DragonFire Gallery

Like a fish out of fire

Two glass artists featured in Cannon Beach’s Spring Unveiling Arts Festival combine fused and blown glass to make finned figures full of color and movement

To some, their pairing might seem a mismatch. Ann Cavanaugh works with fused glass; Andy Nichols with blown glass. Different technique, different tools, often, different glass. But when Cavanaugh needed someone to turn her flat glass into vessels, she turned to Nichols. From that bold endeavor evolved the art that will be featured in the coming Cannon Beach Spring Unveiling Arts Festival. Sounds simple enough. It wasn’t.

“It’s been a process,” said Cavanaugh, who lives in Battle Ground, Wash. “At first it looked like ‘this is going to be easy.’ Then we got to a place where there were cracks, chips, falling off the punty (the rod used to hold soft glass). I thought, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work.’ But coming out on the other side, we have 13 fish that are just amazing. I am not aware of anyone else doing this.”

Glass blower Andy Nichols turned Ann Cavanaugh's fused-glass tile into what the pair call the "graffiti fish."

The 21st Spring Unveiling Arts Festival opens Friday, April 30, and runs through May 2. There won’t be the usual reception of food and wine, and masks will be required, but organizers say, “the art will be as good ever.”  

This is fused glass tile by Ann Cavanaugh the Andy Nichols rolled and formed into the "graffiti fish."
Glass blower Andy Nichols made the “graffiti fish,” top, out of Ann Cavanaugh’s fused glass tile, above.

Nine galleries are set to participate, each featuring three or four artists, as well as the artists who show year-round. The festival takes its name from the unveiling of new art — previously shrouded until now. Last year, the unveiling was held virtually, making this year’s live event all the more anticipated.

“We have a great show,” said Eeva Lantela, owner of DragonFire Gallery, which along with Cavanaugh and Nichols, is featuring painter Michael Orwick and scratchboard artist Mark Schult. “We have so many types of mediums, everything from collage to woodworking to recycled metal, fused glass, blown glass, every kind of painting you can think of. It just goes on and on. There are 29 featured artists that could potentially be in town.”

Artists will be on hand throughout the weekend with demonstrations, talks, and videos of their work. Cavanaugh has new pieces ready for the kiln, and Nichols, who specializes in blown-glass fish, will show videos of how he works.  

It’s been just a year since the two decided to try melding their work. Cavanaugh, who makes both fused glass vessels and flat pieces, sought out Nichols in part because she knew he worked with the same coefficient of expansion (COE) glass she did. In this case, COE 90. Most glassblowers use COE 96. COE is a measurement of the rate glass expands and contracts when it is heated and cooled. To fuse glass, the pieces must be compatible; COE is one factor that determines compatibility.

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Seeing with a ‘backwards brain’

Painter Michael Orwick, whose work will be included in an October show in Astoria, says his dyslexia helped him become an artist

Reading his bio, the first bit of information you learn about artist Michael Orwick is that he nearly died at birth (he’s not entirely sure, but he thinks the umbilical cord was wound around his neck) and that while his mother thought he was perfect, his physician father “knew better.” It’s something of an inside joke, but as it turns out, also true – at least in some eyes. But a learning disorder others might see as a deficit Orwick soon discovered could, in fact, be quite the attribute — one he says he “wouldn’t trade for a minute.”

Next month, the Beaverton painter will lead his usual plein air workshop in Cannon Beach, albeit with a very limited number of participants, thanks to the you-know-what. In October, he and his 16-year-old daughter, Elena, will participate in the Sins of the Father show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria, which will feature artists and their fathers. We talked with Orwick about his life as an artist and the imperfection that helped shape him. His comments have been edited for clarity.

Artist Elena Orwick, 16, and her father Michael Orwick will have their work included in the October "Sins of the Father" show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria.
Michael Orwick and his 16-year-old daughter, Elena, will have their work included in the October “Sins of the Father” show at The Secret Gallery in Astoria.

On your webpage, you mention that your parents realized early on that you were dyslexic and saw things differently. How did that affect you?

Orwick: I could tell early on I was meant to understand things that I wasn’t understanding. Things weren’t supposed to be as hard as that. But I was able to put disparate things together to make something really creative. I just had a different way of seeing things.

In a thank you letter you sent to the “people that shaped me,” you wrote: “You should understand, growing up dyslexic, school was hard. Any subject with letters, or numbers, or dates or facts — they seemed harder for me than most kids. Although, if the assignment was visual, or creative — AHHHHH, it was like the clouds parting and angels singing! I felt like saying, “Step back citizens, I have this, everything is under control.”

Did being dyslexic make it hard on you as kid?

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