Lydia Ann Piper
“When I create my glass art, I start out with disorder.” This is what one needs to appreciate about the fused glass work of Lydia Ann Piper: She loves to create order, to wrangle out patterns from where none seem apparent. She loves jigsaw puzzles.
Piper was born in Tokyo and, as a child, traveled the world as her family moved every few years, ultimately settling in the American Southwest. She earned a degree in Journalism and Photography from the University of New Mexico before working in Los Angeles as a freelance writer and photographer for area publications. A return to the Southwest began her exploration in art, which led to first a fascination, and soon an immersion, in the art of fused glass.
After studying with talented glass artists around the U.S. and studying specific aspects of the fused glass process, Lydia Piper began to develop a singular style that merges form, color and pattern to create one-of-a-kind pieces of glass art; a style that blends both contemporary and traditional themes and is created with a distinctive matte finish..
The techniques used by Lydia Ann Piper to achieve her fused glass designs begin with a stack of cut up glass, with no specific purpose other than to create a pattern bar design from which she can begin. “I choose colors instinctively, creating a palette that makes sense to me,” she notes. “Sometimes I organize and stack the glass to help achieve a certain look, but other times, I just stir the pot. Either way, I really never know what I'm going to get. But when I open the kiln, and see what I created from scrap glass, it is like opening a present. This is the beginning of restoring the order and giving the glass a purpose.
“As I continue through the process of creating my glass art, all of my design instincts influence the piece. Graphic design, color theory, movement, flow and energy all come into play as I cut glass and lay out the pieces. I like the technique of on-edge-construction (the process of cutting strips of glass and placing them on their edge to form a design), which gives me more control over the look of the final piece. I usually don't have a plan when I start, allowing the pattern bar that was created to dictate how the piece will look. I will play with the pieces, rearranging them until something connects. There are times that the piece comes together quickly, the colors and design jumping out at me. However, there are other times when it doesn't come so easily and I will spend hours working on a piece to find a combination that ‘works’ and satisfies my design aesthetic.”
The techniques used by Lydia Ann Piper are exacting and time-consuming: Her process begins with sheets of compatible glass that she stacks loosely atop and beside each other in color positions of her choosing. These are fired to form a slab approximately 19mm thick that, when sliced into strips, form fluid and unpredictably unique pattern bars. These are then arranged into
a design, along with strips of cut glass, and fired again to fuse the pieces together. The fused piece is then “cold-worked” to create smooth edges and Piper’s signature matte finish. (Accomplished using machines such as an angle grinder, wet belt sander and sand blaster.) Finally, the piece is fired, or “slumped,” using a mold to form its final shape. Each firing takes approximately 13-20 hours and the entire process from start to finish can take 3-4 days to complete.
Lydia Ann Piper recounts that, “a few years ago, I read ‘Man's Search for Meaning,’ by Viktor Frankl. In the book, Frankl talks about his experiences as an inmate at Auschwitz during World War II. As a psychiatrist, he was interested in why some people survived the horrific conditions, while others did not. He concluded that love sustained those that survived: love for another such as a wife or child; love for a vocation or artistic endeavor; and finally, the love of beauty, whether it is enjoying art or observing the natural design of things, such as a tree or flower. This love gave them a purpose and the strength to endure.
“The idea that the love of beauty could sustain a person resonated with me. I realized that I found beauty in the simple order of things and it had sustained me throughout my life. And now, when others see beauty in the design of one of my pieces, I am humbled and honored.”
Lydia Ann Piper is a member of the Society of American Mosaic Artists; her glassworks are featured in several publications and collected internationally.