Hot Glass and Cold Cuts

Partners in life and career create a singular vision.She cuts glass. He blows glass. But they work together to create each piece.The partnership of Michael Kraatz and Susan Russell is 30 years strong. The couple met teaching high school art in Lebanon and as independent artists built a 1,200-square-foot studio in Canaan.The "stele" shown here is a good example of their collaboration. Kraatz sketches out the shape of the design that is "framed" in either cold-rolled steel or wood, while Russell designs the pieced interior.To create the flat glass, they pour 2,000-degree molten glass onto a metal table. "It's like very hot pancake batter," says Kraatz. Working together, and very quickly, the couple stamp simple geometric shapes into the hot glass. Kraatz adds, "We do talk about it at length before we begin, but those 60 seconds don't give us much time to rethink it, and that is a good thing."Russell cuts and grinds the cooled slab into pieces and rejoins them with lead channels. The shapes she cuts are generally rectangles - each, in a way, a frame for the glass on glass design within.Kraatz's blown "bullseyes" are occasionally also leaded into the design. Each has a bit of color but much restraint is shown. Why so much clear glass? "Because you can see through it," Kraatz explains. The garden stelae reflect and refract local colors in an outdoor setting and as lone sentinels or in groups. They reflect the seasons, too.Kraatz also teaches at AVA Gallery and Arts Center in Lebanon and has recently started to blow tumblers again. In New Hampshire the duo is represented by the McGowan Gallery in Concord. They have completed commissions for free standing pieces and wall works for private concerns across New England.
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