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7 posts from January 2008

Making A Firebowl by Night

I was working late in the studio one night, just before the snow came, trying to finish up a rush order of fire bowls for the Sheraton Hotel in Honolulu… My neighbor Preston Cole stopped by and shot a bunch of pictures as the sun went down. They came out just great… I love how industrial the sparks look, not to mention the great reflected light from the torch. I haven't had any photos of the work process, so actually, I never really knew what the cutting looks like from the other end of the torch.

John T. Unger Cutting Firebowls in the studio

You can see a finished fire bowl in the left corner, the bowl I'm cutting (of course), a blank behind me waiting it's turn and the huge drift of scrap in the lower right… pretty much the entire life cycle of a Great Bowl O Fire. Preston gave me a framed copy of this image for Christmas and it was the best gift I got this year!

You can click this photo to see it larger.

A Firebowl for Southwest Florida Beach Home

A while back I posted an email I'd gotten from Ben in Florida, who ordered a customized version of the Great Bowl O Fire. He sent me a great photo of it recently:

Florida beach Firebowl with concrete benches Great-Bowl-O-Fire-firebowl-Customer-Photo004

Ben and I had a conversation about what kind of benches would look best with the bowl, and I suggested doing curved benches in concrete. Ben did the benches himself after having the pavers laid in and I think they look absolutely awesome! Nice work, Ben!

I also love bushes in the foreground of the photo that look like flames themselves. very cool.

Still Life with Recycled Steel Grill and Central Park


My friend Debra sent me some great shots of her Firebird Grill with the NYC skyline all lit up behind the bowl. You can see the lights of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, the Triborough bridge and other landmarks. I can't wait to see the spring pictures she's promised with cherry blossoms in Central Park. She also included the following note:

John! You gave me a Fire Bowl! I'm stunned and delighted and moved. And I received it on *Sept. 21*, Fall Equinox/culmination of Lamas. Which is a time when you're supposed to burn your Lamas doll that you've created at the beginning of Lamas, and then live with until Equinox, and then burn it, ritually. And now I have this beautiful work of art to do my burning. It's just gorgeous. Thank you so much! It truly is a work of art. I am going to be studying it intensely over the next few days. I'm just thrilled and surprised and appreciative. It's on my terrace now, on my Italian tiles from the late 1800s. Getting acquainted with its new home (it seems content out there!).




The Great Bowl O Fire on 7th Ave Rooftop Garden

Great Bowl o Fire firebowl on penthouse roof garden

I got to visit the one and only Great Bowl O Fire in NYC while I was there… sadly, you can't see the Empire State or Chrysler buildings from this side of the building, but there's a great view of the rooftop garden at the Chelsea Hotel if you peer down past the wall. My favorite thing on this rooftop was the life guard's chair that looks over the south end of Manhattan! Man, if I had a chair like that, with a view like that, you'd never get me out of it.

Wendy was really cool to let me come visit the bowl and check out the view. We had a great time chatting and I got a chance to see some of the other art she's collected.

roof garden firebowl NYC skyline


Clive Thompson shows off his Firebird Grill

Clive Thompson with Firebird Grill

Clive's been a great friend over the years. We've never had a chance to actually hang out in person though until my visit to NYC this summer when we had some excellent BBQ. I brought him a Pot-de-Feu Grill as a gift, which he totally dug.

Happy New Year

So much cool stuff happened in 2007 that I'm having a had time coming up with a list of it all… Hands down it was the best year ever as an artist.

In thinking about it, I've realized that even though the art business has done really well, it's often the social element that really makes art fun for me. I love hearing back from people who are ecstatic with the art they've purchased; I like talking with people about projects and coming up with just the right thing; I dig getting to meet more of the people I've previously only communicated with online; I like the interesting opportunities that crop up as a side effect of blogging, making art, etc.

I got so busy with art, code, consulting, traveling and so on last year that I really barely got a chance to write anything for the blog… I'm going to try to make a better effort this year… I'm hoping that some of the new ideas I've been playing with the last few months will come together to make that a bit easier. More organization, more outsourcing and hiring, and a new studio that I hope to start building as soon as the snow goes (more on that soon).

In the meantime, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who made 2007 rock!

Some of the highlights for 2007 include (in no particular order):

  • I sold exactly 100 firebowls in 2007, not counting the Pot-de-Feus and Braziers! That was really exciting… especially since it took two years to sell the first 50.
  • I took a trip to NYC and got to meet up with a lot of cool people that I only knew through the web before: Clive Thompson, BL Ochman, Debra Condren, some of the crew at Etsy Labs. The funny thing about New York is that even though I've only visited it once before, I recognized more of the city than I do Chicago where I lived for five years. Weird.
  • I spoke on my first tech panel at BlogWorld Expo with Denise Wakeman and Rich Brooks. It was great to get a chance to hang out with both of them.
  • I added a bunch of new designs to the firebowl line and came up with some improvements to the way I make them.
  • The firebowls also picked up some nice wholesale accounts that helped to make it a record year.
  • I've got a new project going with Chris Carfi that I can't talk about yet, but the prototypes just arrived and I'm geeked! Details soon.
  • I hired a shop assistant part time this year in the studio. Kurt's been doing a great job on finishing the bowls after I cut them, and the relief of turning over the grinding to someone else is huge.
  • TypePad Hacks officially became for hire this year and I've worked with some really great people on some stellar blogs.
  • I fell in love with Austin, TX during SXSWi. I'll be going again this year.
  • Lots of new equipment in the shop this year, including: A huge air compressor, a forklift, a stick welder, new 7" grinders, and a bunch of assorted smaller gear.
  • There was a lot of press this year, as documented on the press page.
  • I got to do some really interesting consulting gigs, especially on the PayPal Storefront Widget.
  • I found an architect to work with one designing the new house and studio building.
  • I learned that I can get ten times as much done as I would have thought, and also figured out that I'd actually rather do a little less and find the time for a real social life ;-)
  • There were a lot of really cool projects this year (Like 5 gas fired Great Bowls O Fire for the Sheraton on Waikiki Beach!). I haven't got pictures back yet for most of the really huge projects, but I'm totally looking forward to seeing them.

I'm pretty excited for the new year… Lots of cool projects ramping up already, which I'm really looking forward to. But I'm also going to take a bit more time to get out and travel this year. Should be fun.

Under the Right Conditions

I got a cool photo and note in the mail a while back… long enough ago that I really should have posted it for halloween. In case you can't make out the handwriting, it says "Under the right conditions, the Great Bowl O Fire conjures up ghosts."

Ghosts Firepit

Struber Ghosts Firepit2

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About John

John T. Unger If my job as an artist is to fill the world with "more things," I feel it is equally important that I reclaim materials from the waste stream to make space for my work. — John T. Unger

I believe creative re-use has the potential to spark new ways of looking at the world… if one thing can be turned into another, what else can we change? Successful recycled art encourages creativity in others— it's alchemical, magical, subversive, and transformative by nature. Read On


Art Heroes
John T. Unger