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Fun at the Faire

Craftsman plays with goopy glass to form metallurgic marvels
story by Edith Decker
edited by the artist
Grants Pass Daily Courier 1-15-98

Like an ancient metallurgist bending over a flame to watch one thing turn into another, Sam Sypolt watches the tubes, rods and plates of colored glass transform under his hands into beads, tiny bottles and marbles to name a few.

Sypolt is a modern metallurgist. Glass is, after all, composed of metals-silica mostly, but also sometimes lead or things to give it color like cobalt, gold, silver and even uranium. He melts these metals to liquid and manipulates them into little wonders. He's what the trade calls a Lampworker. Working till the wee hours of the morning, he hovers over the Oxy-propane flame, working quickly and steadily. A photo/art major, Sam applied his knowledge to design and fabrication right out of college working full time managing design/production for a custom outdoor furniture company.

In his spare time, Sam put together a jewelry design and manufacturing business with artist Greg Cropper and continued shooting commercial layouts, portraits and weddings when asked. Bringing his jewelry expertise to Oregon in 1976, Sam continued to create and teach classes from his Hugo Rd. studio, returned to school for further art studies, and worked part time for The Purple Weasel, The Stone Smith and Navajo Beads. After extensive ground work to initiate a jewelry/lapidary class at a local college, he was nudged out by another Calif transplant who took over the program. Discouraged, Sam decided to explore other ventures.

Sam went into the Fire fighting/medical business full and part time, obtaining FF2 & EmtIII status. But his creativeness was being stifled. he yearned to create and be independent. During these years, Sam was gathering fuel for his next adventure. He spent hours researching all possible avenues concerning miniature sculptures. He spent hours at the library, book stores, yard sales, magazine stands and subscriptions studying everything from Japanese Netsuke (nets-kay) to fantasy art. Applying these studies Sam developed a line of miniature fantasy figures carved from wood, bone and his favorite, fossil Ivory. Several years and several thousand pieces later, Sam attained the rank of a world renowned Contemporary Netsuke Sculptor.

Quartzsite, AZ: New ideas were blowing in the wind.
The day was sunny and bright, then out of nowhere, the wind storm hit. Newcomers were totally unprepared and stood aghast as they watched their booths float into the desert sky only to come crashing down on an others display.

January in Quartzsite Arid-zona is a wonderful relief from the winter drearies here in Oregon. Winter storms can appear quit fast. One hour you are enjoying 80 degree weather, the next you are wading in 6 inches of flood water. But the wind that blew through the trade shows in 1991 were anything but destructive. The secrets to lampworking had now become public knowledge for the low price of $30.00 in a how-to video by Hot Glass Artist Lewis Wilson. Sam's show partner, Paul Blakely told him that he had met a glass blower who made dragons and liked to trade.

After an introduction, Sam ended up trading for a glass dragon and Lewis' lampworking how-to video. He took it back to camp and put it in the VCR. "I'll have to be honest" states Sam, "when I say I fell asleep half way through" (he has since edited the tape). The next evening Sam went to visit Lewis who offered to let him try his hand at beadmaking. "It felt strange but somehow right", says Sam "I made one bead, then another, then several on one wire". Lewis said "I was adventurous and a natural". Well, that's all it took, Sam was hooked.

Sam ended up investing $$$ for supplies and equipment, went home, started making beads every waking hour and hasn't stopped yet. (though he admits to slowing down a little).

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