I have always had a fascination with glass bottles. New, old, used, pristine, it really doesn't matter. I am not a collector of a certain type of bottle but rather let the shape, texture, labeling speak to me. I have my favorites, hand blown greenish glass, most of which hail from Mexico. Then there are the solid, standard wine bottles that have that fun indentation in the bottom that reminds me of a cheat in a card game....taking some of the contents of the wine space and the consumer doesn't even notice. I love these bottles empty. It's like exposing their intent. And of course there are the antique bottles with or without labels that are made of what????? and held what?????? I am an addict.
It is my love of glass that lead me to working with the glass in my art. I have for many years been engrossed in mixed media endeavors. Combining elements that most folks would think at first glance would never go together in a piece is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever tried. Textures of hard, soft, scratchy, smooth, cold, warm are the essence of my heart's passion. Combining opposites or complimentary elements is a very calming endeavor for me.
And this is how I came to where I am today.
At the beginning of my addiction, I was a strong, able, cunning player in the game of life. The shards of glass that occasionally brushed my skin never even gave me a glimmer of what their very presence was to do to me, myself and I. While creating, I would take the occasional mishap as serendipitous to the piece on which I labored. Cleaning up the happy accident only meant I had more to play with for another try at the perfect juxtaposition of elements. And the blood that "happened"? I never gave it a second thought. It was just a byproduct of my art and my collection and my addiction.
But the glass changed me, to my very soul. Let me be specific as to the beginning of the end for me.
I had taken a side trip to one of the many so called "ghost towns" that litter the back roads of my area. My original intention was to get to an urban center where I could go to some thrift stores and look for glass but this particular road less traveled just called to me as I drove down the frontage road to the expressway. After only a few miles down this bumpy and dusty road, I was both thrilled and lulled by the adventure and the scenery. Huge cottonwoods, gnarled with age and drought, topped by wild yellow leaves waved a friendly hello from the red clay mesas as I poked down the winding dirt road to the small town of Forgotten. The wind had picked up and the tumbleweeds were playing a game of chicken with me as they rambled across the road at frequent intervals. I was so engrossed in the moment that when the road suddenly turned to the south and there in front of me was the main street of a very dead little town, I was shocked back into reality.
Old clapboard structures intermingled with tumbled down adobe buildings faced a main road that was only one and a half car widths wide at the widest. The town was sitting in a bowl created by the sandstone cliffs narrowing as it met the mountain stream. The stream which must have been the life source for this village in times past ran between the one row of buildings and the cliff face. Ancient trees grew on the bank and the whole scene looked like something out of a western movie. So much so, I could almost see buckboards lined up outside the general store along with horses and mules tied to the hitching post. I almost rubbed my eyes to clear the imagining from my head when I heard a man's voice talking to me.
"Howdy". The voice certainly was a startling jolt.
I said hi, in a faked casual voice as my heart raced and he seemed to be enjoying the fact he had just made me jump a foot in the air.
"Are you lost? We don't get many visitors out here."
I explained it was one of those follow the end of your nose adventures. He seemed to understand just exactly what I meant. I asked if there might be a restroom anywhere that I might use.
"Sure, come on down to the gas station. We have water, a bathroom but no gas. Hope you don't need gas. No one ever gets here for gas. Only the occasional brave heart like you or someone who has lost their way back to the highway." He turned and I followed him to the gas station.
After having used the facilities, which were rustic to say the least, I asked if there might be anywhere to look for shards of glass or pottery and explained that I was an artist and wanted to include some history in my next piece. He was very interested in helping me and offered to show me some bottles that he had found in and around the area through the years. Most of the glass had come from the pharmacy that had been down the street as well as some from what had been a pleasure house back in the day. The saloon had offered up some shards from out back of the building. And then he opened the door to the back room.
There in front of me was a dream. Crates, boxes, barrels and shelves of glass of every color and description imaginable. Whole bottles lined the shelves of what I could only guess were twenty, ceiling to floor, drool inducing hoards of wonderfulness. The crates, boxes and barrels were filled to the brim with broken shards. I had made it to heaven. I just knew it. I could almost feel the excitement oozing out of every pore of my being.
The man showed me his treasure trove and I was so deeply engrossed in looking I must have zoned out because suddenly I became acutely aware that he was just staring at me, staring at the glass. I apologized for my rudeness and asked if he might be willing to sell me any of his pieces.
"Oh hell no! Honey, I couldn't take your money for junk like this. If you do see something that you'd like just take it. It's yours."
You know that should have been music to my ears but instead I was so conflicted. If I had my way, I would have loaded up as much as my old car would hold but I didn't want to appear to be greedy and horrible so I kept my obsession to a bare minimum. And believe me when I say self restraint was more than difficult. I walked the shelving rows. Taking down bottles that were of colors that I had never seen. I only took a few. And one in particular just seemed to sing to me from a shelf that was right in front of a window. It must have been the light coming through the soft pink aged glass that made me want it so very badly. The bottle had no top but by its shape, it most certainly had been a perfume bottle. It was just lovely, so beguiling, so entrancing.
As the man walked me to my car, carrying a crate filled with my haul, he thanked me for coming to Forgotten and giving him an opportunity to visit with someone. I thanked him for his generosity and I was on my way.
Little did I know that the good he had done was the worst I would ever endure.
I became obsessed with the bottles and shards I had gotten in Forgotten. It was all I thought about. I began working in at a frenzied pace on one project after another. Each and every time I broke the glass, I bled and cursed myself for my clumsiness. None of the pieces were coming together. It seemed as if the harder I tried to put something together the more of a mess I made and the more shards of my beloved glass I had in my fingers. The more blood I spilled the more frantic I was to complete a piece.
I had used all the bottles except for the perfume bottle. It was one of those things that most artist do, put back the best for later. Only now it wasn't the best, but the only and I frantically began to pull the pieces of cloth, wood, lace, buttons, paint, dye and the precious pink bottle to my workbench for a dry placement of my design. I carefully lifted the bottle to place it into the piece when it exploded in my hands.
Honestly, that is the last thing I remember until I woke up in a hospital. I was under such heavy sedation, I couldn't move and I kept asking the nurses what had happened but they didn't answer me. They acted as if they couldn't hear me. They acted as if I was mute.
I drifted back into a deep sleep.
The next thing I remember is looking into the face of the man at the gas station in Forgotten. He was rubbing a cloth over my forehead and eyes. "Ya see honey, I couldn't have taken your money for this old junk. But I knew you'd be coming back to us. You all always do. Right?" And the others in the bottles all agreed.