Watching artists Nic McGuire and John Gibbons work on a new sculpture in their Barrio Logan glass-art "hot shop" is like witnessing a well-rehearsed dance. Depending on whose piece it is, one of the two takes the lead and calls orders as the other, along with the help of an assistant if the sculpture's complexity requires it, carries out the commands.
On a Friday afternoon, Gibbons and McGuire do their dance between the worktable and the orange-glowing kiln and carefully but quickly bring a glass winged-angel sculpture to life.
"It's a really intense few minutes," McGuire says after he gets the angel as close to perfect as the tricky medium of molten glass allows. "Every second counts, so you're really juggling time, tempo, heat and your assistants."
Gibbons and McQuire are preparing for the grand opening of their new workspace and informal showroom, StarFeather Studios (1841 National Ave.), happening from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 5. They've been setting up equipment and otherwise preparing the space since last summer. They're finally at a place where they can open to the public for a night of live demonstrations, music, food and an exhibition of their latest sculptures.
The name of the new space is inspired by Gibbons' affinity for incorporating the shape of starfish in his sculptures and McQuire's inclination toward sculpting large feathers. The two met a few years ago at a gallery in North Park, and the partnership they've built has helped each go far beyond what was possible alone.
"We've just been pushing each other and pushing the envelope," McQuire says.
"With hot-glass sculpture like ours, you can't really do anything by yourself of any significance because you have to have a crew," Gibbons adds. "There's so much that can go wrong so fast. You need people helping you."
The collaboration has paid off, and each artist's been building a body of work that's more complex than what most young glass artists attempt with such finicky material.
"People who see the work see that it's really complicated," McQuire says. "They wonder how we do it, but the secret is teamwork."