As featured in the Easton Express-Times, August 4, 2008
Festival gives crafters a hand: Artisans find a place for their wares at Musikfest.
By AMY STETTS
All of Musikfest’s platzes are essentially performance stages, except for one — Handwerkplatz.
This serene, inspired stretch of grass draws accomplished artisans from as far as Florida who want to peddle their creations to the herds of fans that descend on downtown Bethlehem.
"While Musikfest may primarily be known for its music, the organization has always promoted and showcased the visual arts and all forms of creative expression," Musikfest spokeswoman Kim Plyer, says.
Fest goers can buy handmade soap, gourmet dog treats, jewelry, bonsai plants, paintings, glass art, salsa dips, portraits and more at the venue, set near the banks of the Monocacy Creek.
"Handwerkplatz is a juried venue, which means artists must submit an application and images of their work, which will be reviewed by our jurying committee," Plyler explains.
She says there is a booth fee to participate, but artisans aren’t required to kick back any portion of sales to ArtsQuest, Musikfest’s parent organization.
Silversmith Barry Gebhart of Bethlehem (bgjewelry.com) has been selling his jewelry and other wares at Musikfest for more than seven years.
Gebhart, who retired from Bethlehem Steel in 1997 and decided to pursue his silver work fulltime to support his pension, will be at Handwerkplatz all 10 days of Musikfest.
"Even though (people) aren’t there for crafts, they’re there for music, I get enough business to make it worth my while," he says. "It’s the only non-craft show I do."
Gebhart says rings and jewelry with the Star of Bethlehem design are big sellers at the festival.
Glass artist Erica Biery of Allen Township (glassbyerica.com) will make her first Handwerkplatz appearance this year.
"I do handmade glass items and glass-fused work — bowls, plates, platters, jewelry," she says.
Biery, who also teaches numerous glass art classes, will be at Musikfest Aug. 6 to 10.
She expects her dichroic jewelry and recycled artwork to be popular with fest goers.
"I flatten liquor bottles with painted labels, like Grey Goose, and turn them into cheese boards," she says, adding that local bars donate the empty containers.
"It’s kind of a joke, people always ask, ‘Do you drink all this?’" she says with a laugh.
As featured in the Express-Times, November 23, 2007
Heart of glass
By SUSAN KALAN, 11/23/07
Erica Biery frequents local bars regularly with a mission in mind: to relieve them of their "empties" destined for curbside.
What’s trash for most folks will be turned into artful treasures by the Allen Township artist who makes her livelihood fusing glass.
Biery, 27, specializes in handmade glass creations — jewelry, bowls, plates, stained glass, mosaics and more.
Give her a Rolling Rock, Corona or Grey Goose brand bottle, and she’ll turn it into culinary art as a functional spoon rest or cheese tray.
Biery is among the 100-plus artisans at this year’s Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem holiday market today through Dec. 31.
A first-time exhibitor at the event, she will participate during the last three weekends of its run in December, bringing along fused glass bowls, plates, coasters, ornamental snowflakes and rubber-stamped pins.
A 1998 graduate of Northampton Area High School, Biery received a degree in psychology from Penn State in 2002. But she says she was always dabbling in painting and drawing.
"I wanted something creative," she says from her home studio, where she is surrounded by boxes of assorted sheet glass, fiberboard molds, grinders, bevelers and kilns.
She puts on safety glasses before picking up a pistol-grip cutter to score glass.
Her love for glass came by accident two years after graduation, she says, when she found a job through a staffing agency at Warner-Crivellaro Stained Glass in Bethlehem.
Sharing the art
She took advantage of the resources and experimented with stained glass, mosaics, fused glass and bead making. She traveled the country studying with well-known artists in the medium and eventually started teaching others in classes at Warner-Crivellaro.
Since then, she has taught a glass fusion introduction course at Northampton Community College and at Bethlehem’s Banana Factory.
Biery also presented a stained glass demonstration of a modified Tiffany glass project at the opening of the Allentown Art Museum’s "Tiffany by Design" exhibit in the fall.
She calls glass fusing "a fairly new technique," with "lots of trial and error" in working with bubbles, cracks, expansion and contraction. She says it’s "not quite as intimidating as glass blowing, where you’re working with really hot, molten glass."
Biery begins fusing by putting glass into a kiln and melting it at temperatures about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The process takes anywhere from four to 24 hours, depending on the size and thickness of the piece.
She says it takes so long because glass needs to be heated and cooled at certain rates so it doesn’t crack.
Fused pieces are made by cutting sheet glass to a specific shape and size. The glass is then stacked in layers in ceramic molds, often built custom for the object.
Each piece then requires a specialized kiln firing schedule, depending on the volume of the glass. A single object may be fired four or more times with grinding and reworking in between.
Biery creates her jewelry by carefully cutting out small pieces of glass and layering them on top of one another to create a unique design. The brilliant, shiny glass, called dichroic glass, is made by spraying metal oxides on sheet glass. This causes a transparent metallic film on the surface of the glass that takes on different colors depending on the angle it is viewed from, she explains.
In creating a mosaic, a picture or design is constructed from smaller, separate pieces of glass, with each piece affixed onto a surface. Grouting is then applied to seal the layer. Different varieties of glass can be incorporated together to create the design, she adds.
Stained glass is a process in which small pieces of glass are arranged to form patterns or pictures, held together by strips of lead or copper foil. The pieces are then soldered together.
It’s all those artistic opportunities glass offers that drew Biery to the craft.
"It helped me realize how amazing and diverse the medium is," she says.