HOTT can mean sexy, cool, great, creative, different, inspiring. When describing Phoenix Studio founder, Susan Gott, it means all of those and so much more, as a typical day includes working with 2400 degree molten glass and 900 degree ovens.
Every year, Susan Gott, founder of Phoenix Studio, hosts a holiday glass show, artist open house and demonstration the weekend after Thanksgiving. She built, owns and operates Phoenix Studio, located in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of central Tampa. The studio sprawls through the building and out into the back yard. Ornaments hang from trees, sculptures stand in corners or in groups, contemplating the lizards as they race around the garden. Display cases holding vases, platters, paper weights and poured glass sculptures are lined up along the walls. Boxes are filled with blown glass globes. The jewel like colors glow. Guests carefully examine the delicate creations, deciding just where they would like to see it in their home or who would most appreciate it as a gift. This year, Susan was demonstrating her technique for casting a life-size sculpture.
“Okay, make sure you stay back. The molten glass is over 2400 degrees and you are going to feel it if you’re too close,” Susan Gott called out, as Team Phoenix poured the thick fluid into the mold
Susan had already placed some of the unique, precast inclusions (inset decorative pieces) into niches carved into the sides of the heavy mold. The first layer of glass was poured over these inclusions to anchor them into position. More inclusions, windows and images were set or pushed in and then another layer of molten glass was poured. So they continued, pouring and placing, blow torches at ready, filling the mold.
Taking the branding irons, she stamped designs into the layers. She artfully placed more colored pieces, leaves, globes and varied geometric or asymmetric shapes around the mold. This was no longer a tub of liquid glass The life-sized female statue now has a face and recognizable body parts. The body parts are, for the most part, veiled with leaves and gems, much as Eve draped herself when leaving Eden.
A vast amount of preparation work goes into each piece. Everything must be preplanned and choreographed. When working with molten glass, safety, accuracy and speed are vital concerns. There is no time to discuss or direct when holding a ladle of liquid glass. Protective body gear includes leather aprons, leather and Kevlar gloves, full face helmets, protective goggles and heavy work boots.
The room contains furnaces, metal tubes, work tables, large vats of water. There are curved spatulas, rollers, pincers, snippers, fine wiring in various areas. Metal trays pressed with various textural patterns are used to simulate checkerboard or other intricate designs in the glass. Friends, neighbors and interested strangers, soon to become friends, lined up around the room to watch the proceedings. A lucky few climbed the stairs to the balcony to get an overview of the proceedings. As heat rises, those on the balcony had an enhanced experience of what it means to be a glass artist.
“Susan, will we see it unmolded tonight? Will we get to see the finished work?”
Susan laughed as her assistant sifted silica powder over the almost completed work, using her blow torch to add the final gloss.
“Not tonight. Tonight, this goes back into the oven. We keep it at 800 to 900 degrees for two days and then it has to anneal [set] for 2-1/2 to 3 weeks. And we have to watch the temperature. If it drops too soon, the piece will shatter. It has to come down gradually. The internal heat of the statue will make the mold crack, further guaranteeing the uniqueness and exclusivity of each piece. After it’s annealed, it’ll be pressure washed and polished. A blacksmith will fabricate a stand and I’ll do whatever other finish work it needs: gold leaf, carving, gemstones. Every piece is one of a kind, as the inclusions are individually placed and each mold is destroyed,” Susan replied.
At the studio, Susan and Team Phoenix produce commissioned pieces and pieces for sale to the public. Commissioned pieces in the collections of the University of Central Florida, Port Tampa Library in Hillsborough County, the City of St Petersburg and HARTline’s University Area Transit Center can also be seen on her website, www.gottglass.com.
Cast pieces are available for purchase as are works produced by Phoenix Glass Studio. Smaller cast pieces for sale include ornaments, vases, globes, sea weights (pieces in the shape of shells and mollusks), oil lamps, bowls, platters, bookends and wall hangings. Prices range from $14 and up, depending on size and complexity of the piece. These unique glass objects would be a beautiful addition to any home or office. Whether you chose to hang an assortment of window globes and enjoy the play of colored light on your desk or counter top, enjoy fresh cut flowers in a multicolored vase or use one of the platters as a centerpiece for your dinner table or wall hanging, there is something here to excite the senses of the most jaded person.
Susan has worked in glass for over 25 years. She started with glass painting, moved on to traditional stained glass (individual pieces of cut glass soldered together with leading) and then to casting and blowing glass. She has always enjoyed working with heat and molten substances. “I’ve always worked with heat, been drawn to heat. And, as I developed as an artist, I chose to work with hotter and hotter substances,” Susan told the crowd.
“My sources of inspiration are endless. Archaeology, mythology, Jung, Indonesian and African masks, Celtic art, ancient Greece, the belief systems of the Native Americans all come into play in my work.”
Susan also studied bronze casting, jewelry making and raku. Raku is a method of Japanese ceramic firing which uses low temperatures and the immersion of the piece in a bed of combustible materials to develop a crackle glaze. She has a Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University and has received numerous awards and grants for her work. She is also the first place winner 2002 though 2006, Glass Division, at Disney’s Festival of the Masters, where she has a coveted spot outside Bongo’s each year Phoenix Studio, located at 811 East Knollwood St, Tampa is open weekdays from 9 to 5 and by appointment. The phone number is (813) 237-FIRE or visit them on the web at www.gottglass.com.
Published on December 7, 2007. Volume 15,issue 24.