Behind the Scenes with The Five-Year-Old: The Artists Who Made the Peace Rabbit

No interview would be complete without a photo. Jill Barry and (most of) Mike Glowacki by their completed Peace Rabbit. (Photo: The Five-Year-Old)

Last week, The Five-Year-Old and I had the opportunity to meet Jill Barry and Mike Glowacki, the artists behind the Peace Rabbit at Oakdale Square Common and co-owners of Dedham Glass Art.

Jill proposed that we meet for the interview at the Peace Rabbit, so that they could show The Five-Year-Old in person how and why they did certain things, and point the results out right on the rabbit. This sounded fabulous to The Five-Year-Old, so I bundled her into the car at the appointed time and took her to her first Artist Interview.

In settling on a design for their rabbit, Jill told The Five-Year-Old that they had considered a lot of different ideas, but kept coming back to the idea of a real rabbit. “We liked the idea of making a real rabbit instead of changing the way he looks. We wanted to make the glass look like real fur.”

The Five-Year-Old: “How did you make the bunny?”

Jill and Mike came prepared for this question. Jill pulled out a square of uncut blue glass, some glass cutters, and a glass sanding block and squatted down next to The Five-Year-Old for a demonstration in the field.

The piece of glass The Five-Year-Old sanded during the interview (on loan from The Five-Year-Old’s treasure box). Fun Bunny Fact: Mike and Jill used 23,511 pieces of glass to make the Peace Rabbit.

“First we cut the glass,” Mike said, holding the glass sheet and cutting a bit away carefully with the glass cutters.

Jill picked up the glass from the grass where it fell, and used the sanding block to smooth away the rough edges. “Then we sand down the rough edges so that it’s safe to work with,” she said.

“I could do that!” The Five-Year-Old said excitedly. So Jill handed The Five-Year-Old the piece of cut glass and let her take a few swipes with the sanding block.

Once the pieces were smooth, Mike and Jill would glue them on the bunny, epoxy around the glass, and sand the whole thing down again, so that kids could play on it safely.

The artists worked in piles of 100. “Every 300 pieces, we would glue them on the rabbit,” Mike said.

The Five-Year-Old: “Did you mess up at all?”

Close-up showing the grey glass on the ears. (Image: The Five-Year-Old)

“Yes,” Jill said. “We had to use special glue, and they sent us the wrong color.”

Because they were working with clear glass and wanted their rabbit to be mostly white, Jill and Mike needed to use white glue.

“But they sent us black instead. We used it anyway on the ears,” Jill said, pointing out how the black glue had made the clear glass in the ears look grey.

That seemed more like a design feature than a mistake to The Five-Year-Old, so Jill confessed to another one. When gluing the glass on the bunny’s forehead, Jill accidentally used a piece of aquamarine blue glass intended for the bunny’s ears. They left it there because they decided it looked nice.

“Real fur isn’t perfect,” Jill said.

The Five-Year-Old: “How did you pick this spot?”

As it turns out, Mike and Jill didn’t pick that spot. Dedham Shines did, after consultation with the Dedham Board of Selectmen, the Parks and Recreation Commission, Oakdale Monument Committee, and the Oakdale Square Alliance. Still, they’re pretty happy with the location.

“We grew up around here,” Mike said. “Jill and I lived down the street from each other, but we didn’t really talk to each other until after high school. I was four years older, and we hung out in different places.”

The Five-Year-Old: “How did you get the glass to shine?”

“The glass is shiny anyway,” Jill said. “You can buy all kinds of textures at the glass store.”

The Five-Year-Old: “Why aren’t your names on the bunny?”

Jill: “We signed our names on the inside. The bunny is hollow inside. We signed it with our names, the number of glass pieces we used to make it, and the date we finished.”

The Five-Year-Old: “How long did you work on it?”

Mike: “We started at 8 in the morning and finished late at night two months later.”

The Five-Year-Old: “What was your day like?”

Mike: “Well, we would have breakfast in the morning, then work on the bunny. We’d get pizza for lunch from the pizza place across the street, then work all afternoon. That’s it.”

The Five-Year-Old, shocked: “No supper?”

Mike: “No. I’d go home to eat supper.”

The Five-Year-Old: “Tell me about the wars.”

Mike: “When I was 19, I went to Somalia. I served six months building schools for kids. When I was 29, I spent 6 months in Iraq. There I spent a lot of time digging holes in the sand and covering myself up with it to my neck. It was hard work. I would also take coins and bury them deep in the sand. They were just ordinary coins from my pocket, but by the time they’re found in a thousand years, they’ll be a treasure.”

When they aren’t covering gigantic fiberglass rabbits with glass, Jill and Mike spend their days creating custom mosaic glass designs of all sizes. Although they specialize in animals and pets, Mike’s current project is actually a robot. You can see more examples of their work or request your own custom glass mosaic through their website at Dedham Glass Art.

The Five-Year-Old’s coverage of the Dedham Public Art Project continues next week with a visit to The Bengal Bunny by Sal D’Antona.

Leroy the Peace Rabbit (c) 2012 Jill Barry and Mike Glowacki

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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4 Responses to Behind the Scenes with The Five-Year-Old: The Artists Who Made the Peace Rabbit

  1. Victoria says:

    You need to provide some writing lessons to the newspaper. Cool story!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Your Tuesday Morning Bunny Update | CATERPICKLES

  3. Pingback: Farewell to the Bunnies and Other News of the Week | CATERPICKLES

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