The Etching Leads Me Down the Rabbit Hole and I Arrive at Pam Marlen

We lived on Ferguson, just off of Fox Farm Road, in Great Falls.  The Marlens were our neighbours.  Charlie, a medical professional, was a big hunter.  I remember, at my age, thinking that was a pretty amazing thing, but really different.  My Dad and brothers were big fishermen, but they had never journeyed into that world.  As for Pam, she was a life-giving free spirit.  She exuded creative and fun-loving energy.  Our families shared many wonderful times.  A little younger than me, the Marlen kids; Jimmy, Chuck and Ann, were all sweet.

When I headed to Lethbridge for University and my family was moving east, my mother had my etching framed up professionally and I gave it to the Marlens as a gift.  I believe Mr. Winenger allowed me to take the copper plate home, and yet all these years later, I haven’t a print or the plate, but have only a strong recollection of both the process and the piece.

Searching for a photograph of the etching, led me to go deeper into the rabbit hole and there I found young Chuck’s tribute to his mother, eloquently written in 2017.  I tried leaving comments on his blog, but every time I clicked “POST COMMENT”, my words were eaten up and disappeared into who-knows-where.

I think that it is the fact that I haven’t been able to connect that has led me to this series of posts because today has been a day of nostalgia since coming upon the blog post about Pam.  Once, through University, I traveled by bus to Great Falls and visited Pam and Charlie.  I have also tucked away the gift of a Fanny Farmer cookbook they gave me as a wedding gift.  It is one of my treasures.

Young Charlie’s blog…

Art Studio Poster Explaining Pam Marlen’s Glass Bead Making Process

Today would be my mother’s 79th birthday, she passed away in 1997.

Pam Marlen ( Mary Pamela Smith) 1938-1997 Artist

I have very little of my Mother’s artwork, and if not for the kindness of my little brother sending me several items I would not have any.

As-well-as designing Passive Solar Houses, Gardens, and Landscaping – She also created amazing fused glass creations, pottery, glass beads, quilting, water colors, stained glass, and probably many other items I’m not remembering as I write this post.

She would even make the  unusual fun vests she would wear to events …

Back label on Pam Marlen’s ‘Buttons to Beads’ Self-Portrait

Much of my mother’s artwork was sold and anything left after her death was distributed amongst the family; therefore, the stunning Fused Glass pieces are owned by others, but I am very happy to have what might be one of my mother’s only artistic self-portraits.

Buttons to Beads Quilt with Glass Beads by Pam Marlen

Pam Marlen didn’t do anything normal, and if she was going to do a self-portrait of course it would be something unusual like combining Quilting & Glass Bead making to make the portrait of her making Glass Beads …

Paper that was pinned to Quilt – Houston National Quilt and Beads Showing

She also included herself playing with buttons as a child in the portrait …

Pam Marlen as Child Playing with Buttons

All of the Glass Beads attached to the quilt were made by Pam Marlen and they were sewn to the quilt using buttons on the back …

Back of Buttons to Beads Self-Portrait Quilt by Pam Marlen

My mother liked to save items that she didn’t feel were worth selling because there was an imperfection on those items… she didn’t save much but some items had imperfections she liked and would save them inside her studio, just for her own collection.

I’m not sure how many people knew about her ‘imperfection collection‘, but she and I talked about them once and it was fascinating how she liked something special about each one.

Fused Glass Examples in Background

A few years ago I found 2 new glass fusing/ceramic kilns for sale at a very good price and I purchased them … While my mother had taught me a little about fusing glass, I took a private ‘one-day’ class to refresh my memory.

Link to Post: Firebox-8 Kiln Height Extension

This Firebox-8 Kiln’s Temperature is Manually Controlled

Creating Fused Glass artwork is about predicting how it will look when finished semi-melting/fusing together … Thus, having no idea how to predict, I just overlapped interesting colors of broken glass into a pattern.

Cut & Broken Glass in Kiln before 1st Melting

After the first melting the instructor was very let down that the glass had cracked, but being my mother’s son I said, “Oh that makes it even more interesting, lets leave it and do the final melting to fuse it as is” …

Broken Slumped Glass that Broke and Re-Fused in Kiln

The final kiln firing softened the broken edges and created an interesting Fused Glass piece …  I placed it on my dresser and consider it the first of many of my own  ‘imperfection collection’ artwork pieces.

I imagine there will be many future Metal Castings to add to this collection 🙂

First Try and Glass Artwork on My Dresser

In addition to saving imperfect pieces, my mother also would create small pottery pieces that she could use to test out Pottery Glaze formulas …

Mini Glaze-Test Pottery Parts by Pam Marlen

It appears the items my little brother sent to me were part of a Green Glaze test and even these little items had her signature on the bottom.

While I only have test pottery pieces by my mother, I am proud to have those items because that is how I remember her – Always experimenting!!

Bottom of the Green Glaze
Formula Test Pottery by Pam Marlen

She signed all of her Pottery with a PM symbol  (Click images for larger view)

Pottery Signature on Test Glaze items by Pam Marlen

She had shelves of these small glaze-test pottery items in her studio …

A larger piece of pottery that was probably a Green Glaze-Test item

Mary Pamela Smith (Pam Marlen) was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma to E.R. and Mildred Smith on July 31, 1938.
She created most of her artwork in or near Great Falls, Montana.

This looks like a Bowl she used to test some Green Pottery Glaze

The pottery I remember the most as a child was a natural wash look as shown in the image below with hand-touched clay items added to pottery she had thrown on her potter’s wheel.

Natural Glaze with Clay Hard Artwork on Pottery

For years she would make pottery Christmas Ornaments and give them out to friends and family… Many times having us as kids help her.

Received photos of an items my mother made that I had not viewed before …

Hat made for Pat Erickson by Pam Marlen

Pat Erickson sent these photos to me of a hat my mother made for her …

If you enlarge the photo and look closely the bugs on the hat are glass beads.

Hat with Glass Bead Bugs made by Pam Marlen for Pat Erickson

Pat mentioned Pam Marlen made this hat for her birthday 🙂

Hat created by Pam Marlen with Painted leaves & Glass Bead Bugs

Thank You Pat for taking the time to send these photos!! 🙂

.   .   .

Pam Marlen had a stroke at age 58 in April of 1997 while giving a speech to get donations for the flood victims of the Grand Forks, North Dakota flood of 1997… passing away later in the year.

She lived an interesting life … and myself being a Star Trek fan it was almost surreal to come home to visit and learn her quilting group was asked to be extras in a movie directed by Leonard Nimoy… being very private director he would rarely talk to people on set; however, he would come over talk to my mother about quilting and other artistic items.

My mother met SPOCK …Too Cool!!

… MISS YOU MOM  

. . .

Old Photos of Charles J. Marlen Jr. … So when I lose them they can be found
online in a Google Search 🙂 CMR High School called Chuck Marlen

I think this photo was taken in about 1966

This photo looks to be about 1985 … Sometime during College

Sometime in the Late 1980s

 

Chillin’ in Hot Key West, Florida

Drysuit Scuba ‘Cold-Water’ Diving in Alaska

There *grin* … at least when I pass away, something will be online. *lol*

  CHEERS!! 

.  .  .

 

Storm Gathering: Now Arrived

BOOM! Boom of thunder as I type.

It felt cozy in the studio while listening to Dave Matthew’s Band on the stereo.  It’s always wonderful to be in that space when it’s grey outside.  It just feels so warm and bright.  I noticed before I began my sanding that the birds were in a bit of a frenzy at the feeder.  I wanted to belt out a warning to them.  The neighbour across the way has an ‘outdoor cat’.  I woke this morning to watch as the cat pitched a bird up in the air over and over again, batting it viciously and then tossing it again, over and over until it lay lifeless…the cat walked away…its owner, in bathrobe, sipped from a Tim Horton’s cup and smoked a cigarette while watching.  Seems like torture to me.  She was probably saying to herself, “This is what it’s like in nature.”

I kept from talking to her about it.  I try not to razz the neighbours.  I also had to change my mindset.  I remembered Mom and Dad singing this one in the station wagon.  We all laughed about the ‘wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside ‘er’ part…guess it’s the lighter side of the predator story.

Back to the birds…they seemed to be getting a good feed before the storm!

P1120352 P1120353I heard a chickadee in the tree, but of course the little thing had to wait for the sparrows to fly off in unison at the bark of my dog and then it had its chance.

P1120356All this activity happening at the front of the house, I went out to the studio to get some stripping and sanding done.

Grey clouds were gathering, but the studio looked welcoming and the music was set to playing.

P1120359 P1120361Good physical work, music and a glass of fizzy ice water…a perfect combination for time well-spent!

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I came inside to find my ‘indoor cat’ jumping off the red couch to greet me.  Life is good.

 

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