Subverted domesticity/Urban glass houses (2000)

Subverted Domesticity:Urban House © 2000-2013 J. Thomson

Because it was the first time I’d lived in an urban neighborhood (I grew up in suburban Dallas/Garland area) I was also interested in the cultural differences of what “home” means. And since I’d made all those suburban glass houses, I thought I’d better make some urban ones too. These houses are modeled after the traditional idea of “house” (ie, the silhouette a child might draw), but they get their urban grittiness from inclusions such as brass keys and pieces of aluminum, which would melt and burn when the molten glass was poured in the mold.

They were displayed on individual shelves I made (just big enough for one house) but grouped closely together like a neighborhood of row-homes in urban Philadelphia. Some of the houses were clear enough that I found I could make them more interesting by collaging images onto the back. I actually made more “plain” houses, but they didn’t photograph as well as the few that I embellished with vintage photographs on the back. All of the embellished houses were sold, but I still have a few of the regular urban houses available. If you’re interested in purchasing one, drop me a note.

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Subverted Domesticity/Suburban glass houses (2000)

Glass houses, © 2000 J. Thomson All rights reserved

For my final semester at Tyler, I focused my attentions on the theme of quiet desperation, or “subverted domesticity”. Using modular molds I made from solid graphite, I cast dozens of suburban houses (modeled after the one my parents still live in) and acid-etched the surface to give a satin light-diffusing effect. I then painted the bottoms of each house bright colors and patterns… the same way that the owners of the houses in the subdivision I grew up in paint the houses garish colors to make them stand out, since they’re all built on the same floorplans. Most of these have been sold, but I do still have a few left. If you’re interested in purchasing one, please contact me.

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Bread sculptures (1999-2000)

Bread house, © 1999 J. Thomson All rights reserved

During the Fall semester of 1999 I submitted this house sculpture made entirely out of bread for a critique and an exhibit of student work. It garnered high praise in the critique for its quiet, yet subversive quality, especially since I was a glass student and this had nothing to do with glass. To create it, I commissioned a metal sculptor to create a sturdy steel mold for this piece, so I could reproduce it at will. It takes about 3 lbs of bread dough (or about 3 times the size of a normal loaf). I showed the sculpture on a pedestal made of old bricks (context!) and allowed the bread to slowly mold and decay during the run of the show. It was like a slow performance (this photo was taken early in the run). By the end of the exhibit, the house had begun to warp in on itself as it dried out, and was consumed by mold on the inside.

Bolstered by the positive response, I became obsessed during the winter break with bread making. I made hundreds of loaves of all kinds. I’d never baked before, but I taught myself how, and I baked most of the bread in annealing ovens in the glass shop, or in the large gas kilns in the ceramics studio.

I even tried making life-size bread chairs. For my first go at it, I fabricated a steel mold of a life sized three-dimensional chair. I kneaded about 50 pounds of bread dough using the clay mixer in the ceramics department, and loaded my chair into the large gas kiln. Everyone around kept following the scent of fresh bread baking into the kiln room. I wish I had thought to take pictures of the process. Unfortunately, that first chair was a complete failure. When I got it back to my studio after it was baked, and unmolded it, it was so heavy that it couldn’t stand its own weight and collapsed within a minute or two. It was such a challenge just to knead all that dough, and load the mold into the kiln I decided a different approach was kneaded (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

My next try was more successful. I found two old diner chairs in the dumpster, and stripped all the upholstery and padding away. After a few modifications, I was able to “upholster” the two chairs with bread dough. I loaded them into the glass annealing ovens this time (better control over temperature than the gas fired ceramics kiln) and baked them. Although the weight of the dough pulled the back off of one, it actually is more interesting because it lets the viewer see how they are made.

Bread Chairs, © 1999 J. Thomson All rights reserved

These pieces too were well received in critiques, and I decided to focus on my theme of “subverted domesticity” for my final semester in graduate school. Although I did abandon bread for the final exhibits, I did enjoy doing it and learned a lot during the process. And of course, I am still an avid baker at home today, but I usually eat the results now.