Sometimes, during a down moment
in a frenzied day, the fantasy about pursing a dream - becoming
a fishing guide, playing jazz piano or writing the great American
novel - creeps in among the deadline pressures and ferrying
the kids to soccer practice. Usually the moment is merely
an indulgence. The dream fades. The routines and responsibilities
Some tenaciously hang on to
their vision: Melrose's Gary Borkan is one who did, giving
up a career in scientific research for antiques and glass
blowing. The results of that pursuit are now on display at
the Hourglass Gallery on Main St. which sells Borkan's multi-hued,
A few decades ago, educated
with a Ph.D. in biological anthropology, Borkan was employed
in aging research at the Veterans Administration in Boston.
After 10 years, he decided to switch fields and devote his
full attention to his long-standing interest in antiques.
He specializes in antique posters and prints which he sells
online from his own Web site at www.rare-posters.com.
"I am a visually oriented
person and I've always appreciated art," Borkan said.
"I have been interested in learning glassblowing for
30 years. When I first came to Boston, I looked into glassblowing
instruction, but could not find a studio that offered any
Borkan eventually found his
chance to explore his interest thanks to a Melrose artisans'
gallery. The Hourglass Gallery offered classes taught by the
artists whose work it features. Borkan attended a class taught
by Walter Prince an experienced glassblowing artist. During
conversation Prince mentioned another antique dealer who also
created glass artwork at the same studio. Borkan was surprised
to learn about Ken Ostrow's glassblowing avocation. Ironically,
Ostrow was a colleague whom Borkan had known for 15 years.
Borkan and Ostrow
worked out a deal in which Borkan would assist Ostrow
with his glassblowing, and Ostrow would teach Borkan
the basic techniques in exchange. Every Tuesday for
the past four years the two have created glass artwork
in a studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The art of glassblowing has
been around for many centuries. The tools and methods used
today would be familiar to an artisan working in the 1500s.
Even after 500 years of modern civilization, the process remains
taxing. It requires specific highly refined skills be executed
precisely in a short period of time before the glass cools.
These subtle skills take a very long time to perfect, and
few people find the learning process easy. In fact, just a
half year ago, Borkan contemplated giving it all up.
"You need a very high
level of concentration during the entire process. It also
requires great eye-hand coordination. Both of these skills
did not come easily to me and yet were essential for successful
outcome. I found it very challenging."
However, earlier this year
Borkan made some small, but significant, changes in his technique
and became more encouraged about his capabilities. After noticing
a definite improvement, he felt confident enough to experiment
with color and composition to begin to develop his signature
"I like the swirling
effect I can give to the colors by twisting with the large,
metal tweezers when the glass is still molten. Then I thought
of nature as my inspiration," Borkan said, showing off
an oval vase. The top half is a dazzling robin's egg blue
background with gentle wisps of white and royal blue. The
bottom is dotted with specks of greens randomly reaching into
the blue hues. Gazing at this piece one can imagine being
in a meadow on a perfect summer's day. Sure enough, "earth
and sky" provided the inspiration for the piece. To fully
appreciate the artistry, the eye must view the piece from
various angles and directions. Each turn and tilt of the vase
offers the opportunity to see beautiful distinctions of color
and shape from different perspectives.
Borkan acknowledges the tremendous
support of others who have contributed to his progress -Walter
Prince for piquing his interest, Ken Ostrow for his teaching,
his wife, Martha, for her encouragement and Lorrie DiCesare,
proprietor of The Hourglass Gallery, for promoting his art