TEXT AND PHOTOS BY DON WODJENSKI
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
May 4, 2016
Art is work. Art is also a million other things, but if you’re going to realize an idea, there is physical work involved.
Pick an art form: painting, sculpture, printmaking, glass, fiber, jewelry, literature or whatever. For a creative concept to materialize, there must be work. This the place to examine the nature of work, but to simply appreciate its fundamental necessity in the creative process.
Artists are workers. Call it construction, assembly or fabrication, artists recombine the elements of their particular art form to build an object that is intended to make an artistic statement. Materials must be assembled, prepared and positioned to begin. As the piece evolves, tools combine materials, revealing a path through the work for the artist. The direction of that path may wander as new ideas are introduced or materials suggest an altered treatment. These are self-designed creative problems to be solved and resolved through experimentation and practice.
When artists get together, the conversation generally turns to the work. Meaning and style are personal and may be derived from many sources, but work is an understood necessity. Technique is often a shared subject. Unless there is some trade secret, artists generally help other artists solve problems of construction, assembly and finish. No two artists will handle identical materials alike. Work is a shared understanding among artists.
It would be fair to say that a majority of artists work in solitude. Then there are those whose construction processes necessitate assistance—sculptors, working on large pieces, for example. Glass artists, in particular, require a collaboration of workers with knowledge, experience and skill. Though a piece may be conceived by a single person, its fabrication is a team effort.
When the furnace is hot, Katrina Hude’s glass studio in Greenbank is the scene of intense work. Considering the cost of burning hundreds of dollars in fuel over a two-day period, Hude carefully plans the crafting of her Artglass pieces to maximize efficiency. During a late winter session, with the assistance of experienced glassblowers Brian Pike of Langley and Jennifer Kastner of Coupeville, Katrina Hude becomes a director, collaborator and, in some ways, a choreographer. To witness the fabrication of glass from molten mass to finished object is to watch a dance where each working member has a practiced role. Knowledge of process alone is insufficient to join the team. Practice, experience and trust in each other’s skills enable these artisans to work together in unison.
After sharing the design concepts of the intended piece, the team follows Hude’s lead in material, tool and equipment preparation. Care is taken to make certain nothing is out of place or missing, which can lead to critical delay. During fabrication, each step in the process is familiar. Roles are often interchangeable as each works together toward the same goal. However, the team leader is evident. Katrina directs the work and engages Brian and Jennifer in their thoughts on the direction the piece is taking as it moves back and forth from furnace to bench. It is Katrina, ultimately, who makes the crucial decisions of size, form and finish. After all, it is her name that is etched into the base of the piece.
Work is the essence of Art. In solitary practice or as a team, artists understand that ideas alone are insufficient to bring a work of Art to life.
For more images of Katrina Hude at work in her studio and all of the previous participants in “The Artists of Whidbey Island” series, go to http://www.wodjenskicreative.com/f1067522829.
Don Wodjenski, a Whidbey resident since 1979, is an artist, photographer, teacher and musician living in Coupeville. He recently retired after decades of teaching, including 20 years with South Whidbey Schools. He is the current President of the Whidbey Island Art Council. Although never without an opinion on art and culture, he is new to blogging.
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