Meet Patti and Dave Hegland of Chestertown, Maryland.
They’re this year’s Niche Award finalists in fused glass, for their series called “Arrows: Aqua Bay.”
Nice for them, right? But here’s the interesting thing — they’ve been artists only since 2007. Before then, Patti was a CPA and Dave was a computer engineer.
They lived in the Washington, DC area and decided to quit their day jobs to become artists. Turns out they’re highly technical, numbers kind of people with a deep reservoir of creativity. They started feeling a pull in a different direction.
However, unlike other folks who get that feeling, Patti and Dave did something about it. They retired and started taking classes. A few years later, after workshops in New York, Washington, DC, Oregon and North Carolina, studying with kiln-formed glass artists, they had their own studio making glass art.
“Our analytical bent carried us forward,” Patti says. It paid off. They won the 2013 NICHE magazine award in fused glasswork.
Patti and Dave work together to create the designs. The technique they use is called Strip Construction.
They start with sheets of colored glass and cut them into narrow strips of assorted length which also creates hundreds of glass splinters. “We go through boxes of Band-Aids,” says Patti, “but it’s a clean cut.”
They, then, lay the strips on edge in various geometric patterns. The work is time-consuming and exact. “This technique fits our analytical needs,” explains Patti. In other words, they don’t get tired of the detail-work.
Once the strips are laid out in the design, they are carefully put into a kiln to fuse together into a solid piece. The flat fused piece is then formed by heating the glass again on a mold so it slumps into the desired shape such as a bowl or tray.
Their work is also extensively “cold worked,” smoothed and polished after the glass cools. This involves tools such as a tile saw, various grinders and the sandblaster. Dave does this work, smoothing out the rough edges after the glass is fused, then fine grinding and polishing the completed the piece.
The result is a highly finished, modern-looking piece of work.
The latest series, called Arrow, features one-of-a-kind pieces with complex angular design strips of ivory glass, incorporating hand-pulled murrine (round rods of glass with a variety of layers of color, cut into cross-sections — the dots in the bowl).
Retirement isn’t so easy when you have a new job as a glass artist. Patti and Dave frequently spend over 50 hours a week in their studio near the RiverArts Center in the historic downtown Chestertown. They moved the studio there in 2012. It’s close to home now, and in nice weather, they ride their Segways to work.
When not in the studio, they’re traveling to art shows, mainly in the Baltimore and Philadelphia area. Their work is featured in Niche, a magazine out of Baltimore that covers artists throughout the U.S. and Canada, targeted toward art galleries and craft retailers
You can find the Hegland Glass studio at 315 High Street, Suite 103 in Chestertown, Maryland. The studio is usually open to the public Fridays 11am-3pm and Saturdays 10am-3pm. You can contact them at 410-870-5432 or through their website: Heglandglass.com.