Glassblower Art Ciccotti is one of the featured artists for Saturday’s Ames Artists’ Studio Tour, a free event that will feature 11 Story County artists in their studios.
Ciccotti owns Ciccotti Art Glass, 2306 258th St., southwest of Ames in the unincorporated community of Napier. He and his wife Paula have been busy filling orders and attending weekend art festivals in the Midwest, including the recent 50th annual Octagon Art Festival.
Ciccotti is a mostly self-taught glassblower and has been practicing his craft since learning it in a student-run organization at Iowa State, where he graduated in 1987.
He uses variety of interesting tools, like a hand-held compressed air machine called a sophietta, shears for cutting the hot glass, a carbon-fiber pad to help shape, giant tweezer-shaped tools called jacks that help shape the hot glass, hollow pipes that attach to the glass for blowing and solid punti sticks that attach to glass for other processes.
Ciccotti’s workshop has an electric furnace that runs 24/7 and houses glass rods to be used in his artwork.
Another furnace has a hole where he puts the glass items he’s creating. A 6-inch vase is put into this furnace about 60 times as more glass is added and as Ciccotti molds it along the way, running it along a smooth metal surface and also using the pipe and the jacks.
The blowing temperature in the furnace is 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, he said. The glass melts at 2,350 degrees.
When the glass art is finished, it cures in an annealing furnace, which keeps the piece at 910 degrees for a couple hours and then drops the temperature slowly over the course of several hours. This process helps keep the integrity of the glass, which is likely at various thicknesses throughout.
“It’s an interesting process,” Ciccotti said. “It melts and there’s all these air bubbles in there that are from the fluxes that help everything melt down faster. Those air bubbles are actually part of the molecule of the glass. What we do is drop the temperature down to 1,980 – it’s called the squeeze temperature. And then those air bubbles literally squeeze back into the molecule of glass. It’s a necessary part of that process.”
Ciccotti attaches a hose to the end of his pipes so he can control the flow of air while working alone.
“Italian glassblowers typically work in teams, and I don’t have a team,” he said. “Usually they’ll have somebody on the other end of the pipe, letting them know when to blow and when to stop.
“I first started learning about glassblowing at the Gaffers Union at Iowa State. Then I traveled around and learned from other professionals across the country.”
Ciccotti is inspired by nature. The Ciccottis are originally from California, and one line of his work features sea-inspired creations.
Along with a variety of decorative glass pieces, which tend to range from $20 to $400, Ciccotti offers bridal items, creates custom awards and has a line of memorial glass items that incorporate the ashes of the customer’s loved one.
Ames Artists’ Studio tour is Saturday
The tour, which will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is a self-guided tour where visitors will be able to talk with the artists about their crafts, techniques and inspirations. It’s also a great chance to see where the artists do their creating, according to Jennifer Brockpahler, the director of the Ames Community Arts Council, which hosts the annual event.
Artists will offer demonstrations and some of the art will be available for purchase. Visitors can tour the studios in any order they choose. A full map of participating studios is available at ACAC’s website, amesart.org.
Throughout the day, the Ames Artists’ Studio Tour will be headquartered at Morning Bell Coffee Roasters, 111 Main St., Ames. ACAC volunteers will be on hand to answer questions.
Along with Ciccotti, here are the artists who are participating
The Arts Council shared the following information about the participating artists and studios:
► Naomi Friend, Naomi Friend Studio, 16117 550th Ave., Story City – Naomi Friend uses Cyanotype combined with digital photography to create a meld of old and new images and methods. She takes digital pictures and uses Photoshop to create digital negatives, or a reverse tone image printed on transparency. The negative is layered on paper, fabric, or wood sensitized with the chemistry and exposed under UV light or the sun. The result is washed in water and the print is finished. Friend further alters the print using mixed media techniques, primarily painting. Her subject matter celebrates wild, native and naturalized Iowa. The studio will be open for the first time. State Park Stickers and cyanotype artwork will be available for purchase.
More about Naomi Friend:Iowa state parks: Story City woman’s sticker art captures iconic landmarks
DOWNTOWN AMES STUDIOS
► Jennifer Drinkwater, 312 ½ Main St., Ames – The What’s Good Project celebrates the meaningful stories from where we live. Inspired by the conversations she has with folks around the country, Drinkwater creates original paintings about what’s good in each of their communities. A portion of each art sale is donated back to these communities.
More about Drinkwater:Virtual Gathering of Artists features artist Jennifer Drinkwater
► Melissa Stenstrom, Melissa Stenstrom Jewelry, 507 Main St., Suite 1, Ames – Stenstrom makes jewelry using silver, gold, gemstones and pearls. She works with a range of techniques such as anticlastic raising, forging, fabricating, casting and engraving. Always up to a new challenge and looking for new skills to master, Melissa is constantly studying and looking for her next jewelry adventure.
► Kyle Renell, Kyle Renell Arts, 208 5th St., #304 – Renell is living, making art and surviving the pandemic in Ames. Working primarily in acrylic painting and graphite/colored pencil, Renell will be showing and explaining finished and in-progress pieces from her current series COVID and Chaos.
More about Renell’s work:Pandemic inspired Ames artist Renell’s ‘COVID and Chaos’ series
► Susan Norris, 916 Kellogg Ave., #4, Ames – By the end of this year, Norris will have created 365 small mixed media, found object assemblages using foraged fabrics, objects, mementos and household packaging. Each piece begins with a 4-by-4 inch square of corrugated cardboard cut from boxes she uses to carry home her groceries from the local co-op. These assemblages are displayed in her apartment, each attached to a jute “clothesline” with a clothespin.
►Alicia Wilkinson, 921 Carroll Ave., Ames – Wilkinson is a painter, mixed media artist and senior registered interior designer in Ames. She creates acrylic paintings with thick textures and other mediums while exploring the beauty of color. Her inspiration comes from her Creator as she processes through deep pain and incredible joys in her life alongside the desire to bring transformation into other people’s lives. Her work embodies her heart for justice in the world and drives her to create work that brings restoration and renewal to the Earth.
►Creative Artists’ Studio of Ames (CASA), 130 S. Sheldon Ave. – CASA is a group of artists who work in clay, fiber, encaustics, metal, paper, ink and watercolors. CASA seeks to provide space for artists to work, to learn and to share their expertise with the public. This year, in response to COVID, the participating artists will be set up outdoors.
NORTH AMES STUDIO
► Valerie Williams, Daily Dish Pottery, 5847 Arrasmith Trail., Ames – Williams specializes in bowls that are functional and light, graceful and very usable. She never liked stoneware – too heavy, and she didn’t like the scratchy feeling of the fork on the matte glazes. So when Williams started throwing clay, she knew she wanted thin walls on her pots and a very smooth glaze. She found an affinity for stoneware. She loves the malleability of the clay and the communication she feels with the material when she’s throwing. Valerie’s dishes are practical because they are made the way she uses them. Her glazes are smooth to the touch, and the bowl, mug and plate sizes are just right for serving, and for your snacks and meals. And they are pretty, so your eyes should be just as pleased as your fingers.
EAST AMES STUDIO
► Bill Rickard, Prairie Rivers Woodworking, 328 S. Hazel Ave., Ames – Rickard is a woodworker who will be showing his work, including furniture, assembled art and greenwood carvings, as well as providing demonstrations of traditional greenwood carving, such as, for spoons and bowls, using hand tools including axes, adzes, knives and other carving implements.
WEST AMES STUDIOS
► Brett Brinkmeyer, 1007 Arkansas Ave., Ames – Brinkmeyer works in graphite and ink. The drawings he does are abstract and formless, allowing a person to see many different things, depending on their unique perspective. He also creates electronic and acoustic music and writes different types of poetry. During the tour, Brinkmeyer will display large and small drawings and be working on a large drawing during the event. He will also have live interactive electronic music running, with a vocal mic to allow visitors to distort their voice while it integrates with live and organically developing computer music.