This summer Jason McQuaid (and his wife, Nicole) were among the group of Laguna Beach glassblowers entrusted with the challenging task of creating a commemorative “Torch of Light” sculpture honoring long-time Sawdust Art Festival artists, founders, and contributors that have passed away. The hand-blown glass and stainless steel sculpture will have the 80 names of those being remembered engraved in the metal base and the glass portion will light up once installed near the waterfall on the festival grounds.
The “Torch of Light” memorial stands 8.5′ and is made up of a 4′ stainless steel base created by sculpture artist Larry Gill with a clear glass “torch” portion that was hand-blown by the entire team of Sawdust glassblowers. In addition to the McQuaids, the Sawdust glassblowers’ guild includes LQAF artists Christopher Jeffries and Marcus Thesing, along with John Barber, Loren Chapman, Bruce Freund, Gavin Heath, Michael Panetta, Muffin Spencer-Devlin, and Michele Taylor.
The fashioning of the glass torch demanded precise teamwork. Beyond the strength needed to constantly manipulate 30 or so pounds of glass, which feels even heavier when it’s molten hot, explained Nicole McQuaid, extra hands are needed to accomplish simultaneous tasks. The team spent 2.5 hours forming the sculpture. Then in the climactic finale, they knocked the finished torch from the blowpipe into the thickly-gloved forearms of Jeffries, who placed it reverently in the annealing oven for a slow cool down. Sawdust board member Jay Grant, who witnessed the experience, describes the event as “the most extraordinary moment” in his 38 years at the Sawdust.
The installation was formally dedicated on August 21, 2012. The Sawdust Art Festival concluded its 46th season on September 2nd.
Jason McQuaid started out with “a small career in graphic design, which is what I went to school for,” he relates. “I worked with Surfer Magazine and Clairol and a few other companies, mostly freelance work. I saw glass blowing when I was over in Hawaii at the UH campus visiting a ceramicist friend working on his graduate degree. I played around with a little bit of glass and it was really cool. When I met Nicole, she was making little glass beads and I decided to try it out. I really liked the medium and decided to go larger.”