Mickey Davis finds herself in a glass paradise
FERRISBURGH — What’s your favorite space in your home? Curled up under a blanket by the wood stove? Soaking in your deep tub? Perhaps, sitting at the kitchen counter with a strong cup of coffee, or crawling into bed at the end of a long day?
For Maxine “Mickey” Davis it’s her glass studio.
“I have a 16-foot-by-22-foot playroom in my house,” she said beaming as she walked into the space at her Ferrisburgh home.
At first Davis used a smaller version of her studio for painting, but then about 14 years ago, she asked her husband, Norton, to build an addition to the room so she could fit a glass firing kiln inside. He obliged. And at age 80 built the whole thing by himself (except, Norton clarified, for one large piece of plywood he needed for the roof).
Davis uses every square inch of the space to work, store and display her fused glass artwork. There are cubbies tucked under tables full of glass sheets, Tupperware stacked on shelves organizing smaller glass parts, a blender near a sink full of sharp pits and pieces, glass wind chimes hang by the window, glass clocks, animal portraits, wavy storyboards, and other hanging pieces decorate the walls, while a scattering of smaller pieces, jewelry, pins, trinkets, ornaments and more cover the two main working tables.
This is paradise for Davis.
“When you go inside someplace that you love, it’s zen,” she said. “Time passes so quickly in here.”
At age 81, glass is a relatively new endeavor for Davis. This Brooklyn native spent the majority of her career — 45 years to be more accurate — as a school psychologist. She began her career in New York and New Jersey, where she met her husband. When Norton retired they decided to move up to Ferrisburgh and start a farm.
“My youngest was six,” said Maxine, a mother of six. “We moved from suburban New Jersey to the farm across the street. That was a change.”
There they had veal, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, beef cattle and, of course, the obligatory farm cats and dogs.
“It was a real farm,” Davis said.
Together with Norton, Davis tended the farm for several years and continued her psychology work in Addison Northwest and Addison Northeast school districts; she also consulted in Middlebury and other smaller schools.
When the farm work became too much they began renting their cattle fields to neighbors. And when Davis slowed down on the schoolwork, she ramped up her artwork.
“As a senior citizen, you can take art classes at all the schools around for quite cheap,” she said. “I took just one class in jewelry making at Community College of Vermont, all the others were in painting or other subjects.”
Davis remembered one class in particular that really lit her inspiration.
“It was a drawing class at Champlain, and the teacher was Geebo Church… I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t draw.’ And he looked at me and said would anyone walk into a calculus class and say, ‘oh, sorry, I can’t do calculus?’” Davis remembered. “He told me, ‘You can learn to draw, just like you can learn anything else.’”
With that confidence, Davis began with paintings, and then turned her attention to glass.
“It’s just like painting for me,” she said. “I call them my glass paintings.”
Davis has largely taught herself what she knows about fused glass work. Like that each type of glass has a coefficient, and only certain types of glass can fuse with others, otherwise the whole thing cracks in the kiln; or all about how to work with colors in fused glass.
Speaking of colors, Davis is a big fan of using dichroic glass in her work — that’s the multi-color glass that’s highly reflective.
“I just love the coloring, and the way it lights and reflects… You can’t not like that,” she said, pointing to a framed piece of dichroic glass art. “It’s gorgeous.”
The use of dichroic glass might be something that defines Davis’ work, but many glass artists use this material.
“I think what defines my style is the humor I have in everything I do,” Davis said. “I look at life in a funny, positive way… I like to have fun.”
You don’t have to look too hard to find the humor in her pieces. Like in a wavy storyboard of golfers, there’s one lady whose balance is off; or in the type of clothes hanging on the laundry line.
Like any artist, Davis has some pieces she likes more than others.
“I call it the cry factor,” she said. “Just when you really don’t want something to break, it does.”
That’s why she’s extra careful to heat her pieces nice and slowly in the kiln — we’re talking cooking this stuff for 36 hours sometimes. Davis is also extra careful to not cut herself in her studio.
“Sure, I’ve been cut,” she said. “It’s dangerous work, so I move very slowly. I don’t like bleeding all over the place.”
But this artist also isn’t afraid. She’s got lots of confidence and charisma, and wants to share it with others.
So Davis is hosting her semi-annual open studio this weekend Saturday, Nov. 23, and Sunday, Nov. 24, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Stop by her place at 2257 Fuller Mountain Road in North Ferrisburgh. She welcomes everyone to come by and see what she does — no pressure to buy anything.
“When you do something you really like, you just want to show it to other people,” she said.
You can also see Davis’ work at the Shelburne Museum and on her website MaxineDavisGlassArt.com. To contact Maxine “Mickey” Davis call (802) 425-3034.
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