In his current work, glassblower Jason McDonald tells important stories about social inequality through his intentionally made, well-crafted objects. His successful interweaving of those two trajectories continues to evolve through life-changing experiences such as his participation on the popular Netflix competition series Blown Away 2 and his recent week-long Murano, Italy, study with Maestro Davide Fuin as the recipient of the Windgate-Lamar Fellowship.
McDonald states: “My work takes two divergent paths. With one path, I craft objects that examine and critique, through a racial and economic lens, the inequalities that exist between black and white people in the United States. I cast my gaze on the disparities in the US from life expectancy, to the achievement gap, to the too frequent election of racist officials. I seek to spark a dialogue between viewers and their relationship with the ugly reality of a nation built on the backs of my ancestors, my family, and myself, while simultaneously demonizing us. I find personal power by expressing myself this way, as I attempt to understand and explain my lived experience as a person of African descent. By making this work I hope to shed light, for myself and my viewers, on what it means to be a black person in America today and a product of 400 years of racist ideology and policy making.”
He continues: “The other path is one where I explore my curiosity about the material of glass itself. My work often begins as a study of a specific technique, tool, or property of glass. I create iteratively, often focusing on a single idea for weeks at a time. More than technical pursuits alone, I might become fascinated with the optical quality of glass, or the weight of the material, or innovating new methods of making. The limitless nature of glass is fertile ground for exploration.”
An artist, gardener, and outdoor enthusiast living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, McDonald began in glass at age 14 through his participation in the Hilltop Artists program in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. Though he spent the majority of his glass career dedicated to the development of technical prowess, McDonald grew dissatisfied with being a maker only and finished his undergraduate degree at California College of the Arts in Oakland in 2018. Currently, he is enrolled as a graduate student in pursuit of an MFA degree at Tyler School of Art and Architecture.
Each year, the Windgate-Lamar Fellowship identifies 10 graduating college seniors with exemplary skill in craft. Awardees receive $15,000 — one of the largest and most prestigious awards offered nationally to art students. A 2021 Windgate fellowship recipient, McDonald will exhibit new work at Pittsburgh Glass Center (PGC) in Full Spectrum: Visionaries Elevating Art, Craft, and Design on view February 4 – May 23, 2022. In the summer of 2022, he will teach at Penland School of Craft the first two weeks of July, at PGC from July 25 – 29 and at The Corning Museum of Glass the first week of August.
A self-described vessel maker, McDonald uses classic forms to study identity, racism and representation. For one of the challenges on Blown Away 2, he created a container resembling a calabash gourd, a shape he uses as an analog for people of African descent. Other McDonald vessels combine Swedish overlay technique and classic Greek vessel forms, engraved with the artist’s disturbing narrative – black men jailed, black men being shot in the back by police. His series of delicately blown glass goblets, Besieged, tells the story of a lack of representation of people of color in the glass community. “I want it to start a conversation, even if it’s just within themselves. That’s what I hope my art does for audiences.”
In 2014, glass artist, author, and craftsman Scott Ouderkirk published The Wind in the Islands, his adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, reworked for the Thousand Island area of the St. Lawrence River where he lives. To accompany his book, Ouderkirk designed and created stained and fused glass panels, depicting relevant moments in his story.
The project was successful artistically, but also introduced a novel approach to marketing. By combining his skills as both author and artist, Ouderkirk’s The Wind in the Islands created an interdependent one-two punch of book and glass art sales. Local bookstores promoted the book, which resulted in increased glass sales. Glass panels on view at local exhibitions and at his gallery increased sales of the book. For the first time, his creations were bringing in money beyond the singular and initial sale of one object.
Ouderkirk earned his BS in Technical/Vocational Education from State University of New York, Oswego, New York; his MA in illustration from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York; and his MFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut. His other books include The Amish Secret, Fallen Heroes, Sunday Drive, The Adirondack Run, Island Images, Barns, and Wood, Waves and Wispy Smoke.
Ouderkirk’s home and studio are located on River Road Farm, Hammond, New York. There, he and wife Mary Alice grow and raise their own food including vegetables, eggs, meat, honey, and cheese. On this self-sustaining homestead, you’re just as likely to see a bee hive as you are a stained glass panel. From repurposed parts of old wooden boats and barns, Ouderkirk built a place from which he created stained glass, although he now devotes most of his time to captaining wooden boats and hosting his YouTube channel on the subject under the name, Glass Goat. A love of the water and sea faring vessels is evident in early Ouderkirk panels, such as Gold Cup Races and Hacker Craft, his response to a call for entries for an exhibition at the Antique Boat Museum, in Clayton, New York. Hacker Craft paid homage to John Hacker and the wooden motorboat he invented, showcasing the blueprint of the vessel in the background.
The beauty of nature that surrounds River Road Farm was a constant source of inspiration for Ouderkirk’s autonomous panels such as Hen House, created for the American Glass Guild’s American Glass Now 14 exhibition. This combination panel of warm and cold glass techniques features two big chickens, fused and painted with Reusche paints, Gum Arabic, and water. Four chickens in nesting boxes, the earth, and two chickens coming out of a barn door were created from silver stained and painted window glass.
In July 2015, Ouderkirk exhibited The Queen in American Glass Now 2015, the AGG juried members’ exhibition displayed at the National Cathedral, Washington D.C. The Queen, his stunning painted, fused and layered glass interpretation of a queen bee, is a collaboration with Marty Snye, blacksmith and beekeeper, and Lorraine Austin, who contributed design ideas and blew the glass ball that serves as the jewel atop The Queen’s crown.
In this ToYG interview, Captain Ouderkirk discusses his successful combination of fusing and stained glass in autonomous panels, unique marketing ideas and suggestions for stained glass artists, thoughts on the creative process regardless of genre, and his love of wooden boats and boating.
Susan Taylor Glasgow’s work embraces feminine ideals of sensuality in a seductive but unforgiving material, offering conflicting messages of comfort and expectation. Some of her sculpture pays tribute to the era of June Cleaver and Betty Crocker via images appropriated from the world of ‘50s and ‘60s television and advertising. The bustier forms of Chandelier Dresses and the sensuous detailed perfection of lingerie sets present fantasies, reminding us of the way things never were. Sewing, cooking and arranging glass, Glasgow attempts to reconcile the conflict over work and home, feminist ideals and the Madonna complex, duty and fulfillment.
She says: “In a way, my work is the result of homemaking skills gone awry. I have always embraced domesticity in spirit, but not in action. My life as an artist puts housekeeping last while instead I cook and sew glass. My internal domestic struggle has led me to examine the concept of domestic expectations and traditional roles of men and women. I am intrigued by 1950s imagery and the false perception of simpler times.”
Born in Superior, Wisconsin, Taylor Glasgow grew up just across the tip of Lake Superior, in Duluth, Minnesota. She attended the University of Iowa, graduating in 1983 with a BFA in Design. After working in graphic design for a short period, the artist returned to the sewing skills passed on to her by her mother, opening a wildly successful dressmaking shop, On Pins & Needles, which she owned and ran from 1984 to1997 in Iowa City, Iowa, and Columbia, Missouri. In 1997, the artist sold the dressmaking shop to pursue her interest in art, focusing on glass.
Utilizing her skills as a seamstress, Glasgow developed a unique approach to glass, stitching glass components together. Each sculpture starts out as a flat sheet of glass. To establish the three-dimensional shape and holes, sections of glass are kiln-fired several times. To create the imagery, text and figures are sandblasted into the glass and pigment is rubbed into the sandblasted area to create the black and gray photo. Then the glass is fired again to 1250 degrees to melt the pigment into the glass. Once cooled, the sections are coldworked, given a final sandblasting and then assembled. Redefining “woman’s work” in non-traditional mediums, the artist creates complex forms and imagery while exploring the dichotomy of women and societal expectations.
Glasgow received Pilchuck Glass School’s emerging artist grant in 2002, a WheatonArts fellowship in 2003, and was a resident artist at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in 2008. Her work can be found in the collections of the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR; the Alexander Tutsek Foundation, Münich, Germany; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg, PA; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; and the Museum of American Glass, Millville, NJ.
Glasgow says: “I think viewers respond to my work on many levels – first to its initial form and visual appeal, and there’s a secondary impact once the viewer gets a closer look. An example might be the corset series. The shape of the corset is appealing to both men and women for different reasons. Once the work is examined closer, a deeper understanding of the piece is revealed. Women respond to my work in the way the message is intended — exploring the dichotomy of women in the household and domestic expectations — while men respond to the work’s sensual qualities. I think for the most part it is because not much has changed for women in the household. Most women are the main caregivers and housekeepers, while still trying to uphold the expected requirement of being glamorous and sexy.”
Working from her new studio in Columbia, Missouri, Glasgow currently has work on view in a group show at Blue Rain Gallery, Santa Fe, and will participate in Habatat Galleries’ 50th Anniversary Exhibition, opening September 17, 2021, while working towards securing a solo museum show in the future.
Seattle glass art legend Benjamin Moore died on June 25, 2021. He was 69. His passing has been a shock to the glass community — both locally and beyond — evidenced by outpourings of sadness from such institutions as the American Craft Council, UrbanGlass, Tacoma Art Museum and Pilchuck Glass School, where Olympia-born Moore took a class in 1974 (a college graduation gift from his parents).
A seminal figure in establishing Seattle as a contemporary glass center, Moore provided his studio and top-notch glassblowing team to make the work of the world’s finest artists and designers. The groundbreaking art produced on King Street at Benjamin Moore, Inc. (BMI) contributed both to the glass arts and the art world at large. But the true gift of art making within this supportive community is the camaraderie and lifelong friendships born out of such a unique creative environment. This is the lifeblood of the Seattle glass experience.
Said Moore, in our 2013 conversation: “The one thing I learned from Dale (Chihuly) that made a profound impact on me and has always been a part of my career is the joy of working with others. The camaraderie of our community here, working with one another and supporting each other, is huge. Dante Marioni and Preston Singletary both came to work for me out of high school, and when I look at their careers now, I’m the proudest guy in the world.”
Moore served as Chihuly’s primary gaffer from 1975 to 1982 and was the first educational coordinator at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington, beginning in 1977. Following graduate studies with Chihuly at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Moore went to work at the Venini Glass Factory in Murano, Italy. In 1978 he brought the Italians to Pilchuck for the first time to demonstrate time-honored techniques rarely seen by US artists. For the Americans, this exposure resulted in a dramatic increase in the sophistication of works produced and further entrenched the value and process of working glass as a team.
Though Moore dedicated much of his career to making Chihuly’s work, their aesthetic approach to glass, form, and color could not be more different. In his own work, Moore reveals a Modernist sensibility reflected in pure geometric forms and simple colors. Translucent, a solo exhibition held at the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, from February 2012 though October 2013, presented a selection of his masterpieces that simultaneously evoke aspects of historical tradition and the refinement of a unique contemporary aesthetic.
Inspired by Scandinavian ceramics of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Moore’s objects in glass possess a timelessness achieved by the artist’s focus on color, shape, and proportion. By altering the way light interacts with the work through opacity, translucency, and transparency, he created different impressions for each series of his work. The fundamental concern and focus of his own work was to achieve simplicity, balance, and clarity of form.
He said: “If you think of trying to blow something off hand on the round, historically almost everything had already been done. To come up with something fresh and totally new with those parameters was almost impossible.”
Almost. Moore’s The Interior Fold Series (1975) incorporates the technique of folding the transparent glass onto itself. The ancient Romans used this technique as a utilitarian detail in the vessel form, giving the piece added thickness. “I use this folding technique as a design or aesthetic element. In this series, I combine this folding technique with a horizontal plane of glass, which is spun out from the fold. The spiral wrap on the horizontal plane emphasizes the circular form.”
Moore’s Palla Series (1983) was developed and based on the simple spherical form “palla” – the Italian word for ball. In this series, the sphere functions as the foot of the form as well as the focal point. “I use contrasting opaque colors to draw attention to the contrasting geometric elements. These forms are created generally in pairs, accentuating the horizontal and vertical lines. However, the bowl does stand strongly on its own.”
In the Exterior Fold Series (1978), Moore uses a similar technique to that of the Interior Fold Series. The difference being the exterior fold creates a hollow ring on the outside of the piece. This fold is used as the breaking point between the concave curve and the convex curve in the blown form. These pieces are generally displayed in groupings, and the translucent colors vary from subtle to bold.
This podcast was created from an interview with Moore recorded in 2013 and retrieved from the ToYG archives.
From Team Pilchuck
Moore was a visionary artist, an inspiring mentor, and a once-in-a-lifetime friend. Many of you knew and loved him, and many more of you have been touched by the steadfast and collaborative leadership he brought to our community over the past 50 years.
We are all deeply saddened by Benny’s recent passing, and we know how eager you are to show your care and support for Benny’s beloved wife Debora, their daughter Jasmyn, and the rest of their family.
Friends of the Moores have set up a GoFundMe page to honor Benny’s memory and assist Debora in this sad and difficult time. We want to share it with you now—if you are able, please consider contributing. Gifts of any amount are much appreciated as the family grieves and works to honor Benny’s incredible legacy.