AN ARTIST = HARD WORK + REPUTATION
by Kirby Lindsay
Meet Dick Weiss. Weiss, a full-time, professional artist, lives in Fremont with his wife, Sonja Blomdahl (also a glass artist) and their son, Ray (he also has a grown daughter, Melissa). He works here as well, crafting glass and ceramic art in his studio in the basement of his home located near the Fremont Baptist Church.
Fremonster, By Convenience
Weiss came to Fremont when his brother, who saw the potential of the depressed housing market here, sold him one of his investment properties at cost - $12,500. Weiss said he recognized the bargain, even for 1976, although the neighborhood consisted then, as Weiss recalled, of nothing but drug dealers, old people, bikers – and hippies, like himself.
“What drew me to Fremont was that it was cheap, and in the city,” Weiss explained. “I’m a fan of dense urban stuff,” he said, “you’ve got to build in the city. Growth is going to happen, and we [in Fremont] have done it in a classy way. It’s kept an eclectic quality.”
The same year he bought his house, he took another great leap. His career was on the railroads, as a switchman, but one day he took a stained glass class and built a window for his bathroom. As he made friends in the burgeoning glass art community, he found himself in art and, at age 30, he quit the railroad.
He calls this “the scariest thing I ever did!” For a while he hedged his bet, working, in his words, as a ‘bad remodel carpenter,’ but “it gets old to work two different jobs,” he acknowledged, and “it didn’t work for me.”
Fremont Artist, By Choice
“I’m not really that talented, or very smart,” Weiss demurred, with severe humility, “but I’ll get up in the morning and work hard.” He believes in the power of hard work, “even a blind pig will find an acorn now and then.” Fellow artist John Landon described Weiss’ work as, “all over the map – from Bauhaus to Baroque.” Weiss quoted Paul Marinoi who said Weiss “started minimal and ended up maximal.”
Weiss started with super simple geometric patterns and still uses them, mostly in his windows (“stained glass sells more,” he explained.) Public installations by Weiss can be seen at the Gates Foundation garage near Seattle Center (this one is 60’ long by 15’ wide), and at Sea-Tac Airport.
He also has his more “splashy-wacky side,” as he described it, usually incorporated in his ceramics. Examples include his ‘Owls’ series (with the one crow) and plates he made inspired by a plate his mother owned. These can be seen on the Traver Gallery website. “Every artist needs a gallery,” Weiss praised, “the gallery is the reputable dealer.”
“Cracks are God’s way of helping me with my design,” Weiss explained. In his stained glass he incorporates ‘mistakes.’ When a piece of beveled glass broke, he added lead and added a triangular shape to the design. He shifted a blue spiraled rondel (round, flat blown glass) he’d chosen, due to it having a flat spot, so it now hugs the window edge.
To Weiss, artistic success comes down to “Reputation, Reputation, Reputation.” He struggles with self-promotion – as he said, “there is a fine line between being a pompous turkey, and being honest and sounding like a pompous turkey.” But he works hard and seen his reputation build, slowly. “I want to get just visible enough to earn an income, but not enough to get in the limelight,” he said, from the quiet of his Fremont studio, “and have the phone ringing all the time.”
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.