Connections. We all make them, in various ways. We connect with people, places, art, stories, animals, ideas, nature, you name it. If we're lucky, now and then a little bit of magic happens between those connections.
While the Carr Fire was still raging I sat here 6,000 miles away and wondered how to help. I wrote my previous column in loving support of all of you, but wanted very much to do something tangible. Seeing discussions about fundraisers gave me a glimmer of an idea. I'd read so many posts and comments about people's determination that the fire would not defeat them, and that Redding and surrounding areas would rise again... like a Phoenix.
That was it. There was the connection. I knew what I wanted to do.
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to spot the Facebook page of Phoenix Glass, run by a wonderfully talented artist named Paul Jones. He lives on the North Wales Coast near Conwy, overlooking Snowdonia and the sea. His artwork includes everything from miniature figures to large-scale glass installations, and so much more. Stained glass, lamp-work, fused glass, and even sea glass, all become objects of beauty in Paul's skilled hands.
When I spotted a tiny glass tortoise, I had to have one. Paul offered me my choice of color combinations for my tortoise, and within a few weeks the little fella was mine. I was hooked! In the years since then I have purchased a small menagerie, as well as a brooch of glass forget-me-nots for my mother. I suspect that for as long as Paul continues to make art, I will continue to find new must-haves for myself, and gifts for others.
Paul is an artist of great skill and imagination, and he's always ready to tackle something new. You know what's best about him, though? He is a genuinely nice man. He is kind and helpful in correspondence, he is easy to contact and quick to respond, he collaborates with other artists, and I simply like him. That, too, is why I turned to him when I wanted to help Carr Fire survivors in some way. He puts his heart into his artwork.
To tell you a little more about him, I've “borrowed” this from a post he wrote in August (with his knowledge and permission) – and I promise, I am going somewhere with this:
“Ten years ago today, on my first day back after a lovely two week family holiday in the Vendée, I lost my job as a graphic designer. No warning! No notice! Gone! Yeah, really bad timing! I sat in a lay-by for an hour and cried.
A year or so earlier, my wife had paid for me to do a stained glass ‘hobby’ course because she was sick and tired of me coming home every night moaning that my job was tedious and no longer creative. “Go and be creative again,” she said. When I got home on the 18th August 2008, she uttered yet more wise words, “maybe it’s for the best, why not turn your hobby into a business?” So I did and Phoenix was born.
It’s been tough at times, rising from such a low place, but I’ve always stuck to my principles, always done it my own way, always broken the rules to push every design to its limit, hopefully always been original, and always looked to grow and try new things.”
Raise your hand if you have already guessed the connection, here, and where this column is headed.
The Carr Fire... Shasta County, rising from the ashes... Phoenix Glass... In August I contacted Doni about my idea, and then I sent Paul a message to ask about a special commission. I told him about the fire, and about the resilience and determination of all of you to rise above the devastation, and I asked him if he thought a glass Phoenix would be possible, explaining why I wished to commission one. I could not have asked for a better response. He told me that he would be happy to create a Phoenix – in fact, he had wanted to make one for some time but because he is always busy with commissions and maintaining stock, he hadn't yet been able to do so. Then he told me that Phoenix Glass would be 10 years old in September – I didn't know that at the time I wrote to him, and I think we both were delighted at the timing of my request.
Messages between Doni and me about commissioning and donating a work of art to a fundraiser gave us both a boost; I felt like I could finally do something practical to help, and I think Doni was as excited about the idea of the glass Phoenix as I was. Soon Paul contacted me with a drawing of his vision of the Phoenix and I agreed instantly. I trust Paul's judgment and his creativity, and I was excited to see the finished result.
I didn't have to wait long. A couple of weeks later there it was, or rather a photo of it, art in glass form; a rising Phoenix, vibrant and fierce. When it arrived on our doorstep my husband and I knew it would be a wrench to send it on to its next destination (Doni's P.O. box!), but within the week I repackaged it with care, and sent it overseas. As of this writing, it has not arrived yet (too soon), but I hope with all my heart it arrives intact, and that Doni – and all of you – will love it, too. After all, it was created for you.
The 'Carr Phoenix' - as my husband called it - will be up for online auction (along with other things) here at aNewsCafe – details to follow when Doni is ready. I am delighted to donate this beautiful piece of glass art, and I'm glad that one of my favorite artists is now a part of this connection, too.
I asked him this week if he minded if I wrote about him for this column so that folks would know not just the story behind the creation of the glass Phoenix, but also a little bit about the artist who conceived and crafted it. He was happy for me to do so, and has provided photos to go along with this article. I am indebted to him for his time, his enthusiasm, his talent, and his kindness.
As a side note, Paul's talents extend beyond glass. This summer he started a new endeavor: felting. His felted pieces never fail to bring a smile to my face. When Felting Phoenix came into being, I asked Paul almost immediately if he could make me a wee family of “Heilan' Coos” and he took on the challenge with pleasure. The extra touches were typical of Paul's attention to detail; the horns are made of glass, and the bull's ring is sterling silver. You will see it in the photo below – this was Paul's first attempt at Highland cows, if you can believe it. I truly think there is no limit to his artistic and creative talent. I sent this wee family to a friend without whom my fountain pen sales site would be a wreck, but one day I think I'll have to order a little coo family for my very own, too.
So, connections. You all know that even at such a great distance I feel a connection with you, and now I feel like I've been able to strengthen that bond even more, through Paul's art. Over the years I've seen how other people interact with him, and I know that we, his buyers (I was going to call us “fans”... oh, what the heck, yes, fans!), feel a connection with him, as well. That's why I am so excited that these two very separate connections now have a link all their own, in that an artist who I genuinely like and admire both as a person and a craftsman has made something to help your community, about which I care so deeply.
I don't know who will put in the winning bid for the Carr Phoenix, but I hope you will love it as much as I do.
Thank you, to Paul at Phoenix Glass, and thanks also to Doni for letting me be part of the effort to create something lasting and good to help after such a terrible disaster. May you all rise in ferocious beauty and triumph, like the Phoenix!
Want to see more? Click here to visit his website, and additional information about Phoenix Glass can also be found here: https://www.facebook.com/ PhoenixGlass/
and Felting Phoenix can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/ feltingphoenix/
Notes from artist Paul Jones:
'Nurture' is 28 feet tall, installed in a medical centre. I started it in 2009, just six months after Phoenix was born... which was nice.
‘Paloma’ was commissioned by a lovely Spanish lady who we are friends with. Her name is Paloma, and she originally comes from Malaga, where Picasso was born (whose daughter is also called Paloma). The piece is designed as a triptych so that it can be taken apart and shipped in crates to Malaga when she retires. The glass is deliberately textural, including the semi-relief olives and sea glass, so that it works on a wall, but also against an external window in southern Spain.
‘Sunrise’ is installed in a very large house on the Orme in Llandudno, North Wales. The detailed ‘rays’ contain all the wildlife and vegetation of the Orme, some of which are only found there, nowhere else in the world. The rest is self-explanatory, except that the lighting we installed means that from this side it looks like a sunrise but from the other side it looks like a sunset (white/yellow light = sun up and orange light = sun down).Click here for more fire stories.