Although many (or all) of us try to keep our encounters with bugs short and infrequent, glass artist Wesley Fleming likes to spend all day with them. With an entomologist’s passion and meticulous attention to detail, he recreates them in the form of tiny glass sculptures.
“There’s nothing more weird or crazy than bugs,” says Fleming, who lives in Bozeman, Mont. And he’s always been interested in odd creatures: as a kid he loved the characters from Star Wars and comic books; at the toy store, he picked the strangest-looking action figures. Fleming remembers that he was especially fond of characters that combined human and insect features.
Fleming first had the inkling to work with glass after purchasing a single lampworked bead in 1999. Intrigued by the colors and shapes on the bead’s surface, he began taking classes and ultimately, quit his full-time job to pursue glass sculpture.
After happening upon an insect collection at an art show, he knew that he wanted to focus his work on the intricate surface textures, shapes, and colors of bugs.
Fleming forges the fine details of each “specimen” by controlling the heat on his torch. First, he heats the glass to a honey-like consistency, and then he plays with gravity, surface tension, and layering to create each miniature.
The bugs are rendered in painstaking detail, especially considering their finished size: on average, 2 to 3 inches.
How realistic are the glass bugs? While traveling in Turkey, Fleming showed one of his beetle sculptures to a shop worker, who jokingly placed it on a friend’s knee. Startled, the second friend jumped up and brushed away the “bug,” shattering it. Although it was frustrating to lose the piece, Fleming considers it the highest compliment to his work.
Fleming’s Sculpture Gallery: wesleyfleming.com