As an artist on the outskirts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s no surprise that I’ve been inspired by the black bears that inhabit the area. Although I’ve been coming to the mountains since I’ve been a kid, I didn’t see my first bear in the wild until I was twenty-two(somewhere over ten years ago). I went to Cades Cove on a trip back from college to visit my folks, and had three little bear cubs run along side my car as I was on my way to hike to Abrahams Falls. It was magical and exciting, and made me so happy to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. Without the protection of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other national parks, who knows how well off the black bear would be. I can only hope that in the future we continue to protect the creatures of this earth by protecting the land they inhabit. We all have a responsibility to make our planet better, and much like the Native people that inhabited the land before us, I believe that Earth is sacred.
My black bear pendants are modeled off of the symbolic Zuni tribe bear fetish. A fetish in Native American culture is usually believed to assist the owner in some way. The bear symbol is associated with strength, and wisdom, and is also a guardian. I like to give my bear pendants names and give them special attributes their owners might connect with, because at times we all need reminders of our strengths.
Glass isn’t typically a medium a Native American artist would use, but much like them I grind my glass to shape it just how I want it. It’s a messy process, but one that’s necessary, because you can’t just cut out an arched recess into glass like you can with fabric or paper. Glass mainly wants to cut straight or just slightly curvilinear, so more pronounced curves and cutouts need to be ground out. Once the hard part is finished, and the glass pieces are cleaned of glass residue, it’s time to paint! The black bear shapes are like a blank canvas to me, and in designing them I really just try to have fun with them. I think about feelings and characteristics, and use palettes to reflect those attributes. Each one is special.
Each of my Zuni style dichroic glass black bear pendants are heated to what is called a tack fuse. It’s one of the four basic fusing types: full fuse, tack fuse, cast, and slump. A tack fuse happens when glass is heated to temperatures between 1250-1400 degrees Fahrenheit. The finished product of a tack fuse should be textural and the individual characteristics of each piece of glass should shine, literally! You could let your fingers wander around a tack fused piece like a rosary, as they are very tactile, and you may likely even get a new appreciation for your necklace.
Hope you'll check out the gallery, and maybe even my Etsy shop if you’re interested in having your own black bear pendant. As always, thanks for reading! Kimberly