Investigating a range of issues from equity and privilege to materiality and labor, Nathan Watson’s artwork addresses complex social issues through a combination of monochromatic glass and compelling form. After directing San Francisco State University’s small glass program for five years, the artist, designer, and educator became Executive Director of Public Glass, the city’s only public access glass making facility. As the director of an arts non-profit and in his life as an artist, Watson’s current practice continues to move intuitively between community building and art making as a way to examine and imagine how we might offer each other the same attention and regard as we do the object.
A Kentucky native, Watson received a BA in history from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where he also began investigating glass as a way to transform storied narratives into a visual medium. Before pursuing his graduate studies at California College of Arts in 2004, Watson received grants and awards from the Rhode Island Foundation and the Rhode Island Council for the Arts for his work concerning local crafts, identity, and immigration. Often formed by constructed architectural interventions and poetic imagery, Watson’s work in glass has been the subject of exhibitions at the Noma Gallery and Refusalon in San Francisco, POST in Los Angeles, and numerous surveys of contemporary artists using glass as an element in their practices.
Watson has lectured and taught nationally as a visiting artist at the Massachusetts College of Art, Centre College in Kentucky, UC Fullerton, San Francisco State University, and at conferences addressing issues surrounding arts education, youth programming and social justice. As a curator, he has contributed to exhibitions at Southern Exposure, Google, The Reclaimed Room at Building Resources, and directs the gallery and artist in residence programs at Public Glass.
In 2012, Watson co-founded Light A Spark, a glass-focused arts program that provides rare opportunities and resources for youth in the underserved communities of San Francisco. He’s also a member of an artist collective called Related Tactics, which brings together artists and cultural workers to collaborate on projects that deal with the intersection of race and culture.
Days before the most recent issue of GASnews was set to publish, the organization received a letter from Watson and published it in its entirety.
Watson wrote: “In this moment when all communities must ask, how did we get here, I think that it’s a meaningful statement in itself to say that I am one of two African Americans leading nonprofit glass organizations, and one of three helping to guide University glass programs in the entire United States. After sitting back and watching our glass community respond to the lynching of brown people and observing the social media-based processing of our complicity through inaction and a pervasive lack of inclusion, I’ve decided to put my heartache aside to share what it feels like from my perspective. With all of the wealth, privilege, and supposed progressive elements within our arts community, how could we let ourselves fall so far behind when it comes to supporting equity and opening doors for everyone?
Even when compared to the lack of representation across the art world as a whole, the glass community looks really bad. No words, propping up of black faces, or sudden unburying of works by black artists will solve this. We were wrong all along to be content amongst ourselves, content to peddle in shiny things with little connection to the realities of the world that is burning our eyes open now. We as artists, who are tasked with interpreting our collective condition, did not do our jobs, and the industry that supports us did not do theirs. The glass galleries did not look toward and support our futures, and our institutions looked to the past and the same sources for self-congratulation again and again until last week.
In the last few days my projects, my body, and the images of my black and brown colleagues have become all too popular in the social media posts of the many glass companies and organizations around the country who are trying to make a statement about how “woke” they are. If you use our bodies in your catalogues, in your posts, and in your applications for larger grants, YOU are responsible for helping to create a way forward for the many who have not been offered a seat at your table.
The leading nonprofit glass organizations from coast to coast who have been working on issues of access and diversity, lifting new voices, and supporting emerging artists for years with little to no contribution from our industry’s biggest donors and institutions have joined together to create the Give to Glass Campaign. We’ve united due to the devastating financial impacts of COVID-19 on our programs and studios, but also because our own glass community has never fully appreciated the value of what we’ve been working for all along. In this moment when everyone has
something to say about social justice, I ask….Do you see us now?!
If you as an individual or an institution have made a declaration about where you stand, then it’s your moral obligation to support change in our glass community. Words raise awareness, but contributions provide the resources for REAL CHANGE! Donate to Give to Glass, to Crafting the Future, or to any organization that is versed in fighting for those whose lives are compromised and voices muted, and for God’s sake, please VOTE!
If there is no action behind your statements, then please stop using our names, our black bodies, those of our youth, and the objects made from our alienation and pain, and step aside to let us build our own house.”
Talking Out Your Glass podcast and all of our sponsors have made donations to Give to Glass.
Give to Glass is a fundraising campaign created by and for Glass Impact, a nationwide coalition of nonprofit, community-focused glass organizations who are dedicated to equal access and uplifting diverse voices and ideas through glass. Each of the member studios is supported primarily through public programming, making the economic fallout of COVID-19 and social distancing particularly devastating.
By supporting Glass Impact through the Give to Glass Campaign, you are making a statement:
A diverse and accessible glass community is the best way that we can move the industry forward, and we cannot afford to allow COVID-19 to eliminate the studios that are fighting for inclusivity.
Glass Impact is:
Firebird Community Arts | Chicago, IL | @firebirdcommunityarts
Foci- Minnesota Center for Glass Art | Minneapolis, MN | @focimcga
GlassRoots | Newark, NJ | @GlassRootsinc
Hilltop Artists | Tacoma, WA | @hilltopartists
North Carolina Glass Center | Asheville, NC | @NCGlassCenter
Public Glass | San Francisco, CA | @PublicGlass
STARworks Glass | Star, NC | @STARworksglass
UrbanGlass | Brooklyn, NY | @UrbanGlass_nyc
Early exploration of flameworking and its applications play out in Elliott Todd’s diverse body of work that ranges from functional glass pipes to glass drawings to breakthrough video presentations on Instagram, such as the 2019 demonstration of musical instruments made at his torch. For his BFA show at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Todd aka et_glass, drew Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map using glass rods and his torch.
Todd says: “I make work based off of repeated geometric patterns. These patterns are often made up of many little parts. Eventually I can assemble it all to make a much larger piece than the individual components could ever be. When you put the earth on a 2D scale, it distorts the sizes and the relationship of the continents. What I like so much about the Dymaxion Map is it uses geometry to make a more fair map of the world. And it creates this really interesting perspective where we’re all connected instead of all being separated by our different continents.”
A native of Boone, North Carolina, Todd visited Penland School of Crafts as a boy with his father and attended community open house events. As a teenager, he started making flameworked beads at home with a simple gas torch and rods of glass. Upon graduation from high school and unsure of his direction, the young artist attended Penland classes beginning with a hot glass intensive taught by Ed Schmid and followed by further glass studies taught by Dave Naito and Scott Benefield. More recently, he attended a workshop with one of his favorite torch artists, Micah Evans, and served as teaching assistant for Carmen Lozar.
After earning his BFA from Tyler in 2016, Todd returned to his hometown and established a studio where he designs and creates a line of functional glass combining reticello in contemporary forms, networked and framed pieces that are sold through Gallery 42 and direct to galleries. In 2020, he was looking forward to serving as teaching assistant at Penland and having his first solo exhibition in four years in Asheville, both events cancelled because of Covid. However, thanks to his presence on Instagram, et_glass is coordinating on a project with a glassblower from Kuwait who is the lead artist at the first school for glass in the Gulf region, Yadawi. He’s also recently donated proceeds from the sale of some beautiful Sherlocks and bubble sculptures to Crafting the Future.
Through constant experimentation, et_glass blends non- functional forms with the objects he loves to use and turns mistakes into great pieces just by being open to the idea.
A process that involves creating a model, pouring a mould, and carefully applying very thin layers of powdered glass within that mould, pâte de verre has historically been associated with the matt/frosted, translucent vessel forms of Lalique and Daum. Enter Alicia Lomné, who has not simply redefined the techniques, but pioneered the acceptance of radical new non-traditional forms created with paste of glass. Her glorious plant/ underwater creature hybrids are a wonder to behold with their rounded bellies, spikey spines, and stunning color gradations and values.
Born on the island of Corsica, France, to two working artists, Lomné was exposed to life as a maker from the beginning. Her mother, well-known glass artist KéKé Cribbs, introduced her to the glass community at large and gifted her with the Pilchuck workshop where she fell in love with glass casting. Lomné studied the techniques under the tutelage of Clifford Rainey, Daniel Clayman, Jeanne Ferraro, and at The California College of Arts and Crafts.
Having recently relocated from Whidbey Island to Tacoma, Washington, Lomné has spent the last 21 years exploring and developing her own unique style of pâte de verre. She has exhibited her work nationally and participated in shows at The Kentucky Museum of Art and Design, The Museum of American Glass, Figgie Art Museum, National Liberty Museum, Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, and The Muskegon Museum of Art.
For the last 17 years, Lomné has invested more of her time in teaching, enthusiastically sharing her knowledge of pâte de verre with others at Pilchuck Glass School, Penland School of Crafts, The Corning Musuem of Glass, Bullseye Glass resource centers across the country, as well as in Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, England, and Germany. Though she never thought of herself as an educator, sharing knowledge has resulted in a genuine love and an enthusiasm for teaching which she describes as one of best experiences of her life. One of a few artists who have inspired a resurgence in pâte de verre, Lomné has also released four educational videos, the first with Bullseye Glass Co. and three others with AAE Glass. https://www.aaeglass.com/video-tutorial-exploring-pate-de-verre-w-alicia-lomne-1.html?noforce=1
Currently on a self-imposed hiatus, Lomné takes a much-needed break from teaching, traveling, and juggling many jobs. She says: “I need a reboot. Time to explore and expand my own techniques, time to rethink how to function as an artist in this world, time to build a new website and diversify myself.” Future goals include creating a line of greeting cards and fleshing out book ideas. In 2020, Lomné’s work will be featured in a new book about pâte de verre by Max Stewart and Tone Ørvik. And of course, explorations of new work to push the technical and aesthetic limits of pâte de verre continue.
“The pieces I made in the Alluvial series, which I will still be working on now, are about the flow of water, sedimentary layers, a reflection and recording of time. So much of what I do is wrapped up in my process. There is a love and calm in the making that I find nowhere else in my life. Each line laid is a loving meditation and a small record of my time past. Time is, I believe, the only thing we really have in life.”