by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
The last vacation Rockford resident and stained glass artisan Eric Brown, owner of the Squire Street business by the same name, took was in 2000. Brown along with his wife, Pat, were visiting Alaska to fulfill a lifelong dream of discovering our 50th state first-hand. “While there I was struck by small trees growing and living in the hostile and rocky environment with their roots clinging tenaciously to the barren rock surfaces,” said Brown adding, “I had the thought that one day, if I could find the perfect rock, I would create a stained glass lamp, depicting a dwarf wind-swept bonsai like tree, using the rock as a base.”
That day arrived in early 2010 when Eric came into the possession of an ideal rock, a beautiful 41 lb. piece of green fluorite quartz. In a labor of love requiring 216 hours (27 days in total) Eric created a one-of-a-kind stained glass table lamp that he calls, “Pandora”.
Eric is a master of many artistic talents, all of which were required to bring “Pandora” to life. Beginning first with the base, it was necessary to drill a 7/16-inch hole through the center of the 1ft. x 1ft. rock, to accommodate a threaded rod to electrically wire the lamp. The boring of the quartz rock was no easy task as it contained many faults that could easily rupture. Eric had to adapt a diamond core bit by adding a long enough stainless steel shaft to drill completely through the rock. Exhibiting the skill of a diamond cutter he accomplished, what was to be, the first of many steps.
Using graduated diameters of PVC pipe, Eric then formed the core of the tree’s trunk. He demonstrated his metal crafting skills by painstakingly winding hundreds of feet of copper wire, beginning with roots clinging to the rock and working upwards around the core to the very branches at the top. It was then necessary to add many pounds of molten solder to the wire creating a spiraled and gnarled tree-like surface. Brown then wired the lamp, adding lamp sockets to the tip of each of the five branches.
It didn’t get any easier as Eric had to then move on to the creation (literally) of five leaf-like stained glass shades resembling box-turtle shells. Initially, cardboard molds were crafted in two different sizes that led to finished plaster of Paris molds. Next, a mosaic sketch was drawn on the surface of each mold over which a transparent paper was laid to trace the patterns he would use to cut the individual pieces of glass for each shade. Imagine, if you will, the cutting of 511 individual pieces of green and orange glass (not much bigger than nickels or dimes) to tack to the molds and solder together to form each finished shade.
Last but not least, a chemical patina was applied to the soldered surfaces creating a deep brown finish.
The finished table lamp, standing some 28 inches tall and weighing a substantial 50 lbs., is softly lit with low wattage bulbs and beautiful and breathtaking to behold.
In addition to the finding of the lamp’s quartz base, Brown had a grander incentive to bring “Pandora” into existence, that of being an entrant in the 2010 Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition.
ArtPrize entries require a name and Brown tells us, “I chose ‘Pandora’ as a name for the piece because I was blown-away by the beauty and magnificence of the foliage on the planet Pandora in the movie Avatar. It just seemed like a good fit.”
Brown invites readers to view “Pandora” in his studio/store on Squire’s Street in downtown Rockford prior to being placed at its ArtPrize venue in the Waters Building located at 161 Ottawa Ave. NW in downtown Grand Rapids. Last year’s initial and wildly popular Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition returns bigger and better this year for a three-week run from September 22 thru October 10. Brown’s entry will be one of a record 1,713 submitted by a like number of artists from 21 countries and 44 U.S. states. Entries will be displayed at 192 venues, also another record. The prestigious competition offers $450,000 in prize money.
Winners are decided by a popular viewer vote conducted online (after online registration). Each entry has a “thumbs-up or down” number and “Pandora’s” thumbs-up number is: 43071;
If you are unable to attend and view the entries in this year’s ArtPrize, the rules do not prevent you from voting. One can be a “homer” and vote for a “favorite son” and may we suggest a vote for Eric Brown’s entry “Pandora” would do wonders for Eric’s ego and Rockford’s reputation as an enclave of talented and accomplished artisans.
Most every entry in ArtPrize is also for sale and “Pandora” is no exception. For a paltry $7,000 or OBO above, this one-of-a-kind Tiffany style creation could be the long sought final touch to complete and grace the décor of your home or business.
Being one of the top ten monetary prize winners or the outright sale of “Pandora” would allow Eric and Pat to afford the opportunity to take another rare vacation after ten long years of tenacious non-stop sacrifice and devotion to Brown’s craft.
Remember, think 43071!
For more information about ArtPrize, along with registration and voting instructions, go to: www.artprize.org.