Sunday, October 5, 2008


Years ago when Melanie and I first collaborated on a project together we did a series of outdoor house themed sculptures called “The House Project”. One of these houses was entitled “Fire House” for obvious reasons.

This image came back to us in a quite literal way recently when we were attending a music performance at a local venue here in Boulder. The phone rang in my pocket in the theater just after they told everyone to turn off their cell phones during the performance. I clinched the phone in my pocket to muffle the embarrassing ring. I snuck out to the lobby to see who had left the message. It was from Sanjay, our next door neighbor saying “GEORGE! YOUR STUDIO IS ON FIRE!”. Another muffled ring and message seconds after that first call was our other neighbor, Mary with a similar message and that the fire fighters were there dowsing the fire on our tool shed.

Melanie and I ran back home five blocks arriving breathless to the sight that no one wants to see. The blue and red lights surrounding the entire neighborhood with hoses snaking up the sidewalk and into our back yard where the Airworks studio and little wood shop shed are. The fire fighters had just put out the flames and asked me if I was the owner. The scene was surreal seeing the blackened trees and the stories of the neighbors about how high the fire had been and how freighting it was. Luckily the main studio was unharmed thanks to the heroic efforts of neighbors Sanjay and Brad. The sixty foot tower of flames would have taken the studio as well during the high winds that night that fanned the flames. They both grabbed garden hoses and kept the roof of the studio from the flames and heat.

The neighbors gathered in the alley each telling their stories of mysterious bangs and sparks that suddenly leaped into an inferno. The fire inspectors passed clipboards around for each of the witnesses to the heated event. As firefighters wrapped up their hoses one neighbor brought out a tub of ice cream and cups to cool things down and chat excitedly about the fire.

The next day revealed the extent of the damage. The inside was like some macabre set of the film “Alien” dripping with water, melted plastic bins of screws and washers and blackened power tools. Maybe half the tools in the tightly packed “smallest wood shop in the world” shed were beyond recognition. The fire had started outside near the trash bins and worked its way inside through a window and the eaves of the shed. Arson? electric short in the power lines above?...a tossed cigarette? All these were ruled out by the inspectors.

We’re now slowly getting back to normal and cleaning up the charred mess. Another wood shop has already been drawn up and we might be able to save a lot of the original structure that is believed to be over a hundred years old and has foot wide wooden board walls taken when the forests around Boulder were of virgin forest size.

Melanie has been photographing the remains which may lead to an artful conclusion to a horrible and heated event here.

the tool shop and outside dining area before the fire

.....and after

The fire rose into the surrounding
tree canopy and burned a neighbor's

the inside of the tool shop melted into a pile of dripping
plastic bins and containers
the heros of the night

the exact time of the big melt

M.T. Ligget's cat head survived the flames

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

DRAW BRIDGES - Oregon State University

We finally started work on a project for the new Civil Engineering building at the Oregon State University in Corvallis. After a two year delay by the state legislators, the construction of the building is under way again and I drove out to begin the glass mural portion of the commission. The 34 etched glass panels will be arranged on a three story glass elevator shaft. The work was sandblasted for us by space suited Walter Hales of Corvallis with an old friend from Hawaii, Tim Havens from Portland helping with the application of the mask patterning.

The artwork is entitled "Draw Bridges" and blends etched glass images of bridges along with three arching trusses through the overhead space. Below are photos from the proposal model.

I drove out with a VW bug full of rubber mask patterning that was computer laser cut by our local Boulder Sign Company back in Colorado. We were given a work space at the Smith Glass shop in Corvallis we spent a few days applying the patterns and moving the glass out to Walter, our sandblaster.

Applying the frisket mask to the glass...

....and blasting away

We'll be finishing the sculptural part of the project in November and installing the hanging bridge elements to the work. We'll post the end result when it's all finished.