Monica & Philip

Monica Guggisberg and Philip BaldwinPhilip and Monica have been working together for over thirty-five years. For a colorful recounting of their trajectory, view the chronology. Below is a text that captures much of their approach. Excerpt from "The Arch of Glass", La Revue de la Ceramique et du Verre, 2011.

A Journey of Beginnings 

There’s no distinction really between an idea and its manner of expression. The two are joined at the hip. It's a marriage contract, for better or for worse. Music is made from an instrument, even as the idea flows from the human mind. The quality of the instrument counts, as Stradivarius knew. And while Mozart's notes are the same in 1775 as in 2010, the sound won’t be, and its ability to transform and move depends both on individual interpretation and virtuosity of manipulation.

Likewise, good writing is as much about craftsmanship and a sense of language as the ideas forming the words into a coherent expression. Roger Federer's forehand, the choice of a shot, the quality of its delivery: art and craft, mind and body. In our own rather quaint, no doubt very 1960's way (levitating on Robert Pirsig’s "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"), this was the whole point of this trajectory, to do something that allowed mind and body to merge in intention.

We came to Italian cutting techniques because we felt we had discovered a new way to expand dramatically on what we were already doing - using sandblasting as a way to cut through layers of color to create new and originally inspired patterns and ideas. In a nutshell this development also contained a neat autobiographical element. We learned our metier in Sweden where layering color through blown overlays (originally developed by Simon Gate for the Graal technique at Orrefors) was an "old" 20th century process. If we used that same technique and applied Italian cutting, originally pioneered by Carlo Scarpa in the 1930's and 40's, we could open up a vast and expanding panorama of possibilities. And for the last fifteen years, that is what we have been doing.

Battuto is a style, a manner, a tool of expression. It allows an otherwise shiny glass surface to loose it's shine, to gain in an earthy, pithy texture, to acquire depth, a matte finish. Combined with layers of colored glass, cut through, it yields a whole new way to "paint" on glass. But the tool is never the expression itself.

It's not the technique that speaks. The latter is more comparable to the key that opens the portal to the architect's mysterious dream house. Rather it is the expression of color and light and texture and pattern and shape which it permits us to reveal which takes on meaning. And we pray this may be apparent in our work. Certain techniques, over time, become signature elements in an artist's oeuvre. And this is true for us.

Monica and Philip at workSeen over fifteen years we have ranged widely: standing guardians and courtesans: long undulating blown sculptural forms, stretched, whimsical, reaching for the sky; myriad sphere pieces on a very large scale - metal spines and glass spheres merging in extravagant and exuberant patterns, playing in a space of line and curve and flexing movement; standing by their side, the solid vases, evolving and ubiquitous vessels very much at the core of our work, their steadfast presence and simplicity of shape keeping them fundamentally important and beautiful for us. And now, most recently, a foray into vessels containing vessels: voyage, artefact and transport united in purpose.

The single greatest moments in any work we may make are found in the combination of very different moments of its making. The piece reveals itself, flowing out from your very own mind and body (in much the way these words and thoughts flow from our bodies). It's a process that is ultimately unfathomable, whatever we may know about the techniques. It is precisely these unknowable moments that are the most emotionally moving in the creative process.

The boats we are now doing come the closest to anything we have ever done to being autobiographical and in that sense "personal". We are migratory creatures; the history of our species is about journeys, departures, leaving and arriving, starting over. And none more so than ourselves. Our new work is both culturally and personally inclined. An autobiographical touch in a civilizational reflection. Wherever man goes he builds, laying down cultural lines which gradually transform into relics and artefacts over time’s inevitable march. Urban landscapes and complex designs grow and expand, deteriorate and decay. And on again we move, taking the memories of our exploits with us to use in the next story.

Grain, seeds, wine, oil, gold, silver, artefacts, all the ballast of our millennia old civilizations are transported down through the ages, and with them the stories themselves, the wandering of peoples all across this magnificent planetary landscape. People just like us. Seeking, questing, looking for new horizons, and carrying their culture, their history and stories on their backs, in carts, and in boats. It’s our story. It’s humankind’s story.

 

 

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