The Art of Flame

Chautauqua taps Madison’s Bickis
to plan glass art focus

He captures floral beauty in glass

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(September 2012) – Seth Bickis first became fascinated with glass working when he had the opportunity to watch an artist bring beauty out of fire.
“I saw a person at a festival working with glass rods and flame,” he recalls. “Watching a painter paint, you don't feel as much a part of the process,” he explains, but when viewers see a glass worker in action they experience “the sound, the heat... you feel you've has a part in seeing this piece come to life.” The image of the artist and the flame stayed with him and he began to pay more attention to the glass work around him from figurines at stores to his grandfather's collection of glass bottles.

Seth Bickis

Photo by Lela Bradshaw

Madison’s Seth Bickis creates
his glass artwork at his home studio
and sells it in stores around town.

“I think glasswork in general has a mysterious quality,” Bickis reflects. He explains that when people see the sweeping curves in glass candle holder or the delicate petals in a floral pendant it is only natural to wonder “where did it come from?”
During the Sept. 29-30 Madison Chautaqua Festival of Art, Bickis will be helping to answer that question as he demonstrates lamp working at his booth on Vine Street near the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center. This will be the artist's first time setting up at Chautauqua and this year's theme of honoring the 50th anniversary of American Studio Glass makes for a particularly fitting debut.
Bickis served alongside other members of the Indiana Glass Arts Alliance to help advise the Chautauqua committee and grant writers to develop programming for the celebration.
“We're having a focus on glass and are able to have a showcase of glass artists in the area,” he explains.
The event will bring glass artists, teachers, and students together with connoisseurs, collectors, and casual fans and will certainly prove a learning opportunity for all involved.
Bickis, 29, of Madison has been working with glass for more than five years. He began by making beads but was soon looking for an additional challenge. He explains that now that “I focus on representing the natural in my work and find myself focused on floral designs. It's funny. When I started I thought I could never sit and make flowers all day.”
However, he became fascinated by the level of artistic difficulty required to capture the details and petals.
Bickis' particular branch of glass work is lampwork. “Lampwork means that you are using a torch, a localized heat source, to melt glass rods,” he explains.
The technique, also know as flameworking, “allows more control, more time to work” in comparison to glassblowing he says. Bickis says he also appreciates the level of detail this style of work allows him to achieve in his pieces. He described his style saying, “I work mainly in borosilicate glass which has amazing properties in clarity, strength, and function. I have been working with a technique described as a compression where it allows me to compose beautiful florals with depth, clarity, and precision.”
Bickis says that “most people are familiar with flameworking from carnival glass – people making little animals” – but that artists have been pushing the boundaries of what is possible and are now producing “large bodies of work” with the technique. When considering the artistic possibilities of glass, he is continually amazed at “the control you are able to have over it with practice and skilled hands.”
Bickis produces pendants, marbles and candle holders. He has recently been working on Christmas ornaments for upcoming winter art shows. When discussing what makes glass such an appealing medium, he says, “It's a weird thing to say, but its plasticity. It can look like many things.”
He believes that many people “think of glass as brittle. We don't think of glass a a liquid.”
He estimates that most of his pieces take between half an hour and and hour of work, noting that, “It's an hour of focus while trying not to get burned by a 3,000-degree flame just inches from my body.”
Bickis recently reworked his studio in order to have ventilation for two artists to work at a time and is considering opening his doors to students. As he looks to the future, he says, “I have no doubt that I will always find new barriers to break.”

• Seth Bickis' work can be found at many Madison, Ind., shops, including Madison Buy Design, Christy's Candles, The Floating Cow, and Galeta's Art Supply Store. He may be reached via email at: madewithfire@hotmail.com.


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