Name: Lee Proctor
Profession: Owner of Lee Proctor Studios, Glass/metal artist
Q: Tell me about how you got to Montana?
A: I grew up in Virginia and South Florida and I was looking to go to school. … I was looking at a little book … and here was Flathead Community College, of all places. I ended up coming out that fall and we were traveling and camping. We came over that hill and saw Flathead Lake and I was done. It was so beautiful and so extremely different from South Florida. I fell in love with Montana.
Q: How did you get into glasswork?
A: I went to horse shoeing school at Montana State, so my whole background has been in metal. Glass is relatively new. I did a lot of architectural work and sculpture ….I had seen [Dale Chihuly’s work] at the Hockaday. I never dreamed that I’d be interested in glass. I just thought of glass as goblets and small vessels. In ’03 I just got a wild hair to go to Pilchuck Glass School and check out glass blowing.
When I got back, I realized there was no facility here. I knew that it would be cool to mix it with the metals, so I ended up building a studio here in Bigfork. Glass is really something to learn — it’s hot and intimidating. It’s very technical to execute anything of size, so at first we were making bowls and vessels and experimenting a lot.
Q: What kind of work do you do now?
A: Historically, I’ve done a lot of architectural work …. it’s basically functional sculpture. If I do a railing, it’s usually got glass in it.
Q: Tell me about the bird glass sculpture, “Red Tail,” displayed at Frame of Reference Fine Art in Whitefish.
A: It was a learning curve. That ‘Red Tail’ was actually one of the earlier ones that I thought were successful. We start off with a bubble. I’d blow a bubble and then we roll it in some of those reds and colors you’re seeing … and then we might add a little more color later. Once I get the bubble developed, we actually use tweezers and other shaping tools to define the tail, or the wing line or the eye.
Q: How long did the piece take to complete?
A: I’d say he’s probably about an hour with two of us working. Some of the more elaborate ones … they took as much as two and a half hours. With glass blowing, you can’t stop until it’s in the box, as they say.
Q: Tell me about the show that “Red Tail” was featured in.
A: I did a solo exhibit last summer at the Bigfork Art and Cultural Center, so that’s a pretty big room. The name the show was ‘Flying Dreams.’ I love birds; I’ve always had birds pop up in my work, whether in painting or metal or glass. I thought of them as little totems. We did a series of them and the more we did, the more we got into them. We would base them on a species — red tail hawks, ospreys, I did some ravens.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: They invited me to do another solo exhibit this summer BACC. This year it’s going to be plant life. I think it’s going to be called ‘Grounded.’ The first thing we did is we started a seed series — they’re round forms, but the seed is going to be in various stages of growth. We’ve already done about five or six of those. Then we’re going to do some metal leaf shapes and blow the glass into the leaves.
Learn more about Lee’s work by visiting www.proctorstudios.com.