Oregon Art Beat


The Medium is the Message

Esque Studio is a glassblowing studio in St. Johns owned by Andi Kovel and Justin Parker. Recently, Kovel was featured on the Netflix reality competition show "Blown Away." Amelia Bjesse-Puffin is the creator of Smash the Skatriarchy, a handmade zine that fights for a more enlightened world of skating. Pianist Hunter Noack and his friends present outdoor classical concerts in Oregon.

AIRED: October 21, 2021 | 0:28:43

Support for Oregon Art Beat is provided by...

and OPB members and viewers like you.

WOMAN: Yes, get it, girl!

WOMAN: I love the sensation of skating.

[ woman whoops ]

I love dropping in and I love skating really high,

and it feels like a roller-coaster.

It's just the best.

MAN: There's something about

a 9-foot American Steinway concert grand piano

that I just knew that I wanted the biggest piano

out in these magnificent landscapes.

WOMAN: The way it captures light, reflects light,

refracts it, we want our work to be all about celebrating

and highlighting the material's natural properties.

[ ♪♪♪ ]

[ ♪♪♪ ]

I'm Andi Kovel, and we're here at Esque Studio.

I'm a designer, artist, glassblower.

We really want to create pieces that express

a different way of seeing glass.

How can we make this material important,

and how can we add to the history of it

instead of repeating what's already been done?

All right, let's do it.

I want to create new designs, new paradigms,

and new ways of pushing the medium.

So a lot of the processes and a lot of the designs

are also, like, material explorations and experiments.

What's our temperature?

MAN: Uh, 954.

ANDI: I worked assisting a lot of glassblowers in New York,

and that's where I met my partner, Justin Parker, as well.

Once we met, we realized that we had not only a friendship

but we also had a really similar aesthetic.

We had something that was really different

that we wanted to offer.

JUSTIN: Beautiful.

All right. Go for it, yeah.

ANDI: We've been working together for over 20 years,

and we work together every day.

And Justin is in charge of the studio

and I'm in charge of the office.


Wow. Beauty.

That's how you do it!

ANDI: Okay, door, Nic.

Andi and I, she's very fine-art and I'm very fabrication

and technical and craft.

It's cool, because it's always --

the collaborative thing happens, and we always make something

that's new and fresh.

[ ♪♪♪ ]

ANDI: Good, that's good.

One of the pieces is our skull decanter.

Justin makes this solid sculpted skull,

we put that piece inside a decanter,

and it's like we use it for wine craft.

And what's really cool about it is you fill it with red wine,

and as the wine goes down, this skull kind of emerges.

We really love the idea of our glass to be handled,

and there's something just so visceral and amazing

in having an experience with the glass

rather than just viewing it on a pedestal

where it's like, "Don't touch it."

We want you to touch it, we want you to hold it,

we want you to use it.

I've designed for Anthropologie, Bushmills, Amstel Light,

local restaurants like the Doug Fir.

We've done work for hotels like the W Hotel.

I really enjoy doing that type of high-profile work

because you have such a large audience

when it's in a public space like that.

The name Esque is in reference to outside influences

and our teachers and our mentors.

It's really just a nod of appreciation and respect

for everything that influences us in our lives.

So I am making a starter bubble,

and it's just going to be a little bubble

so we can overlay the color on top of it,

and it gives it a layer of clear under the color,

which kind of helps the color from blurring out

once we punti it up.

And the glass is at 2050 in our furnace,

and so it's really the consistency of honey.


So you gather that on the end of the pipe,

and then you shape it into form

that allowed more and more glass to be gathered

without it pulling out or changing shape.

My name is Nic Speed.

I'm Andi's nephew,

and I am a glassblowing assistant here at Esque.

Grab it down here, Nic. That part's gonna be hot.

Put both hands on the bottom, yep, just like that.

NIC: I'm an industrial design major at Pratt Institute.

When COVID hit and I wasn't gonna be in school for a year,

she offered me a job here, and I came in in June 2020

and have just been here ever since.

Nic, up.


Keep it turning, Nic.

NIC: It was really stressful at the beginning

because I had to learn while they were making these pieces

that have to be up to a certain quality that they can sell.

I'm trying to teach him, and as I teach him,

you know, maybe he messes up a couple times

and then he brings what I want perfect,

but then there's a good chance that I'm gonna mess up.

So it's like you have two people

that have to do things perfect every time.

NIC: What Justin and Andi have taught me working here,

not even just about how to work glass,

it's all these things that are just gonna help me

be more comfortable becoming an adult

and becoming my own designer.

Nice, Nic.

[ ♪♪♪ ]

Good. How's your perfume bottle design coming?

It's a lot of parts.

ANDI: I was in the television series

Blown Away season 2 on Netflix.

It was a really interesting process and experience for me

because I'm so used to working with my one partner.

And so going on the show, you know, first of all,

it's a competition.

And, you know, we don't compete with each other or with anyone.

And you work with a different assistant every challenge.

You're also working in a strange studio.

And their glass is really different than ours.

Their glass is a lot stiffer.

I just really appreciate that I had that experience.

It really gave my work a lot of exposure,

which is why I did it in the first place.

One color, Andi? What do we got going on in here?

We got two colors. We're gonna do the blue --

Oh, and the white? It's the extra light copper

with the white on top of it.


And, Justin, I'll hand this off to you

and then I'll grab the pipe.

Will you give a puff for me? Good.

Through the experience with Netflix,

I really wanted to keep the connection going

with these artists,

and so I came up with this idea: let's collaborate.

We were all working on the idea of growth as a theme.

So we'll be releasing one new design

from another artist each month,

and then all the artists on the show

are gonna promote and sell the work.


[ ♪♪♪ ]

Right. Where can you cut? I can drill on this.

Go crazy on it.

Love the extra cloudiness of those.

ANDI: We're working with Osmose,

which is an interior design company, with Andee Hess.

I'm always looking for opportunities

to have their work in our projects

because it's so unique, and their ability

to think really creatively and then customize and create

these otherworldly things is amazing.

Tendrils? Yeah.

Oh, yeah, look, it's upside-down there. See that?

Right? It's actually really cool. [ laughs ]

JUSTIN: Glass does not like to be drilled

with a giant hole like that.


So that was a little tricky.

ANDEE: Working with people that are so passionate

about what they're doing and have such a wide experience

and knowledge, it just makes for the ultimate project

because they're bringing to the table

something that's never been seen before or realized before,

so it's just always really -- really exciting.

It's like an avant-garde fairy garden, so, yeah,

which is pretty good.

[ ♪♪♪ ]

ANDI: It's this amazing, gooey, fluid, sticky, oozy material

when it's hot.

And then when it's cooled and hard,

the way it captures light, reflects light, refracts it,

it's just got so many amazing properties,

and we want our work to be all about that,

like all about celebrating and highlighting

the material's natural, inherent properties.

WOMAN: I love creating stuff.

I really like to be able to feature the words

of other skaters that are going to be featured in the zine.

[ ♪♪♪ ]

WOMAN: I really like how my body moves when I'm skating,

and when I'm carving in a skatepark,

I feel really free.

WOMAN: I'm not like the most social person, I would say,

but whenever I put on skates, it really just like switches

and I'm instantly, like, super talkative

and very extroverted.

WOMAN: I just feel a lot better when I'm skating

because it's just -- it's a really good feeling.

Like, it just makes me feel safe.

WOMAN: I love the sensation of skating.

I love dropping in and I love skating really high

and it feels like a roller-coaster

but I can do it whenever I want to.

It's just the best.

[ shoes squeak ]

My name's Amelia Bjesse-Puffin.

I'm a high school special-ed teacher

and I make zines.

I make a zine called "Smash the Skatriarchy."

It's a submission-focused zine that aims to have a mission

of lowering barriers to skating.

I'll be skating with Mick and Gloria and Gora,

and they'll all be skating on quads,

but I'll be skating on my skateboard.

Run. Run, run, run, run!

I wanted to feature Team Indigenous

because they are a team that's made up

of indigenous skaters across the world,

and pushing that anti-colonial conversation

in the skate community is really important.

MICK: I experienced a lot of racism from the skate community.

I experienced a lot of oppression,

which made me really want to start Team Indigenous.

I had already had that inkling,

but really what we're trying to do

is shift people's thinking within sports

in this really subtle way to say, like, we are --

you know, we don't want to try out for Team USA.

We don't want to try out for Team Canada.

We want to skate with each other

and represent our indigenous nation.

GLORIA: So I skate for missing murdered indigenous women.

So for me, that's really important.

It's more of an emotional thing, too,

because I'm a Native young woman.

So Native women go missing and are murdered all the time,

and they don't get enough recognition.

For me to skate for them is giving them recognition

that they need.

It's like, no more stolen sisters, basically,

is what I'm trying to say when I skate for them.

Am I in the way? No.

Yes, get it, girl!

Yeah, whoo!

[ ♪♪♪ ]

I think without derby, I wouldn't have a thing

that was driving me, I guess,

and so it really motivates me, to, like, be better

in, like, all areas of my life, actually,

because derby is very involved and it takes a lot of time.

Like, trying new things at first is scary,

but I feel like I've fallen enough times.

Like, I'm not really scared of falling.

And especially if I'm skating a bunch and I'm with my teammates,

they give me, like, courage.

And so I -- I'm not really scared to try new things

when I'm with other people.

WOMAN: So today I am here photographing Team Indigenous

for a skate zine.

I used to photograph for the Rose City Rollers,

so I have an affinity for roller derby anyway.

[ ♪♪♪ ]

And so with this, you decide how you want to pose.

You can be flat out, you can be -- yep.

When I got an opportunity to talk to the skaters

before today's session, we talked about

what does it mean to be in roller derby,

to be an indigenous skater in roller derby?

How do you want to be seen and represented?

And we talked quite a bit about some of the stereotypes

that are associated with Native Americans

and how we wanted to avoid that

and to find out the meaning behind why they skate.

I'm like one of the only Native people I know

that skate on a team,

and it's just giving recognition to my people

that we can do anything we put our minds to.

I just want people to know that we're not extinct,

we're still here, and we're still true to ourselves.

We're still Native American people who have survived

genocide, colonization, and everything

that they tried to take from us.

[ ♪♪♪ ]

AMELIA: When Mika first sent over all of her photos,

it was amazing to look through them

and to see all of the shots that she took.

She's got such an eye.

She caught such interesting angles,

such interesting perspectives.

It was really hard to narrow down.

Like, really hard.

I feel pretty good about this edition.

I feel pretty good about it.

I'm proud to put it in the world,

proud to have it out there.

I want to skate in a skating world

where everyone feels welcome.

I think it's super empowering

to be able to move on your own wheels,

and especially something small like a skateboard

or roller skates or inlines

that you can just pick up and go.

And the fact that we have this, like, culture

that has created barriers to accessing that,

I understand how it happened, and its time is over.

It needs to change.

[ piano playing classical music ]

MAN: The piano movers are gonna take it off.

They'll just roll it up here.

Keys here? Yeah.

Piano up? Mm-hmm.

And then guests this way out? Yeah.


[ playing classical music ]

BRUCE BARROW: Classical pianist Hunter Noack had an idea:

perform 25 outdoor concerts in some of the most remote

and beautiful places in Oregon.

He calls this project "In a Landscape."

HUNTER: There's something about

a 9-foot American Steinway concert grand piano

that I just knew that I wanted the biggest piano

out in these magnificent landscapes.

Of course, nobody that owns a 9-foot Steinway

is gonna let me borrow it to take it to Fort Rock

and Pendleton and Astoria and up and down

through coastal ranges, sitting in, you know, 90-degree heat

and then overnight near freezing temperatures.

So Jordan Schnitzer came through,

and he got a beautiful 1912 Steinway D for the project.

Basically this whole project

is kind of like a way for us to just camp...

and make music.

In really cool places. In really cool places.

[ piano and violin playing classical music ]

Growing up in Sunriver, I grew up hunting and fishing

with my dad and kayaking on the river,

and we were just always outdoors.

I love performing and I love classical music,

but there aren't many classical musicians

who also love to hunt and fish.

And I'm not -- you know, I'm not out here

hunting and fishing from my piano stool,

but it... the concept just kind of came from this desire

to bring those two things together,

being outdoors and playing classical music.

We've been talking about just this kind of concept now

for like a couple of years.

And it's kind of like a constant conversation.

It was months of kind of going back and forth

between do we make the trailer enclosed

or do we keep the piano on its legs?

[ laughs ]

Keep it going.


Hang on. Let me just check it.

I mean, it's kind of nice there.

It's actually centered within the trees and the...

[ playing classical music ]

That may be a new jack design I just stumbled upon.

[ laughs ]


HUNTER: Only in the last six months did I start

working with a couple friends.

None of us are really professional engineers,

but we came up with this plan that we thought,

"That should work."

And then at a certain point, a few months before the show,

my friend Noam said, "At some point

you're just gonna have to take the risk and try it,"

so that night I ordered these hydraulic lifts...

my friend Noam came over,

and we lifted the piano up, took the legs off,

lowered it down, and that was kind of our testing.

And the next time we did that, it was on the trailer.

My friend Will, he's the stage manager,

and he's borrowed his dad's pickup truck,

which is an awesome truck. [ chuckles ]

The piano's actually without its legs,

sandwiched between two layers of foam,

and we just hitched the trailer up to the truck,

and it's a pretty smooth ride for the piano,

considering it's just on a flatbed trailer.

I just bought it on craigslist. [ laughs ]

[ playing classical music ]

It works.

And you'll see the power light come on,

and then press and hold.

HUNTER: As I thought, okay,

well, I can bring a piano outside,

that's not a problem, but how will it sound?

Because the sound just kind of doesn't bounce off anything.

It just evaporates.

So what we do is we mike all the instruments,

it goes into a mixing board,

and we had an amazing sound engineer, David Lindell,

who mixes all the sound, artificially adds reverb

to make it sound like we're performing in a chamber hall.

And that's the sound that's broadcast

in real time to the audience.

But they have the freedom to wander 200 meters away

with wireless headphones

and still have the sound of a concert hall.

The ideal scenario is that the audience

is not necessarily paying attention to me

but that my performance is providing a soundtrack

to their experience of the landscape.

We have guest performers at most of the shows.

I play sometimes with a couple amazing musicians from Portland,

Pansy Chang and Nicholas Crosa and Nelly Kovalev,

and then wherever possible I feature a local young artist.

So here in Eugene, we have Karlie Roberts, who was a winner

for the Eugene Symphony Young Artists competition.

[ birds calling ]

[ indistinct conversation ]

My mom ran the Sunriver Music Festival,

and every year they would have a Van Cliburn medalist come

and be the soloist with the orchestra.

And those pianists were the heroes.

They would sort of waltz in and be fabulous

and play with the orchestra,

and those were the celebrities of Sunriver.

So I think that's partially what drew me to the piano.

When I was 14, I decided to go to Interlochen.

That's when I really started taking music more seriously.

It kind of brought out this competitive nature in me

that I like.

I liked being the last one in the practice room,

and I liked, you know, getting up at 6:00

and going and doing my Hanon exercises.

And it was nice to be around other kids that were my age

that were taking music so seriously.

Studied with John Perry in Los Angeles

at the University of Southern California,

and then I got my master's in London

at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

I mean, there are so many sites across Oregon

that I fell in love with when I was scouting.

It's really fun.

It's so great to wake up in the morning and...

and just be outside with a team of people,

and we're all working towards something

and we have offices like this.

[ audience applauding, cheering ]

[ ♪♪♪ ]

Support for Oregon Art Beat is provided by...

And OPB members and viewers like you.


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