Creator. Healer. Traveler. Dutch-born artist, Peter Bremers, is renowned for his glass sculptures inspired by nature’s most extreme landscapes and the transformational journeys he has taken around the world. Deeply touched by the majesty of nature, Bremers conveys his awe and gratitude through his sculpture while using his travels as an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
Having begun his career working with a wide range of materials including glass, plastic, steel and stone, over time Bremers found glass to be the best way of realizing his artistic visions. Understanding the captivating power of transparency and light, he has successfully broken boundaries with scale and form throughout his 40-year career leading to his international reputation. The artist’s use of reductive forms awakens his viewers’ sensitivity to space and perception in graceful, nonverbal poems about light, color, and form.
Bremers states: “I have a deep love for glass as it is the only material that allows you to experience four dimensions. You can see the front and the back of a sculpture at the same time, as well as the matter and space in-between.”
Born in 1957 in Maastricht, Netherlands, Bremers attended the University of Fine Arts (Sculpture Department) in his hometown. His introduction to glass came by serendipity after he was well-established as a light-sculptor, when he wandered into a glassblowing workshop and was enthralled by the molten, luminous material. He then studied glass at the Jan van Eyck Akademie, Post Academic Institute for Art & Design, also in Maastricht. He attended workshops at The Oude Horn in Leerdam and became an assistant to Bernard Heesen. In 1989, he participated in a workshop with Lino Tagliapietra, who executed two of Bremers’ designs that were subsequently purchased by the Municipal Museum of The City of The Hague. That same year, he went to work with Neil Wilkin in England, where he produced objects using the graal technique.
Bremers has taught and exhibited around the world, from Europe to Australia, Africa, China, and North America. His art is included in numerous collections including the National Glass Museum (Leerdam, Netherlands); the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Indiana, the Kunstgewerbe Museum (Berlin, Germany); the Palm Springs Art Museum (California); and the Ringling School of Art and Design, Basch Gallery, (Sarasota, Florida). He has had solo and group exhibitions in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, the United States, Australia, Israel, Italy, Canada, Dubai, the Czech Republic, China, and Taiwan. Among other public commissions, he has done installations on the Queen Mary II and at the “Murano” Glass Hotel in Tacoma, Washington.
Through January 16, 2022, Imagine Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida, presents Transformation and Transcendence, a solo exhibition including two distinct bodies of Bremers’ sculpture – Perception and 7 Bodies. The Perception series of nine sculptures, identical in form, have been created using different colors and materials. Their level of reflectiveness, from transparent to mirroring, change the periphery of our vision and thus the perception of how we are interpreting each form and its impact. The 7 Bodies series represents seven fundamental elements that embody our human existence through repetitive, sculptural forms. The pieces in the series are entitled: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Vibrational, Spiritual, Creative and Ethereal. Bremers approaches each of these bodies with the intention of exemplifying through the exterior and interior forms, the human potential that exists within us all.
“Capturing the beauty of life, Bremers’ work transports the viewer into the worlds he has created. From the spiritual to the transcendent, his creations leave you with a sense of positivity and hope as we all search for meaning and appreciation of our planet.” – Imagine Museum
In this special AMA (Ask Me Anything) episode and Patreon reward, long-time ToYG supporter Anthony Cowan interviews Bremers. Cowan, who lives in Florida, is immersed in energy healing, glass art and poetry. He has written a feature article on Bremers that will publish in Glass magazine on December 1, 2021.
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Well-known early on for their signature blown glass Bags, the subsequent cast glass work of John Littleton and Kate Vogel provided a new outlet for complex contemplations, questions and reflections. In this dramatic departure from their lighthearted Bags, faces and hands are used in various poses and combinations to explore states of mind, relationships, and even spiritual themes. Cast arms with hands in amber glass hold a brilliant jewel-cut form, which seems to spread its glowing light to all that surrounds it.
Use of multiple techniques by Littleton and Vogel reveals an intimate understanding of their medium, and the execution of each work reflects artists deserving of their place at the top of the contemporary glass movement. Not only visually stunning, their sculpture allows the viewer to create a narrative, each piece a captured moment in a story of the viewers’ choosing.
They state: “As we focus on each form, we see possibilities for the next, and our vocabulary of form and ideas expands. We bounce ideas back and forth, we build on each other’s concepts, and we learn from each other’s insights. Collaboration brings our individual sensibilities together to generate something neither of us would have made alone. “
Littleton and Vogel are nationally renowned American Studio Glass Movement artists who work and reside in Bakersville, North Carolina. Their creative partnership began in the mid-to-late 20th century, when they began collaborating on their first glass pieces in 1979 after meeting as art students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Creating sculptural blown and cast glass works and installations that speak to the importance of their relationships to one another, their family, and their community, Littleton and Vogel currently exhibit their works in Between Us: A Retrospective Exhibition of Work by John Littleton and Kate Vogel at the Bergstrom Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, Wisconsin. On view now through February 13, 2022, the exhibition is accompanied by a perfect bound 84-page publication with essays by Casey Eichhorn, exhibition curator, and Susie J. Silbert, Curator of Postwar and Contemporary Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass.
“This retrospective exhibition highlights important works, milestones, and innovations in their shared careers,” says Casey Eichhorn, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions,” – all while tying their experiences and influences back to John’s father, Harvey Littleton, an American glass artist, educator, and one of the founders of the American Studio Glass Movement.”
Harvey Littleton, whose influential work will also be shown in the exhibition, is often referred to as the “Father of the Studio Glass Movement.” In his role as an educator, he initiated the first hot glass program offered by an America University at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and promoted the idea of glass as a course of study in university art departments in the United States. Littleton’s students went on to become the dominant figures in the American Studio Glass Movement while broadening the study of glass art and university-level hot glass programs throughout the U.S.
John Littleton states: “Harvey introduced glass as a medium for artists. The Toledo workshops were dad’s idea. He had help from Norm Schuman and later Dominic Labino. The workshops wouldn’t have happened without him. He certainly had help developing technique, but more than anyone else he saw the possibility of putting glass in the hands of artists. The industrial model was designers who worked on paper passing the design to the factory worker who had little expressive input. There were artist craftsmen and women who worked with glass individually, but dad pursued the idea of glass being available to art students. The early years were a time he pushed to get glass into universities to expand glass’s creative and expressive potential. He saw the need for many artists working with glass for the growth of the field.”
Littleton and Vogel’s work has appeared in several group exhibitions including the Sculpture Objects and Functional Art (SOFA) in Chicago and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. Their glass works can also be seen in private and public collections in North America, Europe, and Asia. Locations include the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, AR; the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts in Switzerland; Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark; the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY; The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. Features on their work have appeared in various publications—such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and CBS Sunday Morning.
Littleton and Vogel state: “Choice, chance, circumstance, seductive qualities of the material…a little bit of all of the above. We stay with glass because it feels right. The process allows us to collaborate, start to finish. Glass is versatile, and we see endless possibilities in it and through it. In our work we strive to make something that is a personal expression of our thoughts and experiences.”
Inspired by Cycladic fertility icons, early Byzantine paintings, and folk art, Robin Grebe’s figures serve as a canvas or setting for her narratives. Through these elegant and often autobiographical cast glass busts, she explores the universal quest to understand the directions our lives. Imagery from the natural world represents peaceful beauty, but also speaks to uncharted territory and the unknown. Using birds and plants as metaphors for mythic flight, spirituality, the intangible, and nature’s uncontrollable forces, Grebe transforms her personal search into a shared exploration.
She says: “I have always worked figuratively; in some ways my sculptures are autobiographical. They help me process my thoughts, ideas and changes in life. The sculptures usually incorporate images from the natural world. These images serve as a metaphor to both our fragility as well as our resilience in our personal/emotional/spiritual world and in the larger world itself.”
Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1957, Grebe earned her MFA in Ceramics/Glass from Tyler School of Art, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and BFA in Ceramics from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts. She has taught glass and ceramics at the Massachusetts College of Art and Pilchuck Glass School, among others. Her exhibitions and collections include the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in Japan, the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Lowe Museum, Miami, Florida, and the Tucson Museum of Art in Tucson, Arizona, to name a few.
One of the things Grebe loves most about making her sculptures is working wet clay to make her sculptural form. She builds a plaster mold around that clay form, and once it has hardened, peels the clay out of the mold and fills the cavity with chunks of colored glass. It then gets fired in a kiln to melt the glass into the cavity. Once cooled the mold is chipped off the glass sculpture. The glass is then ground, sanded and polished into its final form.
Using cast glass, ceramic glazes, and transparent enamels, Grebe creates her monolithic and allegorical human forms, which seem simultaneously fragile and strong. To her, they illustrate the paradoxes of human life. Recent exhibitions of this work include a 2019 solo show at Habatat Gallery, West Palm Beach, Florida, and the group show, In Her Voice: Influential Women in Glass, held at the Sandwich Art Museum, Sandwich, Massachusetts, in 2021.
Ranging from the absurd to the edgy and aggressive, Joshua Opdenaker’s glass reflects his never-ending struggle for perfection in theory and execution. His art is not expressed solely through the finished piece, but rather the physical dance of creating it. Innovative techniques and concepts inspire contemplation via ever-changing themes, making JOP! glass impossible to classify and leaving it in a class of its own.
Born in Philadelphia, Opdenaker graduated from the University of the Arts with a BFA focus on stone carving in 2002. After years of carving stone, he began lampworking borosilicate glass in 2001 on the recommendation of his friend JAG. Flameworking became his technique of choice for sculpting, and the artist turned his focus to making glass pipes. While still an outlaw art form, the methods and creation were kept secret and not often spoken about in public places. Thus, he took on the moniker “JOP!” derived from an arrangement of his full name. In 2003, Opdenaker teamed up with Philadelphia Glass Works and became their permanent resident artist.
After establishing his studio in Philly’s Fishtown, JOP! joined forces with Elbo in 2014 to open Front Street Gallery in Kensington, Philadelphia. The gallery endeavored to bring the city’s most influential, beloved glass artists into the limelight allowing fans and collectors to admire and purchase their newest work. It was essentially a who’s-who of modern flameworking, featuring Philly artists like Zach Puchowitz, Snic Barnes, Marble Slinger (of Degenerate Art fame), Just Another Glassblower, and more. Front Street Gallery helped put Philadelphia on the map as a destination for the ever-growing glassblowing movement.
Invited to judge the 2019 European Flame Off in London, Opdenaker has exhibited his own pipes around the world, often blurring the line between pipes and sculpture. In 2008, represented by Silica Gallery, JOP glass was exhibited at SOFA, The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design fair.He creates in a broad range of styles to include his highly recognizable chicken rigs, medical series, giant cassette tapes, and his piece de resistance – The Baby Mecha Ganesh – a three-foot-tall, smokable baby with six arms.
Opdenaker states: “If nothing else, view my work as original. Technique and craft can be learned, originality cannot. You either have it, or you do not.”
The first in Philly’s Fishtown area to make a name for himself in the field, today there are at least five glass studios and 18 glassblowers on Opdenaker’s street alone. From group builds such as those of the Molten Art Classic to individual skill-building works such as goblets, JOP! glass’ pioneering spirit continues evolving with the scene.