Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Castle in the Air in Selvedge Magazine

Have you seen Selvedge? There isn’t another magazine being published today that sweeps me away to a wonderland of fabric and fantasy quite the way Selvedge does. The genius editors bring together new and classic imagery to expound on an evocative theme with each new issue, and I’m surprised some sort of passport isn’t required to read it, because it really is like stepping into another world.

The admiration seems to be mutual, as the July issue—with the theme of “Folklore”—features Castle in the Air! I spoke with Selvedge about our collection of Pellerin paper toys, models, and theatres, and we’ve even dreamed up a special gift for new subscribers to the magazine.

For a limited time, when you subscribe to Selvedge you’ll receive a set of four miniature French pantins, the jumping jacks that come to life with the pull of a string. This pack of Commedia dell’Arte characters comes complete with instructions and waxed linen thread. All you have to do is cut them out and tie them together, and away you go on a one-way ticket to Carnival.

You can read Castle in the Air’s article here. If you’re ready to subscribe and get your jumping jacks, just click over to Selvedge. Happy travels!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Floral Crowns by Castle in the Air & Honestly WTF

Thousands of DIY crafters have worked Castle in the Air’s crepe paper flowers into their party decorations, and we’re so grateful to have been a part of the festivities. Now a group of our teachers has raised floral papercrafting to the next level, creating a crown with a classic design from modern materials. And since more is more, our friends at Honestly WTF have joined in the fun and made a lovely larger version for people who want to make an even grander statement at their next celebration.

Our Waxed Orange Blossom Crepe Paper Crown is a new take on the waxed floral crowns worn and cherished by French brides beginning in the 1800s. Following the wedding the crown was often displayed in a Globe de Mariée, a glass dome holding symbolic objects which told the story of the bride and groom’s life together. Today, the crown can still be worn by brides, but also makes a delightful topper at any outdoor celebration.

Like the original crowns, Castle in the Air’s version makes a perfect keepsake, since the paper blossoms are sealed with wax to firm them up. The crown includes dainty flowers and unopened buds and is simply delightful. If you’d like to make your own, click over to the Online Shoppe to pick up your Waxed Orange Blossom Crown Kit and then watch as papercrafting teacher Lynn Dolan explains the tradition and takes you through the entire creation process in a YouTube tutorial.

We knew Erica Chan Coffman at Honestly WTF would love the orange blossom crown, but we had no idea that she would dream up a spectacular new version to share with her readers. Erica’s crown features a colorful symphony of blossoms made at a slightly larger size, and the effect is stunning. She shares her technique and list of supplies (most of which are available in our kit) on her DIY Paper Flower Crown page, complete with sumptuous photos and step-by-step directions.

Both crowns are so charming and distinct, and would be gorgeous displayed for years to come. All that’s left is for you to decide whether to make one, the other, or both!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Andre Nigoghossian

The delicate, intricate work of glass artist Andre Nigoghossian has been a part of Castle in the Air since 2009. People love it for its elements of fantasy and roots in the Venetian tradition of Murano glass. We recently unveiled a grand new batch of Andre’s figures, ornaments, and goblets, and spoke with him about his work and what inspires him.

What is your tradition of glassworking called?
I use a torch flame and various hand tools to sculpt the glass. This is traditionally called lampworking, though flameworking is the term most people have come to use as modern propane-oxygen mix torches have replaced the air-charged oil lamps of the past.

How is it done and how is it different from other styles?
Flameworking is different from furnace glassblowing in that you begin with solid glass rods or tubes and heat them to a molten state in the flame, rather than gathering an already molten blob of glass from the furnace at the end of a metal blowpipe. Furnace glass works tends to be large, thick, and heavy, but flameworking lends itself to creating smaller and finer work.

Also, flameworkers can use different kinds of glass, depending on the kind of work one wants to make. I use soda-lime, also known as soft glass, for my sculptures, which behaves very similarly to furnace glass. It’s very soft and flowing when molten, and comes in a huge array of beautiful colors. With soft glass one has to work quickly or the piece risks cracking—I liken it to three-dimensional watercolor painting, where you kind of get one chance to get the gesture right before moving on to the next section.

Do you work differently when making larger pieces?
For my vessel work I use borosilicate, or hard glass. It is much stiffer when molten, and more forgiving when creating larger pieces built from multiple sections, like goblets and ornaments, since I can go back and reheat sections that have cooled.

When did you begin glassworking, and who or what initially attracted you to it? Was there a particular person, event, or work of art that excited you?
I watched a furnace glassblowing demonstration at a Renaissance fair and knew right away it was for me. During college I took a couple summer glassblowing courses and learned how to make simple, chunky tumblers and vessels, envisioning myself on the long road toward furnace glass mastery. Then in 1999, during a trip to Venice as part of my Art History studies, I chanced upon the work of two master soft-glass lampwork artists—Lucio Bubacco and Vittorio Costantini. I had never seen anything like Bubacco’s intricately detailed glass satyrs and nymphs, or Costantini’s lifelike sculptures of insects and animals.

As I'd always been an admirer of fantasy art and figurative sculpture—I had a pretty impressive fantasy pewter collection as a child—this style of glassworking spoke directly to my heart. I knew that I could excel at this immediate and spontaneous form of sculpture, but as lampworking was still somewhat rare in the U.S., it wasn't until 2006 that I found a local school offering torch-based instruction and began my current trajectory with glass.

From where do you draw inspiration for your sculptures?
Mostly from nature—animals, plants, and the human figure are timeless and constant muses. I also look to older art styles like art nouveau, art deco, and classicism, especially for inspiration for ornament and vessel designs.

What do you do to teach yourself more about glassworking or deepen your understanding of it?
I’ve found that taking workshops with professional glass artists is the best way to learn and move forward quickly, however there's no substitute for the countless hours of practice learning how the glass moves and reacts.

How has your style developed over the years?
My style has remained pretty consistent, but with practice I’ve been able to refine my technique and create better pieces. There does seem to be an element of luck involved, though. Something can happen in the moment to create a uniquely exquisite piece, making the proportions of a figure or ornament come out just right. Discovering these magic moments is part of the fascination for me with this medium.

Tell us about your works currently available at Castle in the Air.
While the sculptural pieces in this batch are similar to ones that Castle in the Air has displayed before, the decorative goblets and freestanding ornaments are new and are the result of several months of concentrated practice and refinement. The goblets are made from three parts—bowl, stem, and foot—which are then fused together into the final piece. Each part presents a distinct set of technical challenges when I make it. In designing these vessels, I wanted to combine colors and shapes reminiscent of art from the Renaissance—part still-life, part fairytale. Displayed together with the figurines, they create a vignette in which the figures can interact and play.