The functional glass community is defined, in part, by the technical mastery and mind-blowing aesthetic of high-end art pipes. But in equal measure, philanthropy defines this growing segment of the glass art community. One key player in organizing charitable events within the pipe community is Allison Key, founder and director of the well-known Michigan Glass Project (MGP), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The 2019 MGP will be held July 19 - 21 at the Russell Industrial Center, Detroit, Michigan.
MGP’s mission is to unite artists through charitable events that create and foster positive change in the community.Artwork created on site at the yearly happening is sold, auctioned, or raffled to raise money for a philanthropic cause. A large silent auction is held during MGP with artwork continually being added throughout the weekend. Profits generated above expenses to hold the event are donated to the yearly charity.
Since its inception in 2012, MGP has donated $36,000 to The Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, the nation’s oldest operating aquarium. In 2015, MGP began working with Art Road Nonprofit, an organization dedicated to returning art classes to Detroit area public schools, donating $40,000 to the cause. MGP’s 2016 event double that donation to $80,000. Previously Art Road was only able to provide art to grades K-5 at Spain Elementary, but the increased funds allowed middle schoolers at that school to be added to the roster.
MGP’S 2017 donation marked a milestone in giving as the organization hit its $100,000 goal. Art Road used the additional money to add art class to a fourth school. The following year’s $125,000 resulted in the addition of art classes at two Ecorse schools. Thanks in part to MGP, Art Road now provides complete art class curriculum including instructors and supplies to over 2,200 Metro Detroit students at six schools.
To document this unique and highly successful project, Dan Collins, filmmaker who worked on Marble Slinger’s 2012 Degenerate Artmovie and his own documentary about Marcel Braun’s Project 33, will produce a documentary film on Key and MGP. A Kickstarter to raise funds for Collins’ film will be launched next week some time, around the first of July 2019.
Key is co-owner of Urban Pheasant Glass Studio, the Crystal Dragon at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, a wholesale glass business called Key Glass Co. and a retail location in Detroit called Motown Shakedown. In 2018, Key also became co-owner of Glassroots Art Show, a fixture in the industry as a multi-faceted event bringing together suppliers, toolmakers, high-end artists, production blowers, distribution companies, galleries, and head shops. After celebrating a decade in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2019 Glassroots is moving to Asheville, North Carolina, where the trade show will be held October 7 through 9.
Tim Carey’s mission is to bring glass to the forefront as an image-making medium through continued exploration of techniques that he and Narcissus Quagliata developed at Judson Studios. Tim Carey Studio, established in Compton, California, on July 1, 2018, is moving to south Pasadena, where the artist will continue creating projects and commissions in his hybrid fusing and glass painting process.
Judson Studios’ Resurrection Window, the largest single composition fused glass window in the world, was dedicated on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017. Created for the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, the groundbreaking work measures a mammoth 37 feet tall by 94 feet wide. As Judson Studios’ designer at that time, Carey worked in concert with Quagliata to create the first-ever notable liturgical window created entirely from fused glass.
Carey States: “After designing the Resurrection window in 2014 and realizing it couldn’t be done solely with traditional methods, I sought out glass master Narcissus Quagliata and his Painting with Light fusing technique. Together we designed a custom fabrication process that changed my goals as an artist and inspired me to open my studio to investigate further.”
Trained in traditional drawing and painting at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Carey spent the first five years of his career as a figurative oil painter and muralist. He discovered stained glass and specifically glass painting by chance on a tour of The Judson Studios in Los Angeles in 2003. The artist took a part-time job at the Studios as a glass painter, which evolved into a full-time passion and 14 years at Judson Studios. Lead artist on some monumental projects during his time at Judson, Carey honed the skill of working with communities, both religious and secular, to realize their dreams in glass.
Since its inception, Tim Carey Studio has created groundbreaking residential commissions such at The Cowboy and has embarked upon an exciting partnership with Macie Art Glass in New Jersey, creating windows for a large Mausoleum in the Trenton area. Carey also continues work in collaboration with Judson Studios and will be teaching his techniques at Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland, Oregon, in October 2019.
Raised in Milford, Ohio, Karen Willenbrink-Johnsen and her naturalist father spent many a day on forays through the woods. As a landscaper, the elder Willenbrink taught his daughter about trees, birds, fossils, and native peoples. She says: “I’m constantly inspired, revitalized and awed by the power of nature.” A self-described all-American girl, the artist grew up with her twin sister, older brother, younger brother, and parents who loved to camp and hike. In their childhood home, nature and happiness was celebrated, resulting in Willenbrink-Johnsen’s palpable passion for life.
Soon after receiving a BFA in sculpture from Ohio University, glass became a driving force in Willenbrink-Johnsen’s life. The artist spent several years honing her skills in the Catskill Mountains region of New York. She subsequently embarked on a 16-year stint working with glass artist William Morris, who taught Willenbrink-Johnsen to follow her vision and let the enthusiasm of her spirit guide her ideas.
Like Morris, Willenbrink-Johnsen creates sculpture not only by blowing, but by hot sculpting. Components are hot formed or lampworked ahead of time and held in a garage to keep them warm while a base is being formed. Once the base is ready, the painstaking process of joining the elements to the base begins. Stress is introduced each time a new component is added, and the weight of the piece increases. A delicate balance of time and temperature is required for a sculpture to reach successful completion.
Willenbrink-Johnsen’s team includes husband Jasen Johnsen, whom she met at Pilchuck and married in 2001. Jasen served as the head studio technician at Pilchuck Glass School for nearly 10 years and worked as teaching assistant for Pino Signoretto and Hank Murta Adams before beginning to co-teach classes with Karen.
As bird watchers, the Willenbrink-Johnsens observe every feather, talon, and branch presented in their work and invite viewers to enjoy their sculpture with the same attention to detail. Combining unmatched technical mastery with a profound love for their medium, nature, and each other, the artists explore new territory through not only birds forms, but complex treatments of their environs.