Fun. Just so much fun. That’s the word Raven Skyriver uses repeatedly about his work and life as a glass sculptor.
Fun, despite the 70-hour work weeks. Fun, despite the scars from healed burns on his wrists, hidden by plumeria blossom tattoos. And fun, despite (or perhaps because of) the 2400-degree furnaces and 1400-degree glass he works with.
Raven, a 2001 graduate of Lopez High School, is featured this month with two other Lopez artists at Chimera Gallery. The show, “Wild!,” not only gives Lopezians a chance to see some of Raven’s new work, but provides Raven the opportunity to work with his sister, photographer Summer Moon Scriver, and his mentor, glass artist Lark Dalton. The show runs from Sept. 11 through Oct. 8.
“I got pretty lucky,” Raven says. “I wasn’t academically inclined in high school, but there were several other students like me, and Lopez School was open to an alternative of allowing us to work with someone in the community.”
Raven sought out Lark. “He gave me my whole foundation,” Raven says. “I learned welding and fabrication and built a furnace and my own glory hole. Then I blew glass, got hooked on it, and Lark couldn’t keep me away. My curiosity was piqued, but I didn’t know it would take over my life.” He pauses and smiles. “It’s so much fun.”
After graduating from high school, Raven went to Venice for a two-week class in blown glass sculpture with world-renowned glass artist, Maestro Davide Salvador. “Then I came home and did construction and blew glass at night, mostly cups and bowls, for a couple of years,” Raven says. “I had my own little workshop that was super basic.”
Seven years ago he began working at the prestigious Pilchuck Glass School created by master glass blower Dale Chihuly.
There, Raven assists glass sculptor Karen Willenbrink-Johnsen. “Unlike other art mediums, in glass blowing and sculpting you work as a team,” Raven says, “and everyone has a role.” Willenbrink-Johnsen and her team make large-scale art pieces that collectors and museums buy for $18,000 or more. “Working with other people is really fun,” Raven says. “It makes it possible to do things you couldn’t do alone.”
From the school at Pilchuck, Raven can see Puget Sound, home to some of the sea life he honors in his own work. For several years, now, he’s been refining his skill creating marine mammals from glass. “They’re a good barometer of what’s happening environmentally,” he says, “and they’re having a tough time. I try to address some of that through my art.”
One recent piece, “Fisherman’s Foe,” is a three-foot tall sculpture of glass sea lions lazing on a glass boulder. The matte gray Humpback whales he’s sculpted weigh ten to fifteen pounds and are close to four feet long.
Some of Raven’s pieces have been purchased by art collectors who share his concern for the environment, and a number of them are in galleries around the country including Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. For the “Wild!” show, he’ll exhibit “Fisherman’s Foe” and another hand-sculpted piece, “Rockfish.” Lark’s contributions to the show include a hand-blown glass piece, “Juicy Grape Arrangement,” hand-sculpted “Alluring Trophies,” and a large assortment of colorful blown glass drinking vessels for the home. Summer’s photographs will include wildflowers and wild landscapes; she’ll also exhibit images from her book, Hands at Work, including dramatic photographs of Raven’s hands doing the work he considers so much fun.
For more information about the show, call 468-3265 or stop by the Gallery Wednesday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm or Sunday, 10 am to 3 pm (closed on Tuesdays).