Since 2008, film industry veterans Neacol and Stanley Miller have been practicing the art of flame-worked glass sculpture on a tiny island in the Pacific. Their work is a fusion of the same techniques perfected by the imprisoned Renaissance masters of Murano, Italy, with nods to comic books, cartoons and pop culture.
Under the studio name Bling Squared, their artisan pieces, usually between 1 and 7 centimetres high, reside somewhere between toys and sculpture. Each stroke of brilliant colour is actually melted glass, not paint, resulting in an artifact of whimsy that will last for centuries. The alchemy of stained glass rods liquifying around a molten bead in the heat of an oxy-propane torch lends each piece a vitality and timelessness. Influenced by the Japanese phenomenon of collectible vinyl desk toys, the couple's response is the permanence and vibrancy of glass as both material and statement.
The genre of their work requires an exotic vocabulary: anime, manga, kawaii ("adorable"), chibi ("short person") – a world of giant robots, talking animals and cat-eared schoolgirls. Their brightly- coloured, impactful figurines of playful, chubby characters have become increasingly varied as their skills as sculptors evolve. Here are owls, baby dragons, foxes, and cartoon rabbits alongside red pandas, monkeys, and narwhals. In the past, the couple has collaborated with comic artist Camilla d'Errico on a glass-charm rendering of the character Kuro from the hit series Tanpopo. Their work has appeared in Ayden Gallery in Vancouver and the Waterfront Gallery on Salt Spring Island, as well as numerous comic and pop culture conventions across North America. Supporting themselves by their art alone, they work from their home studio – torch, kiln, glass and all – while raising two active daughters.
Collectors and supporters of the work respond with instant happiness evoked by these charming pieces. A number of the characters in the line are inspired and suggested by the fans themselves, such as the signature "octopus ninja". In the context of "Low Brow" pop art, the figurines are timely, joyous, accessible, and irresistibly tactile.