Molten Glass Christmas Tree

One of my favorite events of the Holiday Season is the Cedars Open Studios Tour. The Cedars is a neighborhood of Dallas south of downtown and is an up-and-coming area. It still has some relatively low cost space and a lot of artists use the neighborhood as studio space (we’ll see how long this lasts – gentrification is a bitch).

In November, the studios open up on one evening for the Cedars Open Studios TourFacebook Link. It’s a fun event and a great way to get some unique Christmas Presents. I always do the tour with some friends on a bicycle, but I guess it would be OK to drive a vehicle, park, and walk. Look for it next year.

The final stop is always Bowman Art Glass (a way-cool place). They have a tree-shaped armature out front. After sunset, they do a skit or two, then, in the dark, the workers bring ladles of hot glass out from the ovens inside and pour the molten liquid over the armature. This makes a glass Christmas Tree.

Glass Christmas Tree at Bowman Art Glass, The Cedars, Texas

Glass Christmas Tree at Bowman Art Glass, The Cedars, Texas

There is always some wood and paper in the armature so the hot glass starts fires.

The only problem is that is is almost impossible to take good photos – the darkness and the contrast of the bright hot glass, plus the large crowd gathered around. But it is a blast and fun to watch. Next year… bet there or be square.

Pouring molten glass onto the Christmas Tree

Pouring molten glass onto the Christmas Tree


The Glint Of Light On Broken Glass

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

Saturday was the annual Cedars Open Studios Tour and Bike Friendly Cedars had organized a bike ride to the various studios and galleries. I had been looking forward to this for months and was concerned as the day approached that there was a prediction of violent thunderstorms. Still, I was up for giving it a shot.

As a compromise, I did drive down in my car instead of taking the train – that way I had a refuge and means of transport if the weather turned really bad. I also took my commuter bike instead of my folder – the big tires, weatherproof cargo box, and fenders are designed to get through any weather. I parked at Lee Harvey’s, dragged my bike out of the back, and pedaled down to the Bowler Hat to meet up with the other folks.

We gathered together and rode off, touring a large number of artists, their spaces, and their work. It was a big variety, from ceramics, jewelry and paintings to gigantic sculptures and architectural works. Everybody was very friendly and there was even a good bit of food and drink set out too.

The weather held out until the middle of the afternoon when it turned cold and rainy. I bailed on the bike tour and hid out under the awning at Lee Harvey’s for a bit. It helped that there was an excellent band, Shoot Low Sheriff, finishing out a set. Clay Stinnett – the artist that painted the work I bought at For the Love of Kettle – was there showing off some paintings.

About that time the sun was setting and the heavens really opened up. I wanted to go to the finale of the evening at Bowman Hot Glass, so I unpacked my rain gear and headed out.

Despite the weather, there was a big crowd at Bowman. A lot of the folks I had seen here and there during the day also ended up at Bowman. I bought a glass Christmas Ornament and carefully packed it into an extra pannier that I brought along.

The highlight was the molten glass Christmas tree. A large structure of wood and iron was brought out and placed in the rain, surrounded by a safety zone demarcated by yellow police tape. A sound system boomed out an appropriate accompaniment. Two women dressed as glow-in-the-dark angels came out and garnished the structure with rolls of paper tape. Then a man in a silver heat suit and a torch lumbered from the building and set the paper and wood on fire.

The glass furnaces inside the building were opened and the bright orange glow bathed the cold and wet crowd outside. Then three glassblowers began grabbing giant blogs of glowing glass on the ends of long blowpipes, carrying them out to the tree, and dribbling the thick liquid all over the tree. In an intricate and dangerous hot dance they took turns running out with their molten burdens, holding them over the tree, then returning for another load.

The hot glass ignited all the remaining unburned wood, flooding the entire sculpture with flame. After a number of trips, the iron armature within was completely covered with strands of glass. It really did end up looking like a Christmas tree – festooned with a thick layer of crystal icicles.

Finally, they finished and everyone cheered. I packed my bike up and set out in the rain and dark to ride the few blocks to my car. I was very grateful for my fenders and Gore-Tex rain gear.

As I pedaled out I took one last look at the tree. Unfortunately, the falling rain was too much of a thermal shock and it shattered most of the glass tree – but it was incredible watching its creation.

Christmas tree made of fire and glass, Bowman Hot Glass, Dallas, Texas

Christmas tree made of fire and glass, Bowman Hot Glass, Dallas, Texas

A Bowler Hat in the Cedars

One featured stop in the DART to Art Rail & Ride that a friend of mine organized a few weeks ago was the Bowler Hat sculpture in the Cedars – just across I30 south of downtown Dallas. I had originally planned to swing by there during my Stop and Shoot the Roses ride earlier – but had to cut it due to length of ride.

Bowler Hat Sculpture in the Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Bowler Hat Sculpture in the Cedars, Dallas, Texas

The Bowler Hat was originally commissioned by British upscale furniture purveyor, Timothy Oulton, to grace his new store being opened in Dallas.

Local artist Keith Turman built the thing. He and Keith Scherbarth used a 3d scanner on a real bowler hat to get the shape and curves just right. Then his team set to work with steel, wood, fiberglass, and foam, building up, carving down, shaping, and smoothing until, after six months of sweat, he had a twenty-foot wide, ten foot tall hat.

Unfortunately, like the dancing frogs decades ago, the hat fell victim to Dallas’ draconian sign ordinance and it was never able to make it to the top of the furniture store.

The hat sat unloved and unknown in a warehouse for a long time. Finally, not long before it was slated for destruction, Doug Caudill, owner of the studio the hat was built in, suggested that the hat be donated to the Cedars Community as a piece of public art. Structural Studio provided a very visible location, KNK Concrete Express provided the foundation, and Tony Collins Art built the metal stand the hat sits on.

And now, thanks to many people from an upscale British furniture store to a Texas concrete company – and many in between, there is a cool piece of public art along I30 south of downtown Dallas. Pull off to look at it though, that curve is a doozy.

Bending Compressed Wood

In the same building complex that I visited Bowman Hot Glass we found another sculptor, Rick Maxwell that works mainly in wood.

He had some beautiful bent wood work in progress – large pieces that had been bent around forms and were in the process of being finished. I took a close look, expecting to see laminations and was surprised to see that the wood was solid. I asked the sculptor about his technique and he explained that these were done with a special product, compressed wood.

A process takes wood and compresses it lengthwise under extreme force. This will reduce a ten foot board down to about eight feet – but more importantly, disturb the fibers in such a way as to make the wood extremely flexible.

It can be used for extreme wood bending.

Pure Timber LLC
Compwood Products

He said it comes wrapped in plastic and that once the wrapping is removed the piece is bent using forms and clamps. Then it is allowed to dry and the wood takes the shape in a permanent basis.

I was fascinated by this process and impressed by his sculptures – it was really cool to visit his studio and talk with him.

Bent wood sculpture in progress, by Clark Maxwell. (click to enlarge)

Bent wood sculpture in progress, by Clark Maxwell.
(click to enlarge)

He uses large pieces to make the big sculptures and then makes small ones out of the leftover trimmings (you can see those hanging on the wall behind the bent wood). Scrap left over from the small sculptures is burned to charcoal and he uses those for drawings, like the one on the left. He said, “I used to be cheap, but now I’m sustainable.”

Bent wood sculpture in progress, by Rick Maxwell.  (click to enlarge)

Bent wood sculpture in progress, by Rick Maxwell.
(click to enlarge)

This piece has been dyed and coated with polyurethane – almost ready to go. The artist said he has a recent piece hanging in the Omni – I need to stop by and see it.

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again

“‘Twas in another lifetime
One of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue
The road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness
A creature void of form
Come in she said I’ll give ya
Shelter from the storm.”
—- Bob Dylan, Shelter From The Storm

A week ago, we found that there was a party honoring the Lakewood Brewing Company‘s one year anniversary – held at the Goodfriend Beer Garden and Burger House in East Dallas. This was a must-go. Lakewood has great beers and there would be music. Every hour they would be tapping special kegs and casks.

We arrived at about one-thirty, only a half-hour after the festivities started, and found the place already more than packed. It was tough to get to the bar for a beer – it took almost an hour for our first fill. But it was worth the wait – they had a small keg of the French Quarter Temptress on tap. I had tried this before – it’s the great Lakewood Temptress, “cask conditioned with chicory root and bourbon soaked Noble Coyote Papau New Guinea coffee.” I love that beer.

Temptress – black as death, thick as sin, sweet as tomorrow morning’s regret…. the French Quarter Temptress is all that… plus coffee and bourbon.

Then, wonder of wonders, we were able to snag half of a table right in front of the band. The first group was packing it up and the second starting to bring in their instruments. I should have been prepared… copied down a list of the music for the afternoon, and, especially, a list of the hourly tappings. But I didn’t… and that was cool too. I didn’t really want anything other than that French Quarter Temptress and it was fine to not know what music was on the way.

As the band set up I recognized Chad Stockslager. He plays in several local bands and I had seen him with Chris Holt as Holt and Stockslager… a Simon and Garfunkel tribute band, three times – first at the Patio Sessions in the Arts District, then at the Foundry and the Dallas Zoo. They put on a great show – a really fun and mellow evening. I recognized a couple other local musicians, but couldn’t place the lead singer… though he looked familiar and his voice, especially, I knew I had heard before.

Then they started playing and we discovered that the band was The Buick 6, a Bob Dylan tribute band. The singer was Mike Rhyner, best known as a DJ on 1310 The Ticket. No wonder his voice was familiar.

Mike Rhyner singing with The Buick 6

Mike Rhyner singing with The Buick 6

We really enjoyed the show. Afterward, we talked to Billy Bones, one of the guitar players, and he said they would be at Lee Harvey’s in The Cedars that upcoming Friday. Lee Harvey’s is a great place – a combination beer garden and dive bar – a great place to hear music. It’s a dog-friendly place and Candy loves that so many people bring their mutts along.

Billy Bones with The Buick 6

Billy Bones with The Buick 6

Chad Stockslager playing keyboards with The Buick 6

Chad Stockslager playing keyboards with The Buick 6

“You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out

Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging
for your next meal.”
—-Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone

I had an awfully tough week at work and when Friday came along it was really difficult for me to drag myself up and out and drive down for the show. I didn’t want to go – but I knew I would change my mind once I was actually there. I didn’t even have the energy to change clothes – so it was right in the car and out and down through the big evil city to the Southside.

It was a late show and we wanted to get there early so we could get something to eat. The fish tacos were great, and we settled in and waited for the festivities.

Storms were predicted – lightning shattered the horizon, someone held up a smartphone with an app that predicted heavy rainfall, but we didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Lee Harvey's

Lee Harvey’s

Lee Harvey’s always has an amazing diverse crowd. A lot of different folks are there. Some are mathematicians, some are carpenter’s wives. A lot of pooches. The ages are all over – hipsters – college kids – some families with children…. all the way to people teetering on geezerdom.

Still a little stunned from the week I did manage to enjoy the music. A little food, a little beer, and I felt better. The Buick 6 do a great show. One nice touch is that they don’t try too hard to be absolutely accurate – staying in the spirit of Dylan more than the slavishly correct. A nice setlist selection too – there is so much to choose from. I guess it’s not surprising that the tune I liked the most had some sweet fiddle playing (Hurricane).

Everyone has their favorite Dylan tune – and there are so many of them. When faced with an oeuvre as vast as his it’s important to simply relax and let the band play what they want. Near the end of the second set, some young drunk blonde stumbled up to the stage and demanded the band play, “some of their own music.” I guess she doesn’t understand the idea of a tribute band… or much of anything else. Then her boyfriend loudly requested “Lay Lady Lay” – which is, I guess, a good enough song – but not… well, simply not a good idea. At least the two of them seemed well-matched.

Well, she don’t make me nervous, she don’t talk too much
She walks like Bo Diddley and she don’t need no crutch
She keeps this four-ten all loaded with lead
Well, if I go down dyin’ you know she bound to put a blanket on my bed.
—-Bob Dylan, From A Buick 6

So, despite my worn-out and beaten-down state that evening, we made it through the late set and, after petting the yellow Labrador Retriever sitting next to us one last time, headed for home. It was fun.

The festival was over and the boys were all planning for a fall
The cabaret was quiet except for the drilling in the wall
The curfew had been lifted and the gambling wheel shut down
Anyone with any sense had already left town
He was standing in the doorway looking like the Jack of Hearts.
—- Bob Dylan, “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts”

Mike Rhyner also has a Tom Petty tribute band, Petty Theft. They will be at Lee Harvey’s next Friday. I think I’ll be there. No matter how worn out I am.

“Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.”
—-Bob Dylan, ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’

Across the street from Lee Harvey's

Across the street from Lee Harvey’s

“And she takes just like a woman
And she aches just like a woman
And she wakes just like a woman
Yeah, but she breaks just like a little girl.”
—-Bob Dylan, Just Like A Woman

Oh, if you were wondering what my favorite Bob Dylan song is – it’s “Isis”, from Desire. The band didn’t play it – which is cool, because it isn’t really that kind of tune. I like it because it tells a story – and I’m all about story. It’s also about redemption and I’m a sucker for redemption. Most importantly, I bought that album (on Vinyl, of course) right after I graduated from college and started my first real job – and would listen to it in the evenings until is sank in… and it’s still in there. I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

She was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise
Blinded by sleep and in need of a bed
I came in from the East with the sun in my eyes
I cursed her one time then I rode on ahead.

She said “Where ya been ?” I said “No place special ?”
She said “You look different” I said “Well I guess”
She said “You been gone” I said “That’s only natural”
She said “You gonna stay ?” I said “If you want me to, Yeah “.

Isis oh Isis you mystical child
What drives me to you is what drives me insane
I still can remember the way that you smiled
On the fifth day of May in the drizzling rain.
—-Bob Dylan, Isis