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Path to Paradise: panel VI

<em>I think of craft, in my case, as an extreme sport. I’m not messing around. I deliberately make it as hard as possible. </em> —Judith Schaechter <strong>VI. Craft as an Extreme Sport</strong> The medium of glass and Schaechter’s fluency with it dictate her path and determine her end result much more than any one guiding idea or concept for a piece. Every step along the way is necessary in her creative process, as she continually improvises designs and seeks technical solutions to meet her artistic ends. “I like to see what possibilities lie in mating difficult emotional ideas with sensuous but cruel materials. I think there are two types of artists: those who build and construct, and those who carve and remove substance. I am the latter. I like cold, hard, sharp, vicious stuff to fight with.” With her physically demanding, meticulous techniques, and her high quality-control standards, Schaechter produces, on average, about six or seven panels per year. Occasionally she will remake her pieces multiple times until she is satisfied. She has said the reason for this is that she doesn’t know how to make something she hasn’t yet made: “Creativity is predicated on creating something that didn’t exist before.” <strong>Schaechter's Process</strong> Schaechter gleans and culls a vast number of images from the internet every day. These images are absorbed and reimagined through the artist’s own form of automatic drawing, or doodles. Schaechter’s doodling has served as an outlet for her creativity and a seed for her artwork throughout her career. She scans the imaginative figures, creatures, and botanicals that populate her sketchbooks into the computer. She then devises her compositions via Photoshop manipulation. This allows her to explore hundreds of variations on an image. The process moves back into the realm of handwork as her black-and-white digital cartoons form the basis for her painstaking engraving and painting of multiple layers of colored glass. Schaechter’s technique in glass is subtractive. She files or engraves into the top layer of the flash glass, a handblown sheet of clear glass with a thin layer of brightly colored glass on one side. One of her most significant innovations, begun in 2002, is the use of a flat diamond file (normally used to soften sharp edges in glass bead making) to achieve soft tonal transitions. This technique is extremely taxing, as it requires many small but firmly applied repetitive motions of the file over the glass. Each image or figure within a work can consist of up to five sheets of engraved, layered glass. Schaechter has said, “Ninety-nine percent of the color in my work is generated by engraving flash glass.” Only finely tuned details and shading may be added at the end using vitreous paints that get fired onto the glass. Finally, she assembles the pieces into one coherent image primarily using the traditional copper-foil technique, made popular by Louis Comfort Tiffany, for its ability to accommodate multiple layers of glass. Schaechter wraps the copper-foil tape around the edges of her layered glass pieces and then solders or joins them together.

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