Livin’ the country life

After years and years (actually decades and decades) of looking for the right property, and then months of hauling all our worldly goods across the province (including four brick kilns and tons and tons of glass…whatever made me choose this medium???), we are finally living in the country. And this is the kind of view that inspires me every day now…lucky me! Granted, there’s a lot of new work: (sort of) keeping the weeds down; feeding the hummingbirds; and finding new places for so much stuff; but one of these days (when I actually get the workshop set up), I’ll get back to making some glass. Meanwhile I get to satisfy my creative urges with drapery sewing, room painting, and furniture placement. If you’re in the vicinity of Seeley’s Bay, stop in for a tour!

The Cone of Torture

tourbillon side by side website

So I make food out of glass, right? “Sculptural still lifes,” as I like to call them. Plus, I am a student of art history, with more than a passing interest in the Baroque and Rococo periods. 

Soooo, when I heard about it last spring, it seemed like a no-brainer for me to make a contribution to the upcoming Gardiner Museum exhibition Savour: Food Culture in the Age of Enlightenment. I met with the exhibition’s wonderful curator Meredith Chilton and her design team, and it was decided that I would make some little glass marons glacés, (chestnuts boiled in sugar syrup - more on these another day), and also create a dessert tower for a table representing an “intimate dinner for two.” What an exciting challenge!

Well, it certainly has been a challenge. Even though I have made hundreds of glass macarons before now, I have never had to deal with them with gravity, geometry, and math also playing such a crucial role. Thank heavens for my husband David, whose livelihood involves making sure that giant sheets of glass don’t fall off 40-storey buildings. I don’t think anyone without his expertise could have helped me get those heavy little macarons stuck on that cone (or make the cone) any better. Even with his help, though, there were some days when we couldn’t call what is now known as the Tourbillon de macarons (Macaron Twist) as anything but the “cone of torture.” However, I am so pleased with the result that I am willing to forget how we got there. 

If you’re in Toronto before the middle of January, or in Hartford CT between February and May 2020, make sure you visit  Savour: Food Culture in the Age of Enlightenment. The show is an amazing collection of priceless pieces from the 17th and 18th century, with beautiful descriptions and information, plus a smattering of contemporary pieces like my own.   

Tourbillon de macaron, 2019, kiln-formed and cold-worked glass and mixed media, tin plate.

Serendipitous donut

from the summer of 2019:

grape jelly

This perfect (if I do say so myself) donut is a true lesson in the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” When I first made this “grape jelly” donut I inserted (after firing it to create a perfect blob) a piece of purple translucent glass into the hole I had created. This was supposed to be my blob of grape jelly oozing out of the donut. But it didn’t look right, and I didn’t have time to fix it at that moment, so this guy languished in my studio for months. Finally, after having had some success mixing glass enamels and epoxy resins like paint with other "filled" donuts, I decided to try the same with this one. I mixed the epoxy like paint, tested samples on white paper, and thought I was on to something. However, efforts one and two on the actual donut didn’t work AT ALL: the jelly wasn’t the right colour, viscosity, or translucency. It was too dense and too runny at the same time!I was ready to give up, maybe put some chocolate glaze on top and turn this into a Boston Cream! But as I was wiping off the glaze with a rag soaked in rubbing alcohol, a miracle occurred: the bits of glaze that were watered-down by the alcohol looked just like the smudges of grape jelly I was trying to replicate! Holding my breath, I messed around with it a bit more, and the creation you see here was born. I wouldn’t have minded keeping this one as a reminder of the value of persistence, but it was quickly snapped up by my favourite collectors. I couldn’t have found a better home for it!

Bring home the bacon and eggs for Father’s Day!

Panabaker bacon and eggs

Learn about many aspects of kiln-forming glass, including casting with frit, cutting glass, and slumping for effect at my two-day course at GRAND RIVER GLASSWORKS, and come home with a slice of bacon and a glass fried egg! 

Classes are Friday June 8, from 6 to 8:30 pm, and Saturday June 9, from 1 to 3:30 pm. Cost is $130, and glass experience is helpful but not necessary. (If you want to make extra eggs or bacon, let us know and we’ll arrange for that for a small extra charge.)

You can register at

Make two lovely ornaments for Christmas!

gman and star

Learn about many aspects of kiln-forming glass, including casting with frit, cutting glass, and using enamels at my two-class course at GRAND RIVER GLASSWORKS. 

Classes are Friday November 24, from 6 to 8 pm, and Saturday November 25, from 1 to 3 pm. Cost is $120, and glass experience is not necessary. 

You can register at

Trios continued

seven suppers

These three, while superficially representing breakfast, lunch, and dinner, are actually part of a larger series entitled “Seven Suppers with my Mother.” The frying pan on the right was my mom’s own, used almost every night of the week to feed us for several decades. Steakettes were her most frequent offering, (accompanied by boiled potatoes and broccoli), and these glass versions are my deeply-felt memorial to her.

Welcome to my Play Land (Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, 2017)

Although I would never deny the power of art to effect social change or at least foster enlightenment, I disagree that profundity or controversy should be art’s only raison d’être. There is a place for humour in art, and arguably, in difficult times, a place for art that produces a smile. 

This year I presented my glass/mixed media sculptural still lifes in a more conceptual arrangement. With few exceptions, I grouped the pieces into stories or ideas, most of which make sense with a little bit of thought. To a large extent, the pieces come from my (mostly happy) experiences as a middle-class child of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which I hope will produce sparks of recognition from viewers who shared that experience as a guinea pig of the modern food industry, and/or life with a mom who didn’t really like to cook.

The Greeks argued that good poetry should “instruct and delight,” and this criterion has also been applied to visual art over the ages. If I lean towards “delight” in my concepts, I am also happy to “instruct” when it comes to the technical aspects of producing this glass. I have invested countless hours of work in these pieces, with dozens of firings, interminably tedious cold work, and questionably healthy chemical applications. Since kiln-formed (warm) glass is often a mystery to those more familiar with the rock-star magic of blown (hot) glass, I’ve included in posts below some videos detailing my processes. 

And in the meantime, if you smile, or you start to feel a little peckish after you see these pieces, my work is done.

How to make all that and a bowl of chips:

How to make spaghetti the hard way, (like over months):

The power of threes:

Along with my interest in the visual arts, I have long been fascinated with word play and puzzles. So this year, my new sculptural still lifes will be inspired as much by context as autobiography. Stemming first from the simple idea of “breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” the pieces will be grouped in threes, sometimes for obvious reasons, and at other times for reasons known only to me. Here’s a sample:

“Macaron, Macaroon, Macaroni.”

Mac mac mac

It does me no credit to admit that this threesome was inspired purely by my impatience with the many individuals who, upon viewing my glass macarons, would exclaim, “oh look at the macarOONS!” Since both good manners and the “customer is always right” rule prevented me from correcting these folks, I was driven to provide an example that would make the correction for me. Hopefully, no one’s feelings will be hurt. 

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© Janet Panabaker 2021       follow me on Instagram!