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Chihuly in Groningen


From 8 December 2018 to 5 May 2019 a large exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s glass creation was on display at the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen. It was the largest European museum show of his work in 20 years. I happened to be in Groningen, and decided to visit:

Can’t miss it.

“Nijima floats”. The name refers to the glass floats attached to Japanese fishing nets that would wash ashore on the beach in Tacoma, where Dale Chihuly spent his youth. These glass floats originate from the island Nijima. The glass orbs in this intallation however, are humongeous: the biggerst orbs have a diameter of about a meter (around three feet). The picture really doesn’t do them justice: people were honestly at a loss for words when they entered the first room of the exhibit and saw this intallation.

The “Grand stairwell installation”. This installation was created specifically for this museum’s staircase, and comprises of about 70 glass objects that weigh between 8 and 15 kilo (about 17 to 33 lbs). The Groninger Museum has bought this installation, and it will now be on display as part of their permanent collection.

These objects are obviously inspired by underwater life. Or at least, that’s my interpretation.

This huge object (more than one meter/three feet high) was SO unbelievably beautiful, that I just stared at it for ten minutes. The colours, the shapes, the fact that this is hand blown glass and not ceramics.

“Mille fiori” (= “thousand flowers”), a garden full of organic glass shapes. While it is not my custom to have people in my pictures, in this case having a person on the right helps: it gives an indication of how massive this collection of work is.

“Sapphire Tumbleweeds”, an installation of “sculptures composed from bundles of linear, factory made tubes, bent by heat into curvilinear forms”, as the sign said. These tumbleweeds again are HUGE: some of them are more than two meters (6,5 feet) wide. Due to the way that they are positioned, it looks like they are actually being blown away by the wind.

Dale Chihuly is not only a glass artist, he also paint. Many of his glass objects start off as a drawing, like these “Rotolo”. The coils (“rotolo” means “coil” in Italian) weigh about 65 kilos (about 143 lbs) each and are very hard to make: it takes a well oiled team to create them.

For everyone that is now confused and can’t fathom how these works are made, or for the people who just want to know how he does it: I found a short documentary from 1988 that explains the process a bit:

Want more Chihuly?

Chihuly homepage

Chihuly Garden and Glass (permanent exhibit in Seattle)

A plethora of books about/containing his work

Information from the Groninger Museum about the exhibit, with footage


Note: Like all my posts in the “Get out of the house!” series, this activity was booked and paid for by me, after which I got stoked and decided to write about it all by myself. #nospon


Ceramics at CREA


In the summer of 2018 I took a week long ceramics class at CREA. During that week, I got SO stoked that I decided to go for a 15 week course from February to July 2019. What I like about it so much? It’s tangible. First, there’s just clay. And then you mold it into an object. And with applied ceramics, there’s the added bonus that you can use the thing you’ve just made, like a plate, a bowl or a cup. What I also like, is that the material sometimes “forces” you in a completely different direction than you had in mind. Something about getting out of your comfort zone. But in a safe way.

In the top picture, the works made out of both red and fine clay have been baked, but not yet glased. The picture below shows them post glazing. Glazing is the most exciting part of the ceramics process, as there is no way to know what colour a glaze is from the colour of the powder or the mixture. The only thing you can do, is check the name and number of the glaze, and look at the swatches:

Putting a white emulsion on an object and only finding out after the firing if the colours turned out as expected, is kinda magical:

In the left picture above, you see the jar and the cup with glaze on them, right before they were put in the oven. On the right, the finished product. Fascinating, isn’t it? In the top row of the picture below, you see the same cups. In the picture on the right, the cups that ended up being blue look a bit more pink than the ones that were dipped in green glaze, but IRL there was hardly any difference at all:

When making an object, you have to take into consideration that your object will be baked (at least) twice: one time to harden the clay, and the second time during the glazing process. Your object will shrink a couple of percent each time it’s baked, so your big mugs and cute little tea light holder will end up becoming… slightly smaller mugs and a regular candle holder.

Not only is there coarse, fine, and red clay, there’s also black clay, as seen above. While “wet” (picture left) it looks kinda brown, but after baking it is very dark brown to black; a bit darker than in the picture on the right. The effect of the glaze in combination with the black clay was surprising, mostly because there was no swatch of this glaze on black clay available. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a bigger object out of black clay someday, I am very curious as to what it will look like.

Speaking about bigger objects, in the pictures above you see my pièce de résistance (yes, I googled the direction of the accents) of the summer course: a three-tiered stand. The final assignment was: “Make a three-tiered stand”, so I did. I created the “bowls” by moulding plates of clay around paper cups. I made the “stems” by folding a clay plate into a roll. Putting the whole thing together was… an aventure. I had 15 minutes before the end of class and 1 1/2 hours until the final presentation. Needless to say, I was panicking. Thankfully, my ceramics teacher is a very chill person, and we managed to put it together within 20 minutes (picture on the left). It was then baked (middle picture) and eventually glazed (picture on the right). I am still in awe that it did not explode in the oven.

Last but not least, my final project from the 15 week course: the pumpkin. On the left you see the model and the first clay version. In the middle picture, you see the 6th version of the pumpkin, freshly airbrushed. And finally, on the left: the final product. Whereas everybody else in the class managed to effortlessly replicate a piece of fruit or a vegetable within one class, I spent a whopping 4 (partial) classes to get anywhere. It was an extremely frustrating process, with me yelling that I was going to chuck “that onion” out the window at least three times. Eventually however, I (with help from the teacher of course) managed to turn my onion into a real pumpkin. Like I’ve written before: I, sadly, have no natural talent when it comes to the arts. What I do have is an enormous amount of perseverance. And quite a bit of experience using an air brush machine, because airbrushing it orange helped tremendously in taking it from onion to pumpkin. I never would have guessed that those airbrushing classes in make up school would ever come in handy in a completely different context, but they did!


Note: Like all my posts in the “Get out of the house!” series, this activity was booked and paid for by me, after which I got stoked and decided to write about it all by myself. #nospon


Cane walking (part two – public transport)


Travelling by public transport while using a cane is quite an ordeal here in The Netherlands. To get into a tram, bus or train I have to hoist myself into the carriage, as there’s usually steps. More often then not this hoisting is preceded by a jump, as the platform and the carriage do not line up. Arrived at my destination, I then have to find a way to get out of the vehicle. This “getting out of the carriage”-motion can only be described as “ejecting”: I have to throw myself out and hope that I manage to land safely on my “good” leg, at the risk of breaking said leg, my cane and/or landing face forward onto the pavement/bike path/road. Back in my competitive figure skating days, I could have never foreseen that those years of training would ever come in handy in a completely different setting, but they do.

Seeing that getting in and out of carriages is a nightmare, changing vehicles or modes of transportation is pure hell. After ejecting myself out of the bus/tram/train, I need to first fight my way through the people blocking the exit. For the non-Dutch: this is a Dutch thing. The people who want to get on the vehicle, all huddle together right in front of the exit, despite it being obvious that there’s people who need to get out first. I know, it makes no sense, but they almost all do it. I’ll make a short documentary about it one day. So yeah, after fighting my way through the huddle, I have to barge through a herd of people who are in a hurry to catch their connection. In the mean time, I have to hope/furiously check if the vehicle I need to change to hasn’t changed platforms. Having found my new tram/bus/train, I again have to hoist myself inside, and hope there’s a place where I can sit. On the train, the designated seats for the elderly/handicapped are wonderful, but on the bus they’re often really high up, forcing me to hoist and jump again. The person who designed these allocated seats has clearly never thought about the physical state of the people who need them.

Another reason why changing vehicles is hell, is that I often miss my connection. I am unable to eject myself from one train, then limp my way from platform 20 to platform 3 and then hoist myself into another train in 6 minutes. Which means that I have to leave home earlier and that my journey takes longer. A lot longer: where cane-less I usually get from a particular A to a particular B in 50 minutes, with my cane it takes me 1 1/2 hours. Times two, this amounts to 3 hours of travel instead of my usual 1 hour and 40 minutes. It’s exhausting. And this is when all goes well. I haven’t counted the times I had to cripple myself up and down stairs while crying in pain because of elevators that were “Out of order”, making me then miss yet another connection, making my journey even longer.

On the other hand, I must admit that most people were very friendly and helpful as soon as they saw that I was using a cane. In the entire period there was only 1 asshole who almost body checked me off the escalator with her bag. Everybody else was super nice: people gave up their seat, asked the bus driver to wait for me, carried my bag or held the door for me. Also, the cane proved a great conversation starter: I have never had so many interactions with strangers in public. Some people just said “Great cane!”, others cautiously inquired about “the leg”. One lady told me her sister had the exact same cane, and a gentleman of around my age told me the story of his paralysed arm.

Despite my aversion to the whole “Suffering is a learning experience!” way of thinking, I must admit that this experience has given me insights that I didn’t have before. Sure, I knew that walking around in this world is a lot harder when you have mobility issues and that there’s still a lot that can and should be done to make this easier, but I had severely underestimated the extend of it. The fact that I, with what in the grand scheme of things is a temporary, minor injury, have had SO MUCH TROUBLE getting from A to B, means that there is a truly HUGE group of people who are currently shut off from (travelling by themselves by) public transport, which is effectively shutting them off from a part of society. And that is, again, most definitely Not Ok.

Here are some links to Dutch organisations who are working hard to change this: