to share ideas and techniques from diverse backgrounds,” Potek reflected. “It is amazing to me how folks from different backgrounds and approches often work toward the same goals.”
Foci – Minnesota Center for Glass Arts (2010 E. Hennepin Ave.) organized the French American Glass Exchange, and Potekglass partnered. The French artists working in different aspects of glass showed and sold their work at the Stone Arch Festival June 16-18.
Below: William Geffroy lets gravity help shape a glass tentacle. (Photo by Margo Ashmore)