Jane Kircher, her studio always a delightful stop on the Río Costilla Studio Tour, takes an unusual and not readily apparent approach to her fused and slumped glass. She has a natural desire to …
Jane Kircher, her studio always a delightful stop on the Río Costilla Studio Tour, takes an unusual and not readily apparent approach to her fused and slumped glass. She has a natural desire to transform that which is discarded, broken, perhaps once treasured, and bring it to a state of beauty. Alternatively, she cuts bottles to have semicircular elements with which to create a hanging piece or combines pieces of broken blue glass, with their now smoothed edges almost imitating the grace of a calligrapher's stroke, to catch both the window's light and the viewer's eye.
The windows in the home of Jane and her husband, sculptor Lynn Kircher, display fused glass pieces which play with the light coming through them, their swaying crystals spreading rainbows around the room. Always conscious of feng shui, the way energy enters and spreads through a house, Kircher often includes these light-bending crystals in her pieces.
"When I lived in Denver," she said, "I was an electrical designer and I specialized in lighting. And glass transfers light from one place to another. So, playing with light is the way I look at glass."
Kircher approaches her play with light, the fusing and slumping of glass, from a standpoint of continual exploration. She explains the general process and her particular approach. "Fusing is where you take the glass to a certain temperature and the pieces adhere to each other and slumping is when it changes form."
She does not confine herself to working with glass, which she knows will fuse and slump at specific temperatures -- glass with a similar coefficient of expansion. Between 1350 degrees and 1365 degrees is the range at which specific glasses will slump and fuse, depending on the coefficient. The glass she chooses to work with may be something she picked up in a field near their home, a place where people camped during the Great Depression, leaving behind, perhaps, a piece of broken china which Kircher incorporates into a fused glass hanging or bowl or lamp shade.
Speaking about the old fire pits or camps, Kircher points out, "There's a story that's there. I find the human artifacts that you find in the desert are extremely evocative to me and so I like to incorporate that as much as I can into the piece of glass." Of course, the properties of these artifacts and glasses are unknown to her and are different from each other.
"They're all dissimilar materials and all dissimilar glasses," she said.
She explains the difficulty of working with dissimilar materials. "There's no give when it comes to glass … in your kiln, you can have a separation of temperature from the bottom to the top of a degree or two, and it's going to make a huge difference on how your glass takes.
"So, I have a high failure rate and I don't worry about it," she said. Instead, she has developed her own techniques for working with these glasses which have different melting points, one of which is a "sacrifice" layer, a piece of glass she almost expects to crack or break. "I work in a variety of layers with an understanding that I will have some cracking occur on the bottom layers, and I don't want that crack to transfer from one layer to another."
She particularly enjoys making window pieces because such a piece "can change the feel of the entire environment" by changing the focal point of the window. No longer does the eye notice another building or unattractive backyard, but is drawn instead into a play of light. Next for Kircher is learning how to incorporate her work into traditional stained-glass pieces and windows.
The Kirchers live in what was once the hotel in the tiny town of Jaroso, Colorado, a stone's throw from the New Mexico border. When they acquired it, the building showed its 100-year-old history. It needed to be repaired and modernized; it had been modernized (plumbing had been added), but even the modernizations needed to be modernized. Over a period of almost two decades the Kirchers set about to transform what was dilapidated or broken into something beautiful while maintaining the spirit of the place. Indeed, all of Jane Kircher's work seems to embody that spirit of remaking that which is no longer whole into that which is beautiful.
Speaking of her use of disparate and discarded materials in her glass pieces, Kircher says, "For me, it's fun. And part of me feels like it's very much like our world. To me, it's: how do you get all these dissimilar, incompatible forces to work with each other, to make something beautiful? It's a challenge, and I like that."
In addition to the annual Río Costilla Studio Tour, Kircher's work can be viewed online at kircherstudios.com, where she can also be contacted.
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