Made With Fire

Madison-based glass artist Bickis focuses on natural world

His collection of glass marbles
have become fan favorites

(Sept. 20, 2019) – I’ve always been a maker,” declares local Madison, Ind., glass artist Seth Bickis. From the days when he hung out with his grandfather in his workshop until years later when he perfected distinctive glass techniques, Bickis has always been creating his own art.

Photo by Don Ward

Glass artist Seth Bickis of Madison, Ind., poses in his Chautauqua booth.

“I was interested in learning how to make something,” said Bickis of his days in his grandfather’s shop. In his quest he discovered glass as an artistic medium and was hooked.
He stumbled upon an artist demonstrating how to work with glass rods and flame at a festival and loved the experience. He immediately felt he was part of the process and began to devote more time to studying the glass work he saw all around him, he said.
Bickis will be participating in his eighth Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art this year and is assigned to Booth No. 326 on Vine Street.
Bickis, 36, has been creating exceptional glass artwork for more than 12 years now. He refers to it as a “limitless medium. When heat becomes malleable, it only takes 10 to 15 seconds for it to heat again.”
For the most part, Bickis is self-taught as an artist. “I have taken a few classes over the years and try to do conferences.” Bickis has worked full time for the last four years with his business, Made with Fire.
He creates goblets, pendants, ornaments and shot glasses but has a large following due to the orbs or marbles that he makes. He uses a variety of colors that swirl to create beautiful free flowing designs. “I like working with layers.”
To make the marbles, Bickis uses a propane and oxygen fueled torch to melt glass rods and tubes.
At 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the glass begins to soften, and then he adds different colored glass while he works it into shape.
These “objects can be viewed from all angles,” he said. “They are made interesting from all aspects.”
Others are mesmerized by his marbles, enough so for him to have created Madison’s Lost its Marbles a few years ago. Marbles, like the ones he creates in addition to the work of other artists, were hid all over Madison.
Several hundred well-known artists participated in the event. Clues were left by artists on the World’s Biggest Marble Hunt Facebook page and on their personal Facebook profiles.
It was a “great family friendly event open to everyone,” said Bickis, and included demonstrations on how marbles are made. “An active group of people still keep it going.”
There are a number of groups on social media dedicated to marble making, and the market for glass art has been steadily growing. The group that planned the “hunt,” Black Market Marbles, found more than 13,000 in less than a year. Bickis likes participating because it is a way to make art more accessible to people in a fun way.
Bickis said his marbles and additional glass work are “a little different than what you would find at other art fairs.” When not creating, he stays busy by participating in 20 art shows annually.
Working from his home studio in Madison, where he is originally from, he said he is inspired by literally everything when creating a piece of his glass artwork. “Anything in the natural world,” such as the sea, cosmos and flowers can find a place in his work.
Flowers are a popular theme in his creations. He is fascinated by the level of artistic difficulty required to capture the petals and delicate details of a flower inside of glass. But the outcome is amazing in the detail of his pieces.
Bickis’ preferred technique is known as lampwork or flameworking, a style that uses a torch as a localized heat source to melt glass rods. It differs from traditional glassblowing in that it allows more control and additional time to work with the glass.
He works mainly in borosilicate glass, which has amazing properties in clarity, strength and function. He works with a technique described as a compression where it “allows me to compose beautiful florals with depth, clarity and precision.”
During his very first year at the Madison Chautauqua, Bickis demonstrated lamp working at his booth. The theme for Chautauqua that year honored the 50th anniversary of American Studio Glass.
The event brought glass artists, teachers and students together with collectors and fans all in one spot, while providing a learning opportunity for everyone. Bickis sometimes teaches classes and workshops but does not have any scheduled for the immediate future.
He prefers to participate in the Madison Chautau-qua show because “it’s a hometown show. For most shows you have to travel quite a bit.” He has traveled as far as California for a marble show because of the interest in the artwork.
“Having a show at your back door is really nice,” he said. “It’s a nice setting and draws a good crowd.”
He said that having repeat customers definitely keeps him in business. Collectors flock to his artwork, always wanting a new piece. “All of my work is one-of-a-kind,” he said.

Bickis said of his glass artwork, “It’s the most rewarding, dedicated art form and way to make a living I have ever experienced. It’s almost an addiction.”

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