Sunday Reflection 9/13/20: My Trashterpiece

Sunday Reflection 9/13/20: My Trashterpiece

September 13, 2020 2 Comments

On Sundays I reflect.

I didn’t drink alcohol this week.

This week’s essay will be primarily about the project I completed with my team at the studio: My Trashterpiece!

Over the last 3+ years of operating my studio, we have filled a thirty-one gallon trashcan with glass waste. This is accumulated trash from every artist who has worked in my studio, ranging from clear to single color to multi colored scraps. If not for this project, this would have had to go to the landfill. 

Trash sorted by color by Marta Litweller

Marta spent at least one hundred hours sorting that trash with a tweezers from the trashcan. She organized it by color, and separated out all of the clear. She did all of this with a respirator on as well as protective glasses. The process was grueling; I know because I spent some time helping to sort the trash between other projects.

Linda, my friend who has a framing shop and framed most of my art collection for me, gifted me a large frame for the project. Its dimensions are 3 ft. x 4 ft, and it had a metallic gold finish. It has been sitting in my studio for a year or so, and we have used it for some fun photo shoots. Mainly it has just been taking up space, but I knew it would become something much greater eventually. Some might call me a pack rat or a hoarder, and they might not be wrong. I hate wasting things, and I attempt to reuse or repurpose every object I come across. 

Marta Litweller arranging the scraps

I decided we would mount a mirror in the frame, and build our collage within the frame on top of the mirror. A quick post on the local classifieds and I found a free mirror, albeit larger than the frame. Marta found someone in Leadville (where she lives) willing to cut the mirror to size for us, and we were on our way!

We found some leftover caulk from construction at the studio, which we used to mount the mirror into the frame. Our neighbors are cabinet-makers, and Derek was generous enough to cut an extra piece of wood to size for us to mount behind the mirror holding everything in place.

I have been slowly purchasing 16 oz. containers of Envirotex Lite resin from Alpine Arts Center, the only locally owned option to source from where I live. We had around 96 oz. of resin and had bought out Alpine Arts Center. I was sure it would be enough, with no real grasp of how much we would need. To be clear, I have never done anything like this in my life.

Ben pouring resin

Marta spray-painted the frame in a nice flat black which is definitely nicer to look at than the bright gold undercoat. Skinny and Marta agreed to spend the weekend working on the project after a long week, and Skinny’s friend Matt Giannetti was brought in as our resin expert. While Matt has experience making small resin castings, the extent of his experience was that he knew how to mix and pour the resin. The scale and process was as new to him as it was to us.

So the four of us embarked on a journey. Saturday morning began with Skinny, Marta, and myself strategizing how to get our glass arranged in the pattern I envisioned. Skinny documented the process all weekend on his camera, and helped with anything else that came up. He was also the primary trash smasher but we all took turns hitting the trash with a hammer in a tupperware in order to make the pieces smaller. We decided to size a piece of cardboard to the mirror and cut away each quadrant as we place borders and colors. With a few minor hiccups and about 7-8 hours we had laid our large piece out fully as well as a small tester piece.

Tester piece for Jon Belgrad's personal collection

When Giannetti arrived we began preparing to mix the resin and handling the final placement of the pieces of glass on our two frames. Our goal was to successfully pour the small piece and if successful proceed to the Trashterpiece. After a much smoother than anticipated first pour, I decided to proceed with the large piece. It became clear as I was pouring that I was nowhere close to having enough resin. We quickly warmed the remaining bottles and mixed them, adding them to the piece. Unfortunately, we did not have full coverage but everything seemed to be ok. 

Then we noticed some Resin dripping through tiny holes in the back, which Marta had sealed with a hot glue gun before the pour. We got the hot glue gun and some packing tape, and filled the few leaks monitoring them for another hour or two. 

There wasn’t anything else we could do, except to attempt to find more resin in Denver the next morning. I was nervous, but Gianetti assured me everything would be fine if we poured a second even coat of resin on top covering the entire piece.

In the morning I found the Envirotex Lite by the gallon in Denver (much larger than my 16 oz. bottles from the night before). A friend of mine was coming up from Denver and brought us three gallons by early afternoon. Without him I have no idea what we would have done. Living in such a remote area has often been a challenge and sourcing materials and things up here is by far the greatest challenge.

Ben and Marta Litweller arranging scraps

This piece was the most involved creation of my career, requiring the efforts of a full team to accomplish. My client and friend had expressed interest in the piece before it was even made. He has decided to purchase my Trashterpiece, and it is being driven to him in California in just over a week.

I'm proud of this piece. It represents the culmination of my career and efforts thus far, and it is going to a home that will appreciate it as such. My client collects many artists work with my assistance, but he also collects cups that I've made for him. He has many of my significant accomplishments in glass, both my solo work and my collaborations with other artists. This piece will be right at home on the walls of his new home. Side note: I was able to celebrate with him earlier this summer at his house-warming party.

For three years, when I looked at my trash can as it filled up with glass, it felt like a burden I was unsure how to handle. I described this project to many people, and admittedly my initial concept was different than what came out. The design evolved from stripes of color spanning the spectrum with a black and white center, to the spiral pattern you see, with a border of black & white, as well as a rainbow border. 

Looking from far away, the viewer will see the full image we created. upon close inspection the viewer can see endless hours of effort from glass blowers as well as my team. Every individual shard of glass represents a piece it was once a part of, or a piece that someone spent many hours on that didn't make it. 

The pain of working for days on something and having it break beyond repair is a feeling some people might never have. I can't say for sure how many multi day fully worked composition notebook cups have ended up in that trash but it is more than ten. I bet there is at least a full month of my time in that trash, and even more of Rob's. Add this to the hundreds of hours spent sorting the trash and arranging it, pouring the resin and letting it dry. This piece is the most involved experience of my life, and I am beyond grateful to the people who helped bring my vision to life.


Marta Litwiller, Colin "Skinny" Hagan, and Matt Giannetti.

Your efforts are so appreciated.

This project took months to assemble, and years to conceive. I will not be able to replicate this, and it will be years before I have enough waste to create something in this style. During the weekend it was a real privilege to take a break from business just to create. Despite the chaos, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. Sometimes even glass blowing can feel like work to me because of how intertwined it is with my work. This piece was really a pleasure to create.



2 Responses

Tom Wickland
Tom Wickland

September 14, 2020

What a wonderful story about a wonderful piece of art. Congratulations!

Sally Graflund
Sally Graflund

September 14, 2020

It’s lovely and beautifully executed, a true labor of love. How thrilling!

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