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“Rediviva”Interview With Laurel Marie Hagner
Concerning your work:
When you are creating, what are your strongest themes?
Depending whether the work I am creating is for myself or for a client has a huge impact on the theme of the work. My work boils down to using sculptural form, texture, subject matter, etc to communicate concepts. Sculpture is my language of choice. I feel to truly communicate a concept successfully, one must utilize appropriate materials and techniques. Every aesthetic choice adds to the language.
I greatly enjoy working directly with clients that have a mission or meaningful concept they wish to communicate. A few commissioned projects I really enjoyed include work for Chemeketa Community College which focused on liberation through education (this theme has always been close to my heart). Another was for the Seattle Zoo, where I was able to create cast bronze door handles for a children’s exhibit. I strive to create work that awakens the viewer’s inner child, so creating work specifically for kids is awesome. A third would be a project I’m working on for Kiewit Bridge and Marine, which focuses on engineering prowess and balance. Engineering is essential to my large scale work, so focusing on this theme is exciting.
In my personal sculptural work, I focus on a couple themes. My public work has become quite iconographic. There are a great deal of things to be learned from the natural world around us. For example, the life of the butterfly has been one of great study for me. I look at the process this animal goes through to transform. Their life exemplifies patience, determination, transformation, joy, and liberation. What other creature can start out as basically a fuzzy worm, work diligently to find and build a safe home, go through a period of hibernation/meditation, and come out as a beautiful winged creature that gets to flit from flower to flower enjoying nature’s sweet nectar. Now that’s reward, but only to be enjoyed for fleeting moments seeing their life span is so short. I try to live my life in a similar fashion, working hard, attempting patience, seeking peace, spreading my wings, and absorbing what sweetness I can from living. Life is short.
What inspires you most? God, the interconnected cycles of life and death, human ingenuity, strength, passion, peace, beauty, love, knowledge, and the our human experience would have to be my top 10. While God is everywhere and in everything, life is a delicate balance of fragility and power, til death transforms us. We are constantly tested by life as it unfolds. It is through finding the courage to be true to oneself in life, that I am an artist not out of choice but out of necessity.
You mentioned, for instance, a strong feminine connection/message that has been hidden by historical factors which you feel is important to express. Could you elaborate on that concept and how it is reflected in your art?
As a young girl I remember trying to figure out how I’d ever measure up, since so much of society was pushing me to believe I was supposed to look like twiggy. Instead I was strong, soft, well spoken, creative, and determined not to be messed with. I’d already endured an entire childhood of not fitting in, then had to face being a girl. And even more frightening was trying to figure out what it meant to be a woman. Society has a lot of definitions that didn’t seem too appealing. And in church they were so busy talking about the boys I didn’t know where to turn. I felt like women were this whole unrealized race in hiding from the greater societal and spiritual consciousness. It wasn’t until college when I began studying art, philosophy, religion, and sociology did I begin to understand the diversity and power behind femininity. It is my belief that we all look to our own image and relationship with God for ways to define ourselves.
I started learning about ancient cultures that revered femininity through manifestations such as the compassionate mother, the fertile lover, the wise healer and the warrior priestess. I questioned why something so exquisite, beautiful, nurturing, and strong would be captured and destroyed. My heart ached but my artistic voice and identity as a woman became strong. I started to see the world as a balancing act….between destruction and creation…life and death. And while to refer to yin and yang may seem cliche, there is much to be said for the qualities of opposites. This is what brought me to truly question the gender definitions I so struggled with as a young woman. Not one of us fits in to standard gender definitions, and if we are….then its probably frustrating. My most personal work at this time exemplifies the mystical qualities of the feminine, drawing from ancient stories, artwork, and artifacts, while reflecting on my own experience as a woman in an especially industrial and technologically driven world and profession. I look for parallels from historical and archaeological findings that may tie our present existence to our past ancestors. This is where I find a great deal of inspiration. While today’s world offers spiritual lessons at every turn, I feel a sense of purpose in revealing the links between diverse and ancient cultural stories and our present day personal experiences. This is not only a woman’s story, but reflection on the human experience. My mission now, is to remind the viewer of a place and time, still present within ourselves, where our hearts are open, the inner child runs free, and our minds take flight.
Concerning your studio space:
Would you define Glassometry as an industrial space or an art studio or perhaps both?Glassometry Studios is a dream more than anything. While it falls under the manufacturing facility definition…..it definitely is both an industrial space and art studio. The methods I utilize in the production of sculpture are predominantly industrial in nature due to the media, ie; large scale metal fabrication. Working with glass on a large scale is like being a mad scientist. There are no clear cut recipes for success and its fragility can be a real heart breaker. Oh and did I say “I like to play with fire?”
Not many people are versed in what it takes to produce sculpture, but it seems the best way to describe myself is one who produces intimate, engineered, architectural, forms created for sheer emotional impact. I create huge problems for myself with the technical thrill coming from utilization of industrial processes. Metal is power and Glass is fragility. The ultimate balance. Here are back to the yin and yang.
To clarify what an industrial art studio contains; there will be a glassblowing hot shop with a 400 lb crucible furnace, a kiln-forming area with the capacity of producing up to 12ft by 7ft sheets or slabs of custom art glass. The glass area has a 1 ton jib crane with a 38ft diameter swing. Wouldn’t want to miss moving something big and hot around. There is a model and mold making area for clay work, a cold-working area for polishing, grinding and cutting (which unfortunately you can rarely escape). And a simple yet effective metal fabrication area accessorized with a 24 ft tall 2 ton jib crane also with a 38ft diameter swing. Thank you Schlosser’s. You can’t see my face but I’m grinning from ear to ear. There is also going to be a gallery and sculpture garden out front so I’ve got somewhere to put the large outdoor sculptures I so love to make.
[Would love to hear about the cranes you have installed! They sound so hard-core.]
The Glassometry studio was built over an old Hanel Lumber Mill, What were some of the challenges and successes of converting such a heavy industrial space into this new incarnation. Well, there have been no shortage of challenges. Once I realized that this site was one of three in the county that would actually work, I had to face the reality that saw mills are automatically on the list for environmental contamination, not to mention, society is always tearing down, burying, and building new. So history became a big project. Once my offer was accepted we started digging. I couldn’t afford to build if I was required to excavate and fill or remove huge amounts of earth….its always the biggest mystery and possible expense in new construction. We unearthed the original saw mill foundation….over 75 ft long by 20 by several feet thick with multiple stem walls, footings, etc. This chunk of concrete was going nowhere.
Odell is historically a bog, with high water tables and silt, then you add in excess concrete, drains, fill etc. I orchestrated pre-digging all the footing locations, shifting things to avoid multiple old drains, and concrete, so the final building placement would either work around or utilize these things in the most cost effective manner. Once the geotechnical report was complete we moved on to performing a Phase 1 and 2 environmental study. The old log pond was located just 100 feet from my site, which is down grade so the main concern was hydrocarbons that would move through the water table. The study covered an entire historical recap of the land going over any and all county and state records, as well as conducting interviews of past owners. Once the historical data was gathered they determined we would need to gather soil and water samples. Talk about stress. For those of you unfamiliar with Environmental law, the point of this study is directly linked to the “Innocent Land Owner Act”. Basically if the land were found to be contaminated after I purchased it, I’d be responsible for the cost of clean up, which can be huge, so these studies were performed to protect me from that liability. The site being an old saw mill puts it on the list of high contenders for contamination. Why….because of the excessive use of oils, gas, chemicals, and when trees break down in the log pond it produces high levels of hydrocarbons, which are poisonous, which can leach into our water table. So long story short, we got lucky with minimal contaminants. We did however have to over engineer the foundation utilizing huge 7/8″ tie bars, couplers, excessive re-bar, and 6ft by 6ft footings. While all of these things created challenges, I feel I was extremely blessed by the simple fact that I was able to build.
Concerning the future of Glassometry:
It is very exciting for us to hear that you will eventually be hiring at Glassometry. How many employees you might be seeking when you are up and running AND what kind of skills you would be seeking in future employees? As anyone can imagine, my business fluctuates. And if you’ve viewed my work, its obvious there are a lot of different skills necessary. I have been the labor for the majority of my work up until now. With this expansion, I will need to find people who are skilled at working with their hands. Attention to detail and work ethic are essential. They should have an interest in learning new things, solving problems, and working as part of a group. They should also be comfortable with having a female boss. I greatly appreciate the value of experience each person brings to the table when it comes to creating challenging works of art. Since every piece is like re-creating the wheel, problem solving is essential. Most of the larger sculptural projects require anything and everything from cad design work to engineering, metal fabrication, mold making, glass forming, carpentry, equipment building/maintenance, not to mention bookkeeping, sales, and administrative work that never seems to end. I have done all of this. I would like to say, depending on the public support and what jobs move through the studio that I would imagine I’ll hire 3-10 employees but this will fluctuate. If its not clear on how the studio breaks down, there is the metal fabrication area, glass kiln-forming, glass blowing, mold and model making, cold-working, designing and rendering, and sales. I am also considering creating internships, which may be an important source since again…”Art Studio”. For employment, job experience or a degree is preferred. Each material carries with it its own body of knowledge that only comes through experience. It is important for any potential employees to at least understand this concept.
As a note I do want to clarify that the majority of those employed in the construction of this job were local suppliers. This was one of my goals. I am only doing this once (I hope), and it meant a great deal to make it part of the community from the start. The local companies involved included Bounds Excavation Inc, Mission Construction Inc, Land Electric, Pride Plumbing, C & R Gutters, GPSI, Hanel Developments LLC, Tenneson Engineering, Fastenal, Mid-Columbia Overhead Doors, Dog River Coffee (many meetings), Cascade Accupuncture Clinic (much less stress), Dolly Brandt (massage me), Home Depot and Tumalum of course, The Mt Hood Country Store (happy hour), Print It Sign Media, Honald Crane, Schlosser Machine, and Your Rental and Party Center. Please forgive me if I’ve failed to mention your company. My thanks is in the bill being paid. There are many other individuals through this process I have been grateful to. The kindness and helpfulness I have met on so many levels has been beyond remarkable. I hope to thank all of you with the Grand Opening.
“Specializes in breaking imagination boundaries using glass and metal”
“My satisfaction comes from giving sculptural life to beauty, strength, grace, and liberation through artwork of dynamic scale and intricate design. By exploring existence my work serves to create welcoming and compelling interest. In a world where our daily lives are filled with repetition, I hope to give viewers breathing room to feel, think, and embrace the beauty and meaning in life.”