Letters to the Editor

 Letters to the Editor - August 2015


Queen Bee Art Receives National Publicity

Bees—We hear so much about them lately, but most people still aren’t aware how much work bees do around them each day. Honey bees are constantly flying above us, back and forth on their business, unseen and unsung. My friend, Marty Snye, is a blacksmith and beekeeper, and I am a glass artist and beekeeper. We often work together on hives and other projects, but our love of bees caused us to truly collaborate for the first time on this piece called The Queen.

My name is Scott Ouderkirk, and I am lucky enough to live in the Thousand Islands, which is a section of the St. Lawrence River on the border of New York State and Canada. I do most of my work alone in my studio overlooking the river, so I don’t often have to answer to anyone about my art…until my wife tells me something needs to be changed. Working together on a project with another artist isn’t something that I am used to; but Marty and I had been talking about creating some work together so that we could have a show of collaborative pieces using my glass work framed by his iron work. I had created a small bee piece for an illustration in my book, The Wind in the Islands, which Marty had framed with iron. We thought, why not scale this piece up to make a more powerful statement? Thus, I began sketching some ideas.

At about the same time, a call for entries for the American Glass Guild’s 2015 exhibit in the National Cathedral in Washington DC arrived. We decided to enter this piece. The next thing you know, our entry was accepted, and we got to work.

My first drawings were fairly simple following the small original. I showed the drawing to Lorraine Austin, who is a glassblower and my go-to person for design help. Her ideas made the design much more organic and complicated. She also created the glass ball which sits at the top of the piece. Marty made a few changes to the full size drawing; then he built the frame. The frame is made of steel which is heated and hammered into shape. Marty works with very traditional methods; only using more contemporary methods when appropriate. In this case, it was easier for me to create glass pieces to match the frame rather than the other way around.

Once I had Marty’s finished frame in my studio, I began creating fused glass pieces which would fit into the frame sections. As many as eight layers of colored and clear glass were stacked up and fused together. I included in the painting a selection of flowers and plants which honey bees visit during their busy lives. The small bees are painted on the back of the glass to create depth. The technique of glass painting used on The Queen consists of adding black and brown outlines and shading to colored fused glass. The image of the glass pieces on the light table shows the glass before the final firing. In the final firing, the glass was silver stained, which involves applying a silver compound to the back of the glass and firing it. This causes a yellow staining of the glass and is where stained glass gets its name. The silver staining was not added to the wing areas, allowing them to remain clear.

The Queen currently resides in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC until July 31, 2015. We hope that it will make the many visitors to the cathedral think about honey bees and how they help all of us. It is a partnership that more people need to be aware of. The plight of the bees should be taken into consideration when environmental decisions are made because it is our plight as well.

It is important for an artist to step out of his or her comfort zone occasionally. Every collaboration leads to new ideas and growth for all parties involved. A person who is unfamiliar with a process may ask for something to be done which needs new techniques to be learned or even developed. Marty and I find this to be true whether we are working as artists or beekeepers; and this project was no exception.  Fortunately, as I grow older, I find my thirst for knowledge continues to increase.

Scott Ouderkirk
New York

●    Scott Ouderkirk Studios is on facebook and GlassGoat.com 607-377-1726
●    The River Forge and Marty Snye are on Facebook. 315-375-4433
●    Snake Oil Glassworks and Lorraine Austin are on facebook and Snakeoilglassworks.com. 315-685-5091

New Minnesota Bee Lab Groundbreaking-Request for Donations

The time is at hand. For those of you who have been waiting for word about the groundbreaking of the new Bee and Pollinator Research Lab at the University of Minnesota, it will happen August 2nd and 3rd. Ask for details when you send in your donation. The name has been changed, but the same lab is to be built.

Some years ago I wrote a letter to keepers about raising money for this lab. I have enclosed a copy with this letter (printed below). Some people have been waiting to see the shovel go into the ground before they donate. It’s no longer a wish but a reality, so get your check book out. It’s happening.

Much helpful research has come out of the Northern Lab from Hygenic Bees, increasing the genetic diversity, improving conservation programs, delivering research discoveries to keepers, reducing pesticide uses which are weakening the bees, and propolis uses for fighting bacteria. The research list goes on and on. Check online about what’s happening at this lab.

My first letter says it all. The keepers named are long gone, but the creed they followed lives on. Some people want it to happen, others make it happen. I am calling on you to make it happen. It’s time to be a part of not a bystander. You benefit from research so support it.
Have a great summer.

Liz Vaenoski
Vaenoski Honey Farms
Clinton, Wisconsin

Important — The lab has a different name from when I wrote this letter. Make checks out to Bee and Pollinator Research Lab, University of Minnesota, 235 Skok Hall, 2003 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN  55108.

My Original Minnesota Lab Article

I want to address you and call you what you are: A “Keeper of Bees” not a ”beekeeper.” the difference is your willingness to go far beyond what is expected. I am asking that of you today. We need to support the new Bee Research Center at the University of Minnesota. I am not a professional fundraiser, so I don’t have a slick presentation for you. I can only tell you from my heart that I passionately believe in this project.

You are a part of a very special group of people. You know as well as I do that those who are most successful with bees are innovative, hard working, creative, and able to visualize results. You like the outdoors, nature, traveling and sunshine during pollination. You can handle the setbacks and put-downs. Most importantly, you are willing to help each other out - even loan equipment or help others to rebuild when disaster strikes.

Once again, it’s time to step forward beyond what is expected. We NEED this lab. And, the University of Minnesota NEEDS our help.

I am talking about the Center for Bee Research and Discovery at the University of Minnesota. I’ve been involved with this project for some time. I believe so passionately in this that I decided to include it in my will. My gift will be in honor of the Keepers of Bees that inspired others - people like my John, Homer Park and Cliff Thomas.

The work being done by the talented scientists at the “U” of “M” has far surpassed the present facilities. It’s time to upgrade rebuild and enlarge. The days of keeping bees in hollow logs has gone. Research has pulled us out of the past and is helping with the current day’s problems and I pray for more solutions in the future.

Now is an opportunity to get involved. I ask you to consider giving and maybe even more than a one shot gift. Whether or not you choose to be a part of this, please share this report with others who have the means and heart to support this goal.

Thanks so much. I have always supported Keepers and will continue as long as I am able. This is not lip service on my part, but an appeal from my heart for your help and my continued loyalty to you the Keepers and the Bee Industry.

Vaenoski Honey Farms
12026 S. State Road 140
Clinton, Wisconsin  53525

Oliver Articles Very Useful

 I just wanted to take a second to express my appreciation toward Randy Oliver’s articles. They are truly a joy to read, and I find them very useful in my day-to-day beekeeping practices. In my opinion, these articles are the most valuable pieces ...