Retirement brought Stan Harmon’s passion into the daylight. Finally quitting his “day job”, after a career with an environmental water management company, Harmon found himself able to devote more time to artistic endeavors that he had previously crammed into late night hours after everyone else was asleep.
Following his dream to learn to blow glass he enrolled at the famous Penland School of Craft in the North Carolina mountains, quickly succumbing to the addictive nature of glass blowing. However, blowing glass requires at least one helper and that wouldn’t fit into his new schedule (which was no schedule). Not to mention the constant overhead involved in firing a glass furnace 24/7. While at Penland, Harmon was introduced to the technique of kiln-forming glass which being taught in the next studio. This proved to be the best of both worlds, embracing the serendipity of hot glass creation and the advantages of a flexible schedule because a computer runs the kiln, taking care of the most time consuming aspects of creation. Thus no helper was needed, no outrageous gas bill to stress about, and still reaping the creative opportunities afforded by hot glass.
Kiln-formed or fused glass really emerged into the glass art world during the 80’s with the advent of a glass manufactured in a wide range of colors that was compatible and could be fused together. Previously, glass from different companies could not be melted together due to the stresses created by the different formulas used to create the individual glasses.
Stan’s fused glass panels are created using specialized electric kilns with microprocessor controls. This allows him to program the long heating and annealing schedules required for melting and reforming the glass into a work of art. The thicker the glass the longer the program required to produce a successful and stress-free, well-annealed glass. The fish panels start with a single sheet of glass placed over a hand drawn picture placed on top of a light table. This allows him to see how thick he needs to apply the varying colors of glass powder, vitreous enamels, and crushed frits to create the image. Sometimes as much as a one-inch layer of crushed glass is applied at one time and fired. The base sheet of glass is placed on a kiln shelf and fired to 1420 degrees F. The glass melts flat, as glass given its way, seeks to maintain a ¼ in. thickness. Several firings may be needed to achieve the desired image. Each firing requires 12 to 24 hours of kiln time. Some pieces require as many as 10 firings, which easily takes ten days or more. Sometimes several sheets of glass will be stacked to achieve the image.
“Light…. that you can hold in your hand, best describes my perspective of glass as a medium. You can cut, crush, grind, melt or mold it into almost any shape. Combine these characteristics along with the knowledge of metal and woodworking and you have endless possibilities for creativity. Glass is not always predictable. You learn to embrace this. So you learn to adapt your ideas to what the glass wants to do and sometimes it will “want” to be exactly what you envisioned. It may seem like the enemy, but at this point in my career, my only enemy is time. So many ideas and not enough hours in the day!”
Harmon’s studio overlooks the Trent River in eastern, North Carolina. He finds himself influenced daily by the ever-changing moods of the water, birds and sky. Focusing on what he was most familiar with led Stan to incorporate fish species that are common to the east coast into much of his creations. He also uses other wildlife and creatures for inspiration such as jellyfish, flying fish, herons, etc. and finds that experimenting to be a big part of the fun. Many pieces incorporate creative metal hangers and frames and the game fish panels often include the correct fishing tackle as an intrinsic part of the work.