These pieces are partly derivative of a trip I took to the high Arctic in the Fall of 2001 on Canada’s largest and most powerful icebreaker, the ‘Louis S. St-Laurent’. This trip was a companion to my 1999 trip to the Antarctic, on the most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker in the world, the USCG ‘Polar Sea’.

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With any ‘research’ trip, one usually finds what one has investigated and is looking for. However, the real treasures are often in the unanticipated. This was no exception: I became captivated by finger rafting in nilas.

My weeks on the ‘Louie’ as she is affectionately called coincided with the descent of winter, and the consequent freezing of large areas of sea. There are many technical terms for the various specific states of congelation of seawater; young, salty, flexible, slushy ice from 4 cm to 10 cm thickness is called ‘nilas’. When areas of it are pushed together by the wind and currents, instead of rafting (one side riding over the other) or ramparting like older, less flexible ice will, it weaves together in a lovely over-and-under pattern: finger rafting.

Day after day I would be presented with a visual banquet of patterns, which I and my cameras absorbed both from shipboard and from her helicopter. It began to dawn on me that the give-and-take, ‘some for me, some for you’ nature of finger rafting was not only stunningly beautiful, but replete with metaphorical potential as well.

My initial efforts to address this material using only my signature metalwork techniques lacked understanding; it was the inclusion of tinted, illuminated glass that brought them to life. All of my reflective metalwork incorporate response to ambient light as a predominate element; in these pieces, there is an additional dialogue between such external light and that emerging from the glass areas.


Many of my titles are derived from Ancient Greek, as is this one. Structurally, many Greek words consist of a ‘base’, with a modifying suffix and prefix added where desired. In this case, the base is ‘pyr’, ‘pur’: fire, light. The prefix is ‘en-‘, (’em-‘ since ‘n’ becomes ‘m’ before a ‘p’): within. The suffix is ‘-logia’: ‘the study or science of’.

Empurologia: Investigation of internal fire and light.