Glass Sparks: Elizabeth Ryland Mears

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Elizabeth Ryland Mears is an amazing, award winning, studio glass artist that is a master with flameworked glass. Flameworking is a technique of working with hot glass. Rods or tubes of glass are held in the flame of a bench torch where the glass is softened and then shaped by sculpting and/or blowing. The forms created are limited only by the artist’s creativity and skill, in addition to gravity and the sizes of the bench torch and annealing kiln.

Elizabeth has studied and taught lampworking techniques at Penland School of Crafts, Pilchuck Glass School, The Studio of Corning Museum of Glass, and has been involved with the Washington Glass School for many years. Her instructional book of borosilicate glass techniques Flameworking, was published in 2003 by LARK Books.

The creative work of Elizabeth Mears incorporates several different series; each one relates to and informs the others. In her Artist Statement, Elizabeth informs the viewers of her work that she ”uses the lexicon of Nature images to portray her relationship to her inner and outer worlds”. Her “Bundle of Twigs” series clearly expresses this theme, as does her “Basket” series.

Elizabeth Mears Basket of Past Dreams and Future Fears
Each bundle represents some aspect of her inner world or the outer world, as she relates to it. Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers also speaks of this relationship, “The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet”.

In her “Shelter” series the glass structure of the shelters serve as the protective shell for the work of her inner journey. Each shelter has a different theme.


Elizabeth Mears Shelter For Endings That Beget Beginnings

One such shelter created at a time of transition in Elizabeth’s creative life is entitled, “Shelter for Endings That Beget Beginnings”. The inner objects of this shelter are composed of hollow blown egg shapes which contain the charred remains of cedar wood shavings collected at Pilchuck Glass School from the 30th Anniversary Totem carved while she was at the summer session. The egg shapes can represent new life, and the charred remains, the death of the old life. Liz has commented that her time away at Pilchuck was instrumental in her personal transformation.

In 2002 Liz began a series, which started as a collaboration with her daughter L. Lindsey Mears, a maker of artist books and prints. Elizabeth created the glass sculpture, which later became “books” with her daugher providing the content through her photographs and poetry. Elizabeth is now the sole creator of the glass books, which contain the poetry that she writes. The photographic images chosen are symbols, which represent the experience of her poetry.


Elizabeth Mears Breath

A later series began after the death of Elizabeth’s mother in 2006. One day after that death Mears learned that her mother had been adopted as a newborn. She had never shared with any of her four children this secret she carried and no information exists about her birth family. Soon after this revelation, Liz learned many other family secrets, which prompted a continuing series of glass and mixed media pieces dealing with various aspects of the secrets we each consign to the dark recesses of our lives. In the process of making these pieces and contemplating secrets as a universal theme, Elizabeth looks at how the secrets of life often bind us together more than the parts of our lives which are shared openly. According to Campbell, “…the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life”.


Elizabeth Mears Secrets They Sprout Up and Burst

Liz felt a strong connection to the comment by Joseph Campbell, “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you”. She was struck by the similarity to a statement she has included in her own writings for many years.

In 2008, Mears was asked by LARK Books to be one of ten master artists to write a chapter for the book, The Penland Book of Glass. In her chapter, Elizabeth writes the following about her personal philosophy of living a creative life, “I am a proponent of the philosophy that when we are born, we come to Earth with a personality and a set of gifts, propensities, and abilities. If we pay attention to them, they lead us along a path to fulfillment. When those things we feel passionate about energize us, energy flows out and then returns to us, altered in some form by its journey. This energy creates a positive dynamic in all directions, reaching and influencing an ever enlarging circle”.

Through making her glass objects and meeting other makers and lovers of glass and sculpture, poetry and photography, the circle of energy continues to grow, and, as Campbell says, “doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be”.


Elizabeth Mears and Robert Kinchloe review glass projects at Washington Glass School.

Elizabeth will be one of the featured artists at Longview Gallery ‘s exhibition in honor of Washington Glass School’s 10 year anniversary. Click HERE to jump to Elizabeth Mears website.

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