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Published: Wednesday, 9/26/2007

Toledo Museum of Art debuts children's book

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Things get off to a rocky start in Glassigator: a snowball hurled by Libbey Gaffer's pal, Krix, breaks a window in her dad's studio.

But the kids are lured inside for hot cocoa and wind up watching Mr. Gaffer and his able assistants wielding pontils and blowpipes. jacks and tweezers as they work molten glass into a vase shaped like an alligator.

The 36-page children's book which describes how glass is made is a first-time venture for the Toledo Museum of Art. It's complemented by an exhibit, The Dailey Show, opening Friday in Gallery 18 with 20 original watercolor illustrations from the book by Allison MacNeil Dailey, who collaborated on the project with her father, renowned glass artist Dan Dailey.

"I started when I was still in college but I never had the time to produce anything much," said Ms. Dailey, 26, who graduated with a degree in architecture from Cornell University in May, 2006. For the next seven months, she hunkered down at her father's southern New Hampshire studio where he leads a team of 10 glassmakers.

From the time she was a child, she drew with her father, sometimes copying his crisp designs. "I was always impressed with his drawing technique and line quality," she said. "I know the style dad likes; extra-long feet, long noses, pronounced features, facial characteristics, clothing styles."

They reviewed the notes he uses for teaching glass blowing, which he's done at the Massachusetts College of Art since 1989. They considered tools of the trade and how they are held during the process, which Mr. Dailey has distilled to 14 steps.

"I made the original pencil drawings of the process, what it's like to use the tools and move around the studio," said Mr. Dailey, in a separate interview. "Allison adapted my drawings, so my drawings became her illustrations."

Together, they developed characters and the barely-there plot. "Both of us wrote the text. We each wrote and read to each other," he said.

She photographed her father's hands and body while he worked. And they discussed everything with Sandra E. Knudsen, the museum's coordinator of scholarly publishing, who engaged Mr. Dailey in the project in September, 2003.

Ms. Dailey drew and re-drew, making the same kind of sinuous, tight lines her father does with a Rapidograph fountain pen used in technical drawing.

"He was the director and I was the producer," said Ms. Dailey, who works as an architect for a landscape architectural firm in Cambridge, Mass. "Each drawing you look at has some of dad and some of me."

Her final illustrations are larger than those in the 9-by-12-inch book for which she chose Dr. Ph. Martin's watercolors. "They're really saturated, beautiful, rich colors."

Black-haired Mr. Gaffer, of course, was patterned after her father, even down to the green socks (he wears them when he wants to make money, she said), and purple slippers (he got a pair in Italy).

Her Libbey was inspired by her favorite children's books, the Eloise series from the 1950s, about a precocious six-year-old, and named for Edward and Florence Libbey who led the founding of the Toledo museum.

And the brown and white wing-tip shoes worn by Pepe the glassmaker? Her father thinks they're funny, she said, adding it's probably something from the Sixties.

Near the end of the project, Ms. Dailey came to Toledo to scrutinize the color proofs, making sure each image was true to her watercolors. And when she was working on a different project overseas, her father pinch-hit, drawing Libbey for the back cover. "It was a real chore for me to make it look like hers," he said.

The glass alligator of the book is one of about 40 expressionistic animal vases Mr. Dailey, 60, blew in the 1990s. He lent six to the museum for this exhibit, which continues to Jan. 13.

"The biggest challenge was simplifying, to get to the really important stuff. And it's a pretty complicated book, but I think kids like pretty complicated stuff."

The museum expects to have 100 copies of the book for Friday's opening, and has ordered a first printing of 3,000. The book will be sold at museums that have glass collections and galleries that sell Mr. Dailey's glass.

The Daileys were not paid for their labor, but will receive a portion of the sales. Ms. Knudsen would not say how much the project cost.

Father and daughter will come to Toledo for a book signing and talk Nov. 10, 1 to 3 p.m. And in the spring, Mr. Dailey will return to Toledo to work as a guest artist at the Glass Pavilion.

"The Dailey Show: Original Watercolors from the New Book Glassigator," opens Friday and continues through January 13 in Gallery 18 at the Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Mondays and holidays. Information: 419-255-8000 and www.toledomuseum.org.

Contact Tahree Lane at:

tlane@theblade.com

or 419-724-6075.



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