Ellen Abbott & Marc Leva
Cast & Fused Glass
Marc and I were both born in Houston, TX in the same hospital almost two years apart. We lived our whole lives there until our little working class inner city neighborhood became gentrified and so we hightailed it out. Not far, about an hour away to Wharton, TX, where we settled in a small sweet neighborhood in the county surrounded by corn and cotton fields where we continue to live and work.
In the early 90s, after decades of producing carved and etched glass for architectural installations, we became interested in the pate de verre technique.
Pate de verre, or paste of glass, is the difficult and time consuming process of pressing colored glass powders and frits (crushed glass) into a mold and then firing it in a kiln until all the glass melts together and forms a single piece. It is the use of these powders and frits that gives pate de verre its distinctive luster. Since there was no instruction in the technique at the time we developed our own lost wax process after investigating ceramics, jewelry making, and bronze casting.
Briefly, each piece starts with a wax model that I carve, a high fire mold is made around the model, and the wax is melted out. The empty mold is then filled with glass pastes made from the powders and frits placing colors selectively in the mold. When the mold is filled it goes in the kiln for a 3 to 5 day firing schedule; and when cool, the mold is broken away and the piece is cleaned, excess glass removed, and polished.
My imagery has always been based in nature. I grew up on what was then the edge of Houston in a wooded area along Buffalo Bayou. The woods and bayou were my playground. As an adult I'm also a gardener so I am constantly inspired by the green world around me, the flowers and plants and the small creatures that inhabit them. I have collected all sorts of nature's artifacts from feathers to rocks to seed pods to bird nests to shells to butterfly wings to you name it, and they are strewn about my house on shelves and in cabinets. I am enamored of the incredible diversity of life even as it is rapidly disappearing from the pressures of human activity.
My work is a reminder or record or a story of what will never be again, once gone.