Golden Orbs – Paul Stankard

By Louise Irvine

Tiny golden orbs encapsulated in larger crystal orbs are a specialty of flame-worker Paul Stankard. There are spiritual and poetic aspects to Paul’s use of floating golden orbs in his glass art. He finds joy in working with such a rare, precious metal to embellish his designs. One of the most valued elements, gold is associated with the divine and eternal as well as beauty and power. Gold also represents perfection and humanity’s quest to illuminate and refine.

Many spiritualists believe that golden orbs are signs of benevolent angels, who travel to the earthly dimension using orbs as a vehicle for their energy. Others believe that the soul is a brilliant globe of golden-white light. The aureole, a radiant luminous cloud that surrounds sacred personages, is derived from the Latin for aurea meaning golden. Halos representing holiness were often represented as golden spheres in early Byzantine mosaics.

The predominant shape that occurs in the natural universe is the sphere, from the stars, moon, and planets to atoms and cells. A golden sphere representing the sun was an attribute of Isis, one of the most important deities in Ancient Egypt. In classical mythology, Jupiter held a globus representing the universe, and orbs have been symbols of authority since the middle ages. Several European monarchies hold golden orbs as part of their regalia.

Paul Stankard began working with gold leaf around 2010 and has found it to be a magical material with many challenges. He has discovered that he needs to use 23.75 karat gold as less purity causes gas to escape in the glass. His gold leaf comes from the Manetti company in Italy and it was fascinating to discover on their website how gold leaf has been used throughout history from edible gold to cosmetics. Apparently, Queen Cleopatra used to sleep with thin gold leaves applied to her skin and gold dust was kneaded into bread for the pharaohs. Renaissance princes dined at shining banquets with all types of game clad in gold. More recently the Honky Tonk restaurant in London offered a golden Glamburger for £1,100!

The Foglia d’Ora technique, Italian for gold leaf, has enjoyed a long tradition in Murano glass making and results in strands of gold glimmering inside clear glass. Paul Stankard has studied historical techniques as well as the work of contemporary makers, such as Cesare Toffolo. Paul’s process can be followed in this series of photos. He starts by heating up the clear glass and forming a ball around 1 ¼ inches in diameter. He uses a carbon mold to shape the hot glass into a perfect sphere. He then picks up the gold leaf with tweezers and floats it on to his hot glass ball. Additional gold is floated on until Paul is satisfied with his design. The golden orb will then be slowly cooled in an annealing oven for around eight hours before the finished piece is ready to be encapsulated into one of Paul’s glass sculptures.

In the last ten years, Paul has included golden orbs in his botanical sculptures and complex assemblages as well as clear crystal orbs, which represent Paul’s spiritual love of the earth. The golden orbs vary enormously in effect and Paul often adds other sculptural details in glass. The latest orb to join the WMODA collection was crafted in 2012 and includes a honeybee, a ripe fruit, a flower, and a tiny root person inside the golden orbs which float on a veil of luminous white clouds.

Paul Stankard’s work can be appreciated in The Art of the Flame, which is one of the most popular exhibits at WMODA.

Read more about Paul’s work

Poetry in Glass - Paul Stankard

Paul J Stankard - The Art of the Flame