During a 2011 lecture by John Moran, Krista Israel had an epiphany. The artist realized that through her art it was possible to offer an opinion on social issues. Thoughts and feelings that are difficult to put into words become one’s voice through the creation of art. To this end, she employs the techniques of casting, flameworking, and pâte de verre, using the natural characteristics of the different glass techniques to express her thoughts, sometimes in combination with other materials such as cloth, computer parts, plastic toys, even a chair.
Israel states: “Glass art doesn’t necessarily have to be shiny and pretty. This material, which is known for those properties, can also be used in a completely different way. For me that was an aha moment, which certainly influenced the series of critical works on social media and rapid technical developments that I made in the following years. In life we go through stages and changes; that also happens in the works you make.” During the pandemic lockdown, Israel’s artistic goals began to shift, and her desire to make work with ironic humor came into focus.
Starting out in her education as pastry chef and later silversmith, neither of those materials made Israel’s heart sing like melting glass rods in a flame. After the initial introduction to flameworking, she studied different techniques at a variety of workshops over a period of five years, while working for the largest bead store in the Netherlands, designing jewelery and giving workshops. In 2005, the artist became aware of the glass art department of the Institute for Art and Crafts (IKA) in Belgium. For almost two years she considered attending, until a visit to the institute convinced her to make the leap.
Graduating with honors from the IKA, Israel received her BFA in glass art in 2013 and MFA in 2016. In addition to the 2022 Saxe Emerging Artist Award from the Glass Art Society, the artist was selected for the Coburger Glas Preis 2022 and 2014, Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, Germany; nominated for the Dutch glass prize – the Bernadine de Neeve Prize 2021, Association Friends of Modern Glas; received Stipendium 2018, Association Friends of Modern Glass, The Netherlands; received the Originality & Ingenuity exhibition and residency, Liling Ceramic Valley Museum, China, 2017; and received the 10-10-10 Stipendium, academic grant for glass artists, Glass Gallery Aventurine, 2014. Israel designed and produced the 2015 collectors object of the Dutch Association Friends of Modern Glass.
The combination of her unique perspective on the modern world and flameworking techniques that produce a mind-blowing “glass fur,” has put Israel on the map. She has participated in national and international exhibitions in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, China, Poland, the United States and the Netherlands, including: New Glass Now On Tour, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, USA; New Glass Now, Corning Museum of Glass, USA, 2019; Glass 4 Ever, Gorcums Museum, Netherlands, 2018; Glass Art Society, GAS Members Juried Exhibition, USA, 2017; European Glass Festival, main exhibition Play with Glass: Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde, Poland, 2016; Tianyuan International Glass Art Festival, Collision & Fission Contemporary Glass Art Invitational Exhibition, China, 2016; Exhibition Coburger Glas Preis, Europaïsch Museum für Modern Glass, Germany, 2014. Her work is represented in public collections, including: Corning Museum of Glass, USA; Liling Ceramic Valley Museum, China; Ernsting Stiftung Glass Museum Alter Hof Herding, Germany; and Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg – Europaisch Museum für Modern Glas, Germany. Her work is represented in the US by Habatat Galleries Detroit, coming soon at Habatat Galleries Florida and Oooit Art in the Netherlands.
Israel is co-founder of the non-profit organization UNexpected Glass. During the International Year of Glass, UNexpected Glass will launch its first exhibition in October 2022, which will be a crossover between glass art, multi-media art with glass and glass innovation from the architectural world and construction industry. Artist and innovation talks and glass demonstrations will also be offered. Check in at www.unexpectedglass.nl which is currently under construction.
Wrote Helene Besancon, curator National Glass Museum: “Krista Israel is a multi-media artist with a main focus on glass. Looking at her work it is like entering a story. The artworks are pleasing to the eye, but there is a layer of bittersweetness in all of them. Her works are in a realistic style, but it is not about the obvious reality. She is an artist who uses a broad variety of techniques, using the natural characteristics of glass to express her thoughts and reflections of the world and people, thus addressing the needs of our well-being. The combination of different techniques and her thoughts make her work complex and intriguing.”
Martin Blank’s early figurative work swiftly solidified his place as a premier figurative sculptor working in glass. The artist expanded his contributions to the contemporary glass scene in 2001 when he introduced his sensual and fluid abstract landscapes. An innovator with an intense drive to create and to push his material, Blank’s influences include glass masters Pino Signoretto and William Morris and artforms as diverse as origami and opera.
Blank states: “My work explores what I call visual mirroring. It deals with abstract forms and their spatial relationships. Mirroring is the way two juxtaposed objects relate to one another. There is a dialogue that is created between these forms. A tenuous and tactile presence is created. It is the resonating voice. Each shape relates to its adjacent partner. In this intimate stage, each element has the ability to affect and echo the other. There is a moment when these objects reach their peak visual potency. This is the essence of what is revealed while I create.”
Blank emerged as one of North America’s premiere figurative sculptors with a style quintessentially his own, admiring the grace and flow of the human form since childhood. In 1984, the artist earned his BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. That same year, he moved west to begin his professional career in Seattle, working at the center for studio glass and learning from the driving force behind it – Dale Chihuly. Blank brought his infectious enthusiasm and courageous desire to push the material to Chihuly’s team, all the while establishing his own contributions to the glass movement.
From his Lotus series to Deconstructed Blue and Adorn series, Blank’s sculpture can be found in international locations including the Millennium Museum in Beijing, China, the Shanghai Museum of Fine Art, Shanghai, China, and the American Embassy in Slovakia. The artist was among a group of America’s most renowned glass artists invited to make presentations to create public art for the World Trade Center park in New York City. His work is included in private collections and museums around the world to include the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford, California; and the Cleveland Museum of Fine Art.
In 2001, Blank created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “Access to Learning” Award for recipients in Finland, Argentina and Guatemala. His own honors include: the Award of Excellence for the International Glass Invitational, Habatat Gallery, Royal Oak, Michigan, 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2016; Artists Grants, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, 1986 and 1990; and artist residencies at Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, 2003, 2007. His public abstract landscapes include: Current at Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington; Repose in Amber at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Indiana; Fluent Steps at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington; and Steam Portrait at 99 Church Street, New York, New York. These public sculptures reveal nature’s inherent structure and celebrate the complementary relationship of natural and figurative objects in space.
Blank recently completed a new installation at Imagine Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida, titled If a River Could Tell a Story, an installation and ecosystem of light, reflection, form and motion, on view through 2022. The artist was commissioned to collaborate on a work of art for Imagine Museum with founder, Trish Duggan. The fluidity of motion contained in the work invites one on the journey of the river of self-discovery. Every year, Imagine Museum selects its Artist of the Year, a contemporary artist whose art fosters the appreciation of the artistic and expressive nature of glass. For 2022, Blank was chosen, as he is one of the premier figurative sculptors across the globe whose work distinctively expresses motion, sensuality, and the powerful resonance of human landscapes.
Since the 1990s, as an independent artist in Seattle, Blank has produced art and commissions for contemporary collectors, museums and gallery exhibitions. Whether it is a collection of flower blossoms, a monumental abstract installation, or a figurative sculpture, his hot sculpted glass is made with a combination of technical exactitude and creative exuberance. His working relationship with glass is an intimate one, as he wears heat protective clothing, gets very close, and employs his entire body while molding the molten material. Intuitive and deliberate, he is nonetheless open to enhancing his visual vocabulary with the happy accidents of glasswork.
Blank states: “It always intrigues me when the forms reveal a negative space that is as vital and potent as the actual objects. Great sculpture is like music, all you have to do is feel it.”
The Glass Art Society (GAS), Inc. is an international organization whose mission is to encourage excellence, to advance education, to promote the development and appreciation of the glass arts, and to support the worldwide community of artists who work with glass. Since 1971, GAS has been using the joy of glass to connect, inspire, and empower all facets of the global glass community.
From the early days of the American Studio Glass movement to the upcoming United Nations’ International Year of Glass, GAS continues to foster connections that last a lifetime. This year’s gathering – held in Tacoma, Washington, from May 18 – 21 – celebrates 50 years of Glass Art Society. With the theme Between Here and There, this milestone conference will explore the past five decades of glass and what the next five decades will hold for making, collecting, and educating.
GAS Executive Director, Brandi Clark, says: “This will be one of the most exciting GAS conferences yet. GAS will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary, it is the United Nations’ International Year of Glass, and we will be able to gather together again after three long years! While celebrating the history of GAS, we will also be highlighting the reach and diversity that is the future of the glass community. Our Saxe Emerging Artists are a great reflection of that.”
The Glass Art Society is pleased to announce the 2022 Saxe Emerging Artist Award recipients: Fumi Amano, Krista Israel, and Madeline Rile Smith. Each winner will receive the opportunity to present at the 2022 Annual GAS Conference, placement in a digital artist exhibition, an honorarium to support their artistic endeavors, and more. Through a competitive jurying process, GAS recognizes emerging artists every year based on their promising talent with glass. Applicants—nominated by peers, academics, and curators—are evaluated by a professional panel of jurors.
All interdisciplinary artists, each of the three winners use their work to explore the similarities between the unique properties of glass and their own minds and bodies. Joining me on this episode of Talking Out Your Glass podcast, Smith uses glass as a “performative vehicle to consider notions of intimacy and embodiment,” exploring the parallels between the human body and the medium of glass.
Informed by her background in music, Smith creates objects that explore connection and isolation. Her work has been exhibited in venues throughout the US and internationally, and has been featured in New Glass Review 41 and 35. She currently teaches glass art as an adjunct professor at Rochester Institute of Technology and has instructed glass working in schools and institutions throughout the East Coast, including UrbanGlass, Salem Community College, and the Crefeld School.
States Smith: “Informed by my experience with chronic pain, my work explores degrees of ability and compromise of the human body. Pain has caused periods of isolation in my life, and as a result I have a strong impulse to connect with others. I utilize glass as a performative vehicle to explore interaction between people. Through objects and performance, I examine the pleasure, intimacy and discomfort that accompany the interpersonal experiences we all seek.”
This episode also features a conversation Natali Rodrigues, former GAS Board President, this year’s GAS Lifetime Membership award winner, and Associate Professor in the Glass Program at the Alberta University of the Arts in Canada. Rodrigues discusses the upcoming GAS conference, the organization’s new mission, vision, values and strategic plan, and how those are being implemented to create a more inclusive organization and glass community. “The more work GAS does to be an international organization, the more ways it finds to bring together the glass community across borders,” Rodrigues says.
And you’ll hear from one of GAS’ founders, Fritz Dreisbach. Equal parts artist, scientist, and historian, Dreisbach has spent the last five decades teaching and demonstrating glassblowing around the world. This “Johnny Appleseed of Glass” has himself played a vital role in the history of the American Studio Glass movement that he now strives to preserve and share with the next generation. In the process of inspiring others to try glass, Dreisbach began studying and reinventing historic shapes in glass with his personal brand of irony, humor, and fun. Children’s toys and games, funk ceramics, and 1960s comics all inspired Dreisbach’s early artwork. Above all, he endeavored to capture the fluid nature of the hot glass used to create his work.
Having studied painting at the University of Iowa, earning his master of arts degree, Dreisbach planned to eventually teach college level art, thus his advisor instructed him to study a wide variety of mediums. A two-credit, experimental course in glassblowing was part of the curriculum. Serendipitously, his love affair with glass began the summer of 1964, only two years after the seminal ’62 Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) workshops. During this time, Dreisbach first met and was inspired by three pioneers of Studio Glass—Harvey Littleton, Dominick Labino, and Erwin Eisch.
Dreisbach has led hundreds of workshops and lectures about glass in over 185 institutions worldwide. Traversing the country, teaching and spreading the gospel, earned him the moniker, “The Johnny Appleseed of Glass.” Dreisbach designed and built many hot shops in the 1960s and 1970s, including Pilchuck Glass School. After his short visit in 1971, the artist began teaching and advising the school for over four decades and has served as an artist trustee since 1993. He helped found and direct the Glass Art Society, which presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
Enjoy this multi-faceted conversation about GAS – past, present and future.
Cappy Thompson is an internationally acclaimed Seattle artist known for her mythopoetic narratives on glass created via the grisaille painting technique. Early in her career, she was drawn to the images and symbols of the medieval period, inspired by the Christian tradition of Western Europe as well as the content of Hindu, Pagan, Judaic, Buddhist and Islamic painting. In more recent years, the artist has moved away from mythological narrative and toward compositions on vessels that draw upon images and themes from her personal life. Thus began an autobiographical exploration of world culture and spirituality that continues to the present.
Thompson states: “For me, as a narrative painter, the issue has always been content. The issue wasn’t glass, the material that I chose some 45 years ago. Nor was it the painting technique—grisaille or gray-tonal painting—that I taught myself to use. My work—which spans several decades and a variety of scales from the intimate to the monumental—has always been driven by content.”
Born in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1952, Thompson grew up in Seattle and attended the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where she received her BA in 1976 in painting and printmaking. Basically self-taught, her first professional exposure to glass came in 1975 when she worked for a small studio in Olympia. For several years she learned and worked in solitude until her reputation brought her to the attention of glass artists Charles Parriott, Therman Statom and Dale Chihuly. In 1984 Thompson moved back to Seattle, and her subsequent exposure to artists at Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, led her to painting on vessel forms.
Thompson’s work can be found in collections worldwide, including those of the Corning Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, the Chrysler Museum of Art, Museum of Art and Design, and the Microsoft Corporation. Recent exhibitions include Indie Folk: New Art and Songs from the Pacific Northwest, held at The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Washington State University, Pullman, 2022; The Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, Oregon, 2022; and Fluid Formations, Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington, on view in 2021. Public commissions include large-scale installations at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Evergreen State College, and Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. In 2019, Thompson designed, fabricated and installed eight painted glass windows for Salk Middle School, Spokane, Washington, a project commissioned by Washington State Arts Commission in partnership with Spokane School District.
A recipient of an NEA fellowship, the Libensky Award, and Pilchuck’s John Hauberg Fellowship, Thompson has also been artist in residence at Pilchuck and at Toyama City Institute. She has served on the Bellevue Arts Museum Advisory Council, the Board of Directors of the Glass Art Society and Pilchuck Glass School’s Artistic Program Advisory Committee and continues serving on the Board of Directors for Pottery Northwest. She has taught workshops around the world at Bildwerk, Frauenau, Germany; California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California; Canberra School of Art, Canberra, Australia; Centro del Arte Vitro, Monterrey, Mexico; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; International Glass Center, Dudley College, Stourbridge, England; National Sculpture Factory, Cork Ireland; National College of Arts and Design, Dublin, Ireland; Northlands Creative Glass Center, Lybster, Scotland; Penland School of Crafts, Penland, North Carolina; Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington; and many more.
Though each piece tells its own story, there is one general message Thompson tries to convey with her work: “I see now, after more than three decades of work, that I am like those medieval painters striving to express magnificence and beauty. But my expression focuses on the human experience of goodness, of hope and of love.”
One would be hard-pressed to think of any other artist working with glass whose work reflects as many varied and compelling styles as Dan Dailey’s. From vessel forms to his Individuals to lamps, sconces and chandeliers, these beautiful, sometimes humorous pieces dazzle through a combination of colored glass and intricate metal work. No matter the format, Dailey’s work expresses humanity, historical reference, and reverence for the natural world.
Dailey credits his successful career to his education in the arts. Born in Philadelphia in 1947, he attended Philadelphia College of Art, where he encountered glass through ceramic teacher, Roland Jahn, and discovered a mentor in William P. Daley, who taught basic design and color to his freshman class. Dailey, who completed graduate studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) as Dale Chihuly’s first graduate student, says: “Under Chihuly’s influence, I focused totally on glass. That was a breakthrough for me. It was a lucky time for me to be there.’’
Following graduate school, with the support of a Fulbright fellowship, Dailey moved to Italy and worked in Murano’s famed Venini Factory during 1972 and 1973 as an independent artist/designer. He later worked with other established glass companies such as Critsallerie Daum in Nancy, France, and Steuben Glass Works, in Corning, New York.
In 1973, Dailey returned to the US and established the glass program at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, which he headed until 1985. Now Professor Emeritus, he transitioned into a new relationship with MassArt, creating a lecture series titled Materialism, in collaboration with Joe Rapone, a professor of design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Dailey continues his role as independent designer at both Venini and Daum, and serves on the National Advisory Board for The University of the Arts.
Among his many awards, Dailey received a Fulbright Hayes Fellowship, Venice, Italy, 1972-1973 and a Fellowship at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1975-1983. He was elected a Fellow of the American Craft Council in 1998, honored in 2000 with the Libensky Award, and in 2001 with the Masters of the Medium Award by the James Renwick Alliance. Shown in over 300 exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Renwick Gallery, his work is included in more than 50 museum and public collections internationally, and currently represented by Schantz Galleries, Stockbridge, Massachusetts; Hawk Galleries, Columbus, Ohio; Habatat Galleries, Royal Oak, Michigan; and Sandra Ainsley Gallery, Toronto, Canada.
Dailey’s process for transforming glass into compelling and unexpected forms is almost as interesting on paper as it is in three dimensions. Drawings and watercolors are used to refine ideas, but also to direct his team, which can include glassblowers in Seattle; acid polishing in West Virginia; waterjet cutters in local machine shops; and cutting, grinding, metal working, and assembling assistants at his New Hampshire studio. Working from his titles forward, the artist keeps a list of thoughts and key phrases, illustrating words with the objects he makes.
He states: “I emphasized drawing as a teacher for many years, because it would help me to help somebody realize their own ideas. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful drawing. It just needs to include information. However, in my own work, I make accurate drawings that really represent the piece.”
Focusing part of his time on producing sculptural lighting and large installations for residences and public buildings, Dailey says being diversified has kept him continuously busy, though he notes, not everyone makes a connection between all of his work. “Someone interviewed me at an exhibition in Chicago and did not realize that I made all of the work on exhibit. She thought it was three different artists. It was the first time I considered that perhaps my work wasn’t clearly all mine, even though to me it all looked like it belonged. If you look through my sketchbooks and see the black-and-white ink on paper drawings, you can see that as different as the finished work can be, it is all connected by my stylistic approach.”
Emerging from the Studio Glass movement initiated by Harvey Littleton, Dailey’s work goes beyond its historical glass roots to combine with metal in a variety of formats, all of which communicate a subjective, narrative message. A vast array of forms has always been required to express the multitudes of ideas generated by Dailey’s mind, and style is the common thread that binds them.
In his role at the Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG), Eric Goldschmidt gives demonstrations in flameworking, glass breaking, and optical fiber, in addition to teaching, lecturing, and exhibiting his work around the world. In the winter of 1998, he took his first formal class in flameworking with Roger Parramore at the Museum, which opened his mind and illustrated the possibilities of what could be done with the material and processes.
In 1993, with the goal of gaining residency to attend The University of Vermont, Goldschmidt relocated to the state and found work as a short-order cook, then as a candle maker. As a Dead Head, he had seen Snodgrass pipes in the early ‘90s, and his roommate at the time had worked with Chris Shave, one of Snodgrass’ early students in Oregon. With a torch set up in the garage, Goldschmidt began making mushroom pendants and marbles, working hollows, and by 1996 making his own pipe work.
Goldschmidt began working for The Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass in 2001 and returned to work for the Hot Glass Demo Department in April of 2008. In between, he worked for Arribas Brothers Company at Disney World from July of 2007 to March 2008. Making dragons, fairies and mermaids to entertain the public, Goldschmidt had to push his skills daily, perfecting the very techniques he relies upon today.
Missing the academic atmosphere of CMoG, Goldschmidt returned, moving from studio to demonstrations. From the walk-in workshop where guests made a piece of glass to serving as Resident Flameworker, he taught, advised, helped other instructors, and made his own work in the classroom when it was free. Having the opportunity to assist, observe or interview artists in Italy, Germany, and the Czech Republic, Goldschmidt was able to tune into cultural differences in the way flameworked glass is considered and approached.
Some favorite tasks in his current role as Flameworking and Properties of Glass Supervisor at CMoG include assisting Toots Zynsky during her residency and making work for a Robert Wilson installation that was shown at Design Miami in 2019. One of his many responsibilities is setting up glass demos such as the recent multi-day demonstration that resulted in incredible work by Dan Coyle (aka Coyle Condenser), Ryan O’Keefe (aka sdRyno), and Hoobsglass. Parts of the collaboration were livestreamed with thousands of artists tuning in from across the country. It is now available on CMoG’s YouTube channel.
Says Goldschmidt: “The world of flameworked glass has been seeing a great deal of innovation and momentum over the past decade that has largely been driven by artists making pipes for cannabis consumption. These artists are constructing objects that are not only beautiful and intriguing, but they must also function in specific ways for their collectors.”
Although Goldschmidt stopped making pipes when he began working at CMoG, he has been welcomed into the functional glass community as a “brother of the torch.” With a passion for goblets, he is known for both his Cage Cup series as well as his series of elegant Lidded Goblets. Sheet glass figurative work is his most unique contribution to flameworked art. The artist’s Cage Cups feature fragmented face imagery surrounded by twisted vine-like “cages.” These cages create a more in-depth narrative beyond their traditional silhouettes, presenting a metaphor for the cages that we become entrapped in within our lives. They draw the viewer in to find the deeper narrative. Each of his Lidded Goblets has a removable lid accented with a delicate finial.
In comparing pipes to goblets, Goldschmidt states: “Goblets are other objects that have potential for decoration. They involve the use of hollow forms, solid forms, and pattern work. Pipes and goblets are certainly related. The techniques and materials are very similar, if not exactly the same. People talk about the taboo of pipes because they’re used for cannabis. Cannabis is gaining huge acceptance these days. It’s a matter of time before the taboo is completely gone. Goblets and drinking vessels have been used for the consumption of alcohol for a long time. I don’t see too much of a difference. Some people are now connecting pipe makers and collectors with drinking vessels.”
Currently travelling in Italy, Goldschmidt is working with Cesare Toffolo’s sons on the beginnings of a film series that will cover a great deal of the history of flameworking. He will teach a workshop at Salem Community College, Goblet as a Tool for Growth, June 13 – June 16, 2022 and at Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program, a nonprofit, residential craft school in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, in October, 2022.
Executive Director of the Stained Glass Association of America (SGAA), Megan McElfresh has dedicated her professional life to community service and the art and science of stained glass. With a background in fine arts and operations management, she joined the Association as a professional member in 2015 and became the Executive Director in the fall of 2017.
Growing up in small stained glass studios, McElfresh continued to build on her technical skills in the medium by seeking mentorship opportunities throughout college. Some of the highlights of her glass studies were traveling to Pilchuck Glass School and time spent at the nationally recognized kilnforming resource center, Vitrum Studio. Prior to working with the SGAA, McElfresh worked in a variety of roles from operations management at a life sciences firm in Washington, D.C. to IT and web support for small non-profit art organizations.
In 2011, McElfresh moved from Northern Virginia to Buffalo, New York, and founded her studio, McElf GlassWorks. With a passion for her professional career as well as her new community, she never turned down an opportunity to collaborate with neighborhood teens and local programs to provide enthusiastic and creative educational enrichment. In her personal work, McElfresh uses her artwork in the advocacy of issues she became passionate about during her time working at a forensics laboratory concerning subjects like domestic violence and rape, and DNA backlogs. Her studio work has been featured in the Stained Glass Quarterly, Design NY, The Buffalo News, and Buffalo Rising.
With a background in operations management and art history, McElfresh is uniquely qualified in her role as leader for the National Trade Association as it approaches its 125th anniversary of service to the industry. In her role with the SGAA, she focuses on sowing the seeds of long-term change and strengthening the organization’s core programs. She endeavors to showcase the Association as a hub for the industry through strong partnerships with manufacturers, preservation and stewardship groups, and education centers. By bringing together the nation’s foremost architectural art glass studios in technical skill and integrity, the Stained Glass Association’s cumulative knowledge can be combined for the benefit of all who are tasked with the care and investment of our nation’s stained glass.
Approaching its 125th anniversary, the SGAA is headquartered in a new cooperative office space where staff can serve along with others working toward a similar mission. McElfresh remains enthusiastic about the SGAA’s renewed vision. For more than 100 years, the organization has held its annual summer conference, serving a vital role in the industry by bringing together artists and studios from across the country to exchange ideas and perspectives. The SGAA’s 111th Annual Summer Conference will be held June 27 – 30, 2022 in Toledo, Ohio.
Says McElfresh: “Each year’s national conference provides an educational and creative hub for glass artists, historians, manufacturers, and architects. Whether you’re an established studio or just learning stained glass; if you’re an architect or building caretaker; if you’re making public art or small panels for private homes, SGAA’s conferences have something for you. Please plan on joining your friends and colleagues both familiar and new for an inspirational and thought-provoking conference that will bring every facet of our industry together in celebration.”
Alexander Rosenberg rose to national prominence following his incredible run on the Netflix glassblowing series Blown Away, where he was among the final three contestants. His laid-back attitude, intelligence, and commitment to mining the history of the form and genre for deeper connections and stories left a lasting impression on viewers. This attention to the philosophy and historical detail of glass sets Rosenberg apart – not only on the show, but in his studio practice.
Glass is at once archaic and high tech – a mixture of poetry and functionality. On Blown Away, Rosenberg often strayed into the realm of historical and scientific objects like beakers and containers for exotic plants. He won the first challenge and a Pilchuck residency with his Lachrymatory, a “tear-filled” vessel that magnified like a lens a photo of his late dog, Cleo. He capitalized on the material’s absence, allowing us to see the inside and outside of an object simultaneously.
Wrote Ben Dreith, for Nuvo: “Rosenberg’s preference for exploring glass’ possibilities for modulating light rather than straying into a heavy use of color gives his work an elegance appropriate for both the art gallery and the historical or interior design collector—putting him somewhere between mad scientist and aesthete.”
An artist, educator and writer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Rosenberg received a Master of Science in Visual Studies from MIT and a BFA in glass from Rhode Island School of Design. His artistic practice is rooted in the study of glass as a material, in conjunction with broad interdisciplinary investigation crossing over into many other media and research areas. The artist pursues his practice though residencies, teaching, performances and exhibitions locally and internationally.
The recipient of the 2012 International Glass Prize and 2019 Awesome Foundation Grant, Rosenberg was also awarded The Sheldon Levin Memorial Residency at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, A Windgate Fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center, The Esther & Harvey Graitzer Memorial Prize, UArts FADF Grant, and the deFlores Humor Fund Grant (MIT). He has participated in residencies at Recycled Artist in Residence (RAIR), The MacDowell Colony, Wheaton Arts, Urban Glass, Vermont Studio Center, StarWorks, Pilchuck Glass School, GlazenHuis in Belgium, Rochester Institute of Technology, Radical Heart (Detroit), and Worcester Craft Center. He was a founding member of Hyperopia Projects (2010 – 2018), headed the glass program at University of the Arts (2010 – 2017), and was an artist member of Vox Populi gallery (2012 – 2015). After teaching at Salem Community College, he has recently taken a position at Wheaton Arts as Glass Studio director.
Through the masterful use of colorless glass, Rosenberg asks probing, existential questions about the use and value of specialized handcraft in contemporary society. His art practice includes projects such as 2.6 Cents an Hour (2006), for which the artist created his own version of currency, produced by casting lead crystal, then applying a chemical coating that gave the coins a metallic appearance. Rosenberg states: “I was excited about the prospect of some stranger getting these coins as they entered circulation. But I was also thinking about how to measure the worth of skilled labor.”
In Repertoire (2011–12), using glasses and vessels he made during demos while teaching, Rosenberg created an arrangement that, when lit correctly, cast a shadow onto the wall that perfectly resembled a man with an exaggerated erection lying down. Rosenberg says: “I started thinking about shadows as a new medium to explore. I had a hard time showing this work because I couldn’t teach anyone else to install it. I tried working with a studio assistant, thinking that if I could teach one person to assemble the work, then maybe there could be a way to get people to install it elsewhere. But nobody ever could. The piece won a prize from Glazenhuis, Belgium in 2012, and part of the deal was that they were supposed to acquire the work. But they told me they couldn’t, since nobody could install it. They just wrote me a check instead.”
Rosenberg continues: “I usually feel more comfortable pairing these technical exercises with something more self-effacing, and I wanted to poke fun at the machismo one often encounters in the hot shop.” The work was shown once more at the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark. On the last day, visitors were invited to take one piece home, until all that was left was the one long, vertical shadow.
Currently making a chandelier out of automotive waste and glass, Rosenberg also has an ongoing exhibition at the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site. He compares working with glass to the highly focused mental state of flow defined by psychologist and professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose research examined people who did activities for pleasure, even when they were not rewarded with money or fame. He considered artists, writers, athletes, chess masters, and surgeons – individuals who were involved in activities they preferred. He was surprised to discover that enjoyment did not result from relaxing or living without stress, but during these intense activities, in which their attention was fully absorbed. Glass continues to be an essential ingredient in Rosenberg’s flow.
Creating playful objects and curious scenes inspired by childhood memories and dreams, Caterina Weintraub uses glass, a fragile and heavy material, to recreate iconic toys or re-imagine personal memories that evoke a sense of sentiment, wonder and discomfort. She utilizes a variety of techniques to create sculptures and installations in her Boston-based studio, Fiamma Glass. From intricate torch work to large-scale kiln castings and hot blown pieces, she chooses the process best suited to realize her vision.
Fiamma Glass Studio was established in 2010 in Newton, Massachusetts, by native Bostonians, David and Caterina Weintraub. Both are graduates of Massachusetts College of Art & Design, where they met over 13 years ago. Fiamma Glass Studio offers flameworking and glassblowing instruction, design, fabrication and consultation.
Caterina’s glass experience includes internships with Dan Dailey and Bel Vetro Glass, Brockton, Massachusetts. She has been awarded scholarships to the Corning Museum of Glass, Penland School of Crafts and Mass Art and was presented with Habatat Gallery’s International Award. Recent exhibitions include Not Your Grandma’s Glass, Habatat, Royal Oak, Michigan. In 2021, the gallery promoted a year-long glass competition featuring 12 artists, including Weintraub, who push their medium beyond the norm. Each artist chose a single month of the year to create an online presentation. Habatat asked the artists to create on such a level that the body of work could be displayed at their dream museum.
Says Aaron Schey, international art dealer, owner and partner of Habatat Michigan, founder of the Glass Art Fair and Not Grandma’s Glass: “This exhibition promoted 12 unique online presentations by 12 artists that are pushing the medium beyond the norm – creating work that is probably not in grandma’s collection…..yet. These artists are extremely innovative, and I propose that they will all be important in the future of the glass medium.”
Glass Lifeforms, on view in 2021 at Fuller Craft Museum’s Stone and Barstow Galleries, Brockton, MA, featured Weintraub’s sculpture. Curated by Sally Prasch, Glass Lifeforms 2021 featured contemporary artworks inspired by Harvard University’s acclaimed collections of plant and invertebrate models produced in the 19th and 20th centuries by Czech glass artists Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka. The exhibition included artists working in various glass techniques, including lampworking, glassblowing, pâte de verre, and others. Exhibited works were selected by a jury based on accuracy in representing the organism, aesthetic beauty, presentation, and originality.
Unforgettable, Weintraub’s signature polka dot bunnies, glass lab rats and humorous finger puppets linger in the viewer’s memory long after initial viewing, proving this artist has conquered the ultimate challenge of finding a style and voice in glass.
With the magical beauty and slight foreboding akin to Tolkien’s Fangorn Forest, the painted and stained glass panels of Petri Anderson entrance the viewer with their mystical lighting and woodland content. A stained glass artist working from his studio in Hertfordshire, UK, Anderson’s inspiration comes from two primary sources: the wealth of 19th– and early 20th-century British stained glass and the woodland habitats of his Finnish roots.
Beginning in 1989, Anderson studied restoration glass painting under Peter Archer and Alfred Fisher, and in the late ‘90s succeeded Archer as head designer and painter at Chapel Studio in Hertfordshire. Currently heading his own studio, Mongoose Stained Glass, Anderson undertakes domestic and ecclesiastical commissions as well as restoration, producing work that can be seen in churches, livery companies, schools and private homes. Liturgical projects include the Pat Salvage memorial window for St. Nicholas Church in Kelvedon Hatch, which received a diocesan award for design, and three windows for St. Andrews Church, Hyde Heath.
Having mastered techniques to include the use of traditional kiln fired glass paints and enamels, Anderson’s woodland scenes include detailed acid etched areas employed to achieve rich color varieties through the application of Jean Cousin and pigment made from steel wool soaked in vinegar. He designs and fabricates commissions and produces individual gallery pieces, some of which are available for exhibition. Independent works, such as Fox and Owls, are often inspired by global events. Others, such as Doves Rising, pay homage to the natural world. The artist has recently finished a circular panel based on Bruckner’s 4th Symphony.
Anderson will co-teach a design workshop with Tim Carey and Helen Whittiaker on Thursday, July 14, at the 2022 American Glass Guild (AGG) Conference in Corning, New York. Students will learn how to design using the program Procreate. The artist has also donated his latest work, an adaptation of a painting by E R Hughes called Oh, what’s that in the Hollow? to the AGG auction. The auction is the sole source of support for the James C. Whitney Scholarship Fund, which has awarded over 125 scholarships to worthy recipients, many of whom have traveled nationally and internationally honing their stained glass skills and knowledge.
Stained glass painting techniques have not changed dramatically since the earliest known examples of the craft back in 9th century Germany. Anderson wrote for buildingconservation.com: “A 14th century development in glass painting technique was the use of the badger hair brush. This is a broad brush (some modern badger hair brushes are 5” wide) which is used as a dry brush on wet paint to soften the paint effect and remove application brush marks. Frequently the badger brush was also used to achieve a ‘stippled’ paint effect by pouncing the wet paint. This allowed the painter to achieve a more refined appearance. Another addition to the glass painter’s repertoire was ‘silver stain’. In the early 14th century it was discovered that applying a compound of silver onto the glass and then firing it would stain the glass anything from a pale lemon color to a deep orange color. This discovery revolutionized stained glass. Suddenly there were lots of new possibilities: for the first time color could be applied to the glass and controlled depending on the firing temperature and thickness of the application. While the paintwork was confined to the side of the glass that faced inwards, the silver stain was applied to the outside face of the glass.”
A master of manipulating paint and stain to reproduce lush woodland environments, Anderson discusses both historical painting processes and his own unique take on the centuries-old techniques used to create his stunning body of work.
For two decades, the beauty of the Canadian Rockies has informed the sculptural work of Leslie Rowe-Israelson. Wondrous locales such as Banff and Jasper National Parks inspired her to express an emotional connection to nature in kiln formed glass, often enhanced with one-of-a-kind flameworked beads made by twin sister, Melanie. Leslie has mastered the creation of large fused panels as well as massive color bar bowls made in homage to streams flowing through the mountains.
Using a color bar process that allows her to strip away layers of color, Israelson then uses that color to create paintings of light in glass. She expands on these skills by placing different types of reactive glasses together, such as copper bearing glass, silver, and reactive cloud glass. Continually challenging, this combination of techniques evokes different seasons and climates, sharing the artist’s passion for both glass and nature with the viewer.
In the mountains of Canada, glass consumed Israelson’s thoughts and dreams. Beginning in stained glass, a new visual language of kiln forming was born of training and dialoging with other glass artists. From 1985 to 1994, Leslie and Melanie attended the world-renowned Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. Both sisters agree that Pilchuck changed their lives. There they met Klaus Moje, Richard Whiteley, Rudi Gritsch, Richard Marquis, Paul Marioni, Dante Marioni, and William Morris – encouraging their evolution from flat to sculptural work. They also met Thomas Hamling, developer of Zircar Refractory Composites, who introduced Leslie to Mold Mix 6, which introduced her to a new visual vocabulary.
The sisters received additional training from the Alberta College of Art, Calgary, Alberta; Andrighetti Glassworks, Vancouver, British Columbia; Boyce Lundstrom’s Camp Colton, Colton, Oregon; and the Vancouver College of Art. Together they have participated in a number of residencies, both at Pilchuck and Uroboros Glass, Portland, Oregon. In 1995, Leslie and Melanie attended a month-long symposium in Teplice, Czech Republic, held by Glav Union, one of the largest flat glass manufacturers in the world at that time.
In early 2000, Israelson spent six months making a wax for a new piece that featured a huge glass circle with multiple figures. When she finally fired it, the piece cracked in the kiln due a thermocouple failure. She explains: “It was awesome! When I took it out of the mold, a big chunk came out, revealing the way the glass had flowed and melted. I wanted to figure out how to recreate that look intentionally.” This event marked the beginning of her work assembling, fusing, and slicing color bars. Now, the artist carefully stacks all the glass, knowing how it’s going to flow and move, and which way to cut it. “I try to create the flow of the mountains through the flow of the glass,” she says.
In 2004, Israelson studied with Irene Frolic and Lou Lynn at Red Deer College, Red Deer, Alberta. There she discovered wax, and suddenly her work evolved from flat bowls to three-dimensional sculpture. She began to work larger, incorporating metals in the work by applying iron oxides on the surface of the mold material. Without access to a hot shop, the artist accomplished all of her creative goals in her kiln, layering Bullseye Glass in sand, talc and Mold Mix 6 molds. She states: “No one was doing this at the time. I was a teaching assistant for Warren Langley at Pilchuck, and he gave me the sand and talc mixture. I experimented with mold materials that would allow me to take the skin off and see inside the glass – to let the light reflect through it.”
Israelson’s commissions include: Government of Canada, Governor General Arts Award, cast glass hands; Banff School of Fine Arts, Mountain Film and Book Festivals: Awards 1996 – 2014; Government of Canada, Secretary of State for External Affairs: International Gifts 1990; and Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Acquisition for Permanent Exhibition. She has demonstrated or taught at the Glass Art Society, virtual demo, 2021; Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; Pilchuck Glass School; Alberta College of Art and Red Deer College of Art, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.
For the last few years, Israelson has been working on a new series of larger works made via a fusing/ glassblowing hybrid process with the assistance of glassblower, Ryan Bavin. Bavin is both glassblower and award-winning nature photographer. His father, Pat, started Bavin Glassworks in Invermere, BC, in 1988. Ryan served an apprenticeship there that lasted for eight years before moving on to Pilchuck, where he studied and has been invited back several times as a teacher and gaffer working for and with respected glass artists from Canada and other nations. His blown work is represented by Canada House Gallery, Banff.
Says Israelson: “Our glass work together has developed over the years, and I cannot think of a better glassblower to work with blowing out our Bullseye Glass than Ryan. Our paths have overlapped over the years at Pilchuck, giving us a solid foundation for experimenting and creating together or separately.”
Always moving in new directions, Israelson now feels she can truly interpret the land, sky, and mountains by painting with glass. Through experimentation, she hopes to create an artistic link between glass and stone and the world in which we live. Her collaborative work with Bavin can be seen in 2022 at Canada House Gallery, Banff, and The Hearth – Arts on Bowen, Bowen Island, BC.
Mainly self-taught, Adam Whobrey aka Hoobsglass, began developing his flameworking and sculpting skills beginning in 2001 by traveling the US and sharing techniques with fellow glass artists. By 2010, he had created his signature glass sneaker, the perfect visual statement for the pipe scene, and one which resulted in world-wide recognition from the glass world as well as the famous musicians and business professionals who bought the work. The combination of iconic design and world-class sculpting put Hoobs on the map.
After nearly two decades of mastering his craft, Hoobs continues to push the limits of the medium by leading some of the largest group builds ever created in borosilicate glass. His event, the Molten Art Classic, held in Southern California, has become the largest collaborative art event featuring the world’s top borosilicate glass artists who come together to create unforgettable functional sculpture to include the epic Space Station, Ghost Busters Ecto 1, and The Shipwreck, to name only a few.
Hoobs has exhibited his work and taught classes throughout the US, Canada and Europe to include: a 3-day class taught at Borofield Studio, Huddersfield, England, 2018; judge for the European Flame-Off, London, England, 2018; Spannabis Art show, RDM Gallery, Barcelona, Spain, 2019; DFO Flameoff Competitor, Peoples Choice Winner, 2019; and Day of Dunks, RDM Gallery, Barcelona, Spain, 2019.
Says Hoobs: “Since I was a young, I have had an active imagination and have explored everything from drawing to computer graphics to clay and wood. But there was nothing that compared to melting glass in a flame. From the first time I touched glass I knew I would do it for the rest of my life.”
Collected and sold in over 18 different countries, Hoobs’ glass blends cultures and exposes the art form to a broader audience. As of late, he is creating more refined and smaller verions of iconic imagery such as his Fear and Loathing Cadillac collab. His solo work will be on view at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach, California, in July 2022.
Earlier this month, The Corning Museum of Glass hosted an impressive group of flameworkers for a collaborative, multi-day demonstration that resulted in incredible work. The Museum’s resident flameworker, Eric Goldschmidt, invited Dan Coyle (aka Coyle Condenser), Ryan O’Keefe (aka sdRyno), and Hoobsglass to the Amphitheater Hot Shop where they showcased advanced flameworking techniques (frame building, cold bridging, and complex assembly) to create an intricate monkey-piloted robot. Here are photos.’/.
The completed piece is a great blend of their individual talents and styles. Coyle is well-known for his use of the monkey in his work, and his background in scientific glassblowing led to the highly technical hollow work necessary for the functionality of the piece. Hoobs has developed a reputation for building intricate structures of glass that allow for larger-scale, highly detailed objects. This structural approach is the foundation for this piece. Ryno has developed a reputation for his figurative sculpture and particularly for his use of the iconic rubber ducky in his work. The color scheme and ducky references in this piece are clear nods to his influence.
“The world of flameworked glass has been seeing a great deal of innovation and momentum over the past decade that has largely been driven by artists making pipes for cannabis consumption,” said Goldschmidt, Flameworking and Properties of Glass Supervisor. “These artists are constructing objects that are not only beautiful and intriguing, but they must also function in specific ways for their collectors.
“Collaboration amongst artists has become a unique way for artists to make work that goes above and beyond what they might otherwise accomplish as individuals,” Goldschmidt added. “The three artists we invited to be our guests have collaborated successfully many times over the past 5 years. The piece they created here presents a great example of how the individual strengths of these artists combine to raise the bar even higher.”
Parts of the collaboration were livestreamed with thousands of artists tuning in from across the country. It is now available on CMOG’s YouTube channel.
Studio Glass pioneer Sidney Hutter creates three-dimensional sculptural objects in which the intersection of form, glass, color and light unite to create works of art with an amazing and ever-changing spectrum of color, reflection, and refraction. Transformed from industrial plate glass into beautiful objects, Hutter’s iconic non-functional vessel sculptures read more like “three-dimensional paintings.” Hutter states: “As a glass sculptor, my interest is in the effects of light reflecting and refracting off and through glass. By laminating layers of glass, I am able to emphasize and manipulate the effects of light using color, shape and surface treatments.” After a fire temporarily closed the glassblowing studio during his second year in the graduate glass program at the Massachusetts College of Art, Hutter developed his layered and coldworked vessels. In the late 1970s, he was in the unique position of creating art uninhibited by financial pressures. The artist immersed himself in the idea of making large-scale glass sculptures based on historical glass research and influenced by his interest in architecture and work by his hero, David Smith. He focused on the creation of his Plate Glass Vase series, with which he entered the gallery world. Hutter says: “Now, 40 years later, it is inspiring to look back at the complex and unique pieces created during that time of freedom and ultimate creativity.”
Post-graduation, Hutter became an instructor at Massachusetts College of Art, Boston University and in Boston Public Schools. In 1980, he founded Sidney Hutter Glass & Light in Boston and later moved his studio to its current location in Newton, Massachusetts. There, he continues to create sculptures which combine fine art and glass craft with commercial processes used in architectural glass, adhesive and pigment industries.
During the heyday of Studio Glass, Hutter’s art and process became increasingly more technical. In response, he co-designed and fabricated machines to help make his work more efficient. His interests in glass, ultraviolet light and adhesive technology, and pigment applications have taken him around the country – attending conferences and researching the latest advancements in those fields. Through conversations with industry leaders, he has been able to adapt commercial processes to his studio practice and create landscapes of color between layers of glass.
Hutter’s work is represented by the country’s finest galleries and included in numerous private and public collections as well as major museums in the US, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Art and Design in New York and the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. In 1993, White House Vase #1 became part of the White House Craft Collection. The artist has created commercial projects for the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong, the Hyatt on Collins in Melbourne, Australia, as well as for the Pittsburgh Gateway Hilton and the Righa Royal Hotel in Osaka, Japan, to name just a few.
With a career spanning more than four decades, Hutter has been an eyewitness to the changes in Studio Glass. In this conversation, he contemplates a shift in focus to include more lighting projects in his studio practice and reflects on advancing technology, economic highs and lows, and the ever-shifting interests of collectors and galleries.
Throughout the years, Hutter has developed a unique design style – influenced and cultivated from his passion for art and architecture and melded with his interest in the commercial glass and adhesive technology industries. He adapted information, materials, and equipment into a unique studio practice, which contributed greatly to the glass art movement. His work will be on view in a spectacular collaborative show, Masters of Modern Glass, at Shaw Gallery, in Naples, Florida, with Richard Royal, Toland Sand, Rick Eggert, Tom Marosz, and Alex Bernstein. It opens March 3, 2022.
In 1897, when The Judson Studios was established in Los Angeles by the painter and professor William Lees Judson and his three sons, they could have never imagined the scope of the work their studio would produce in the 21stcentury. Under the direction of David Judson, Lees’ great-great grandson, every project is approached with a cutting-edge sensibility and technological savvy, whether the client is a boutique hotel or a historic cathedral.
Helmed by Walter Horace, the eldest of Lees’ sons and a stained glass expert, Judson Studios thrived from the start, beautifying the booming metropolis of Los Angeles with works that represented the best in traditional and modern design. Today, Judson is the oldest family-run stained glass studio in America, still proudly offering an exquisite, handcrafted product made by local artisans, and continuing to serve the community that has sustained them through the decades. Located in the Highland Park section of northeast LA, the studio was founded in the Mott Alley section of downtown in the mid-1890s, but moved to its current location in 1920. The Judson Studios building was named a Historic-Cultural Landmark by the City of Los Angeles in 1969 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
In April of 2017 Judson Studios’ Resurrection Window, the largest single composition fused glass window in the world, was dedicated. Created for the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, the groundbreaking work measures 37 feet tall by 93 feet wide. For the ambitious project, Judson Studios collaborated with world-renowned artist Narcissus Quagliata to bring then Judson designer Tim Carey’s vision to life. This represented the first time a notable liturgical window was created entirely from fused glass. To accomplish the daunting task of producing this first ever fused window wall, Judson Studios expanded from their workspace in Highland Park to a new addition in South Pasadena. More than 5,000 square feet of modern factory and kiln capabilities enabled the studio, with Quagliata’s assistance, to complete their most challenging commission to date.
The changes necessary for the creation of The Resurrection window have completely expanded and redefined the studio’s offerings and capabilities, allowing Judson Studios to take on more work in fused glass and to collaborate with artists who don’t normally work in glass. As Director of Innovation, Quagliata works with the studio to further develop capabilities in fusing while also helping to guide Judsons’ growing artist development program.
Recent collaborative projects include: the Santa Clarita Fire Station 104 by Anne-Elizabeth Sobieski, commissioned by the Los Angeles County Public Arts Commission in 2020; “Embracing the World,” by Amir H. Fallah, was one of the studio’s first artist collaborations in its new fusing studio in 2017; “The Muralist, ”by David Flores. Judson Studios took a design by Flores and translated it into a stained and fused glass panel. The work was displayed as part of his solo show at Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara, California, in October of 2017; “Portals,” by James Jean, includes three panels titled “Portal Verso,” “Portal Interior,” and “Portal Recto.” Judson Studios took designs from Jean and crafted them into a stained and fused glass triptych. The work was displayed as part of his solo gallery show Azimuth at Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, in April of 2018. Judson’s 2019 collaboration with Jean titled “Gaia” is a nearly 8-foot-tall, three-dimensional crystal made entirely of fused glass and bound with lead in a custom steel frame. The piece was displayed at another of Jean’s gallery exhibitions, this time at Lotte Museum in Seoul, South Korea.
To commemorate the studio’s expansion and growth, Judson Studios along with Angel City Press recently released a new book, JUDSON: Innovation in Stained Glass, the first book of its kind to chronicle the studio’s remarkable five-generation history. From the earliest days of the studio during the Arts and Crafts Movement, to the newly refined fused stained glass used in today’s contemporary buildings, Judson Studios has been recognized internationally as among the world’s finest in stained glass artistry. You can pick up your copy today by clicking here.
Current president David Judson is the fifth generation Judson family member to own and operate the Studios. A supporter of the arts like his great-great grandfather William Lees, David believes in maintaining a workplace that fosters creative expression. The Studio has hosted on-site art exhibitions, and its staff includes a diverse group of artists who bring fresh eyes to this meticulous process.
With a passion for hot sculpting animals in glass, Grant Garmezy perfected his ability to capture not only form, but expression and movement, elevating each piece from just sculpture into a narrative work of art. From his Dragon Ranch in Richmond, Virginia, the artist continues to draw inspiration from the environment of the American South.
Says Garmezy: “Nature is truly perfect in its creation—impossible to reproduce. I do not strive to recreate the natural world exactly; instead, I try to capture the essence of the animal I am sculpting, not only in its physical features, but also its attitude and spirit.”
Garmezy’s work is created through the process of off-hand sculpting, meaning he sculpts the glass freehand while it is heated to about 2,000 degrees. Using an extremely hot torch and a variety of hand tools, the glass is manipulated without the use of molds. For that reason, each and every piece is truly unique. The artist works with at least one assistant, but most of the work requires the help of an entire team of skilled artists.
Born on a farm outside Nashville, Tennessee, Garmezy began his artistic career as an apprentice to metal and jewelry fabricator, Ben Caldwell. In 2003, he traveled to Richmond, Virginia, to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). While in the Craft/Material Studies program, he studied under Jack Wax, a furnace worker, and flameworker, Emilio Santini. Garmezy received the 10 Under 10 award from his alma mater, honoring 10 noteworthy and distinctive alumni of VCU who graduated in the past decade.
In 2008, Garmezy was awarded the International North Lands Creative Glass Residency in Scotland. While there, he was presented with the Benno Schotz Award through The Royal Scottish Academy for most promising young sculptor in the UK. In 2010, the artist served as teaching assistant for Karen Willenbrink and Jasen Johnsen at Pilchuck Glass School and the following year was awarded a position as an assistant at the new Chrysler Museum of Art Perry Glass Studio. During his time in Norfolk, he helped to break in the new studio and had a hand in shaping it into what it is today.
In July 2013, Garmezy was invited back to Norfolk as the featured artist for a Third Thursday performance at the Perry Glass Studio. At the conclusion of the evening, Grant surprised now wife Erin—and the entire audience—by taking a knee and proposing marriage to her. The special moment was very fitting to their relationship and is fondly remembered by all who were there to witness it. The husband-and-wife team returned to the Perry Glass Studio in September 2020 for the Visiting Artist Series, where they focused on a new series of works featuring reptiles and snakes coupled with sculpted flowers.
The pastoral environment of Garmezy’s youth— specifically interactions with livestock, wildlife, and natural settings—manifests in collaborative sculptures with Erin, which are typically pairings of flora and fauna. Erin moved from blowing glass vessels at the furnace to sculpting glass plant life on a torch when she studied with VCU professor Santini, and later Robert Mickelsen and David Willis.
Having traveled as far as the Northlands of Scotland, and Seoul, South Korea, to demonstrate his craft, Garmezy has studied with Scott Darlington, Ross Richmond, Martin Janecky, Raven Skyriver, Marc Petrovic, Karen Willenbrink-Johnsen and Jasen Johnsen. He has been invited to exhibit his work all over the world, including Seoul, Edinburgh, Prague, Paris, and Istanbul. Upcoming 2022 workshops will take place at the Toledo Museum of Art, May 9 – 13
and at the Glass Furnace in Istanbul, May 30 – June 9
In 2020, Garmezy embarked on the most ambitious project of his career – hot sculpting 200 glass dragons for Kugler color company in Germany. Kugler hand-crafts a wide range of colored glass based on recipes passed on for generations. Garmezy and Kugler worked together with Hot Glass Color Supply to design a new color reference chart. A glass color chart is a reference that shows examples of what each glass color looks like. It is a resource for glass artists to help them choose the correct colors for their projects. As a sculptor, Garmezy always wished for a resource that showed more than one way the color can be used. The goal was to create a chart that demonstrated the bar color encased and blown, as well as powder color applied to the surface of the glass and sculpted.
Says Garmezy: “I created one dragon sculpture for each of the colors on the poster. It was important that each dragon head was a similar size and style, but each completely unique. This color chart will give both blowers and sculptors a good idea of the potential of each color. We chose the image of the dragon because dragon imagery can be found in cultures around the world, and its symbolism brings to mind good luck, fortune, wisdom and strength – things we wish for all glass artists out there.”
The work of Sylvia Laks possesses a certain mystical quality that captures the viewer. Looking at her stained and painted glass is akin to a supernatural event, such as gazing into a crystal ball or seeing the future in a magical river. Sheer beauty and mystery draws you in; the search for truth inspires in-depth study.
Laks lives and works high in the mountains of Heredia, Costa Rica, 5,500 feet above sea level in a beautiful, peaceful area surrounded by trees and vegetation. She and husband, Enrique, have a home and two-story studio on the same property, surrounded by many flowers. An extremely versatile artist, Laks takes on all kinds of commissions covering every theme possible, from ornamental jobs created in stained glass to elaborate, fully painted portraits – her forte.
Catholic church commissions comprise about 30 percent of the studio’s work, and the remaining 70 percent is the creation of new windows. Twelve artisans work for Sylvia and Enrique regularly, and they have trained a stable of eight additional artists they can call upon when needed, such as during the creation of fully painted windows for the main Catholic Seminary in Costa Rica.
Laks has also been commissioned to create glass art for government institutions such as Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (an institution that takes care of abandoned children), Albergue de la Mujer Agredida (an institution that provides shelter for battered women), and the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos de Costa Rica (which approves all constructions in the country), in addition to many hotels and residential commissions.
Most of her autonomous panels have been commissioned by private galleries and for private homes in Germany, the US, and Costa Rica. Laks shows her work at her own permanent gallery and also at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano’s art gallery, which is part of the USA Embassy and the State Department.
Recognition of Laks’ work in the US began in June 2010 when she won First Place in the Stained Glass Association of America’s (SGAA) annual conference exhibition, becoming the first non-American to ever receive this peer-voted award. Laks’ winning piece, Faces 1, depicts the eldest artisan at her studio prior to his retirement. “I felt unbelievably surprised winning this award. I was further excited because very few people in Costa Rica consider stained glass a medium of artistic expression.”
In 2011 Laks’ studio became the first international studio ever accepted as a fully accredited member of the SGAA. This was the result of an intense one-year process, in which then SGAA president, Jack Whitworth, traveled to Costa Rica with his wife Cindy to inspect the studio and its commissions.
Laks’ panel, Calamity, appeared on the spring 2011 cover of Stained Glass Quarterly. This piece speaks about the sadness of several international events through its images of Muslim terrorists, armies, Osama bin Laden, and George W. Bush. “For me, the most painful feelings are inspired by the children who lost their lives. This is happening so often in today’s world. I try to express these feelings in my paintings. I feel uncomfortable with the lack of meaning in what is considered art today. This is a reflection of our modern society.”
As a trained scientist prior to creating with glass, Amanda Simmons is fascinated by how our world works and how it can be fixed. Inspired by subjects as diverse as the physics of our expanding universe or how drugs function on a molecular level, the artist has been discovering new ways to explore the properties of mass, heat, time and gravity in the creation of 3D vessel forms. Intense color and patterns result when opaque glass powders react to light, varying in translucency as the form elongates during the firing process. Works are finished using many coldworking processes to shape and mark the glass including sandblasting, hand lapping, diamond point and wheel engraving.
Simmons states: “My practice as a glass artist has become a conduit to further learning by making objects in a material whose language I understand, addressing subjects that interest me in the natural world. Our achievements as a species are impressive but equally frustrating in the cycles of social and environmental injustice, from which we never seem to learn. I want to investigate these cyclic routes and the lessons unlearnt, incorporating this narrative into my work, cultivating and inspiring change in a positive and visual method.”
Originally trained in biomedical sciences (pharmacology) and clinical sciences, Simmons became interested in glass in 2002 after a stained glass course with Ray Bradley and then pursued a postgraduate in Glass and Architecture from Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, London, in 2004. Following a recent two-week residency at Lyth Arts Centre in Caithness, the artist began exploring the continuing research of the Flow Country and its massive capacity to store carbon in the many layers of peat. Working from watercolor prints inspired by the patterns and colors of the land and sky, she produced some of her largest gravity formed glassworks to date for her first solo exhibition Outer Spaces, held July 2017 at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh.
Simmons’ Dahlia Universe series, kilnformed solstice platters, were selected for exhibition in the 2019 British Glass Biennale. Creating work that often examines natural world contrasts, the artist kiln formed platters signifying the changes in season with the thought of our universe expanding like a growing flower. The works investigate whether we could use the biological theory of convergence to explain how our universe was made. Another series, Southern Hemispheres, was inspired by three months travelling and working in Australia. These pieces represent the first small-scale investigations of the resilient Australian native botanicals, posing the question: Do the survival techniques of these plants relate to our current crises in environmental and political situations?
Creating work from her studio in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland, since 2005, Simmons is the winner of The Gold Award from ORIGIN 2010: The London Craft Fair and finalist in Bullseye Glass Company’s Emerge 2012. United States and UK exhibitions include Craft Scotland 2013 and SOFA Chicago. Most recently, Contemporary Applied Arts exhibited Simmons glass art in their material-focused exhibition COLLECT: The International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design. Her work can be found in public collections including: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England; National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland; Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth, Scotland; and Ernsting Stiftung Glass Museum, Germany.
An important part of Simmons’ practice is to educate and mentor, a way to pass on the skills developed over 19 years of kiln forming glass. Her 60-minute Master Class Video, available on Bullseye Glass Co.’s website, shares the full process by which she creates her tall vessels. She says: “I enjoy mentoring students starting out in their careers with glass, including business advice, professional development, and a range of glass techniques.”
Strong. Calm. Serene. So are the vessels of Sonja Blomdahl. In an industrial neighborhood near Seattle’s Lake Union, the artist turned loose her vivid colors into the unsuspecting gray of her spacious cinderblock and cement studio. If a Scandinavian flavor is detected in the hue of her celestial orbs, it is by chance as she credits rainy Seattle as her primary inspiration. But Blomdahl is in fact of Swedish descent, leaving some collectors of her work to wonder if the Scandinavian sense of style and design is in her blood.
After graduating from Massachusetts College of Art with a BFA in ceramics, Blomdahl studied at Orrefors Glass School in Sweden for six months, providing her with a solid background in efficiently handling her material. Upon arrival at the glass factory in 1976, she had $300 in her pocket. When her apprenticeship was over and in need of cash, Blomdahl went to work as a cleaning woman in a Swedish hospital to finance trips to Italy and the British Isles. Back in Massachusetts, she blew glass in a New Hampshire studio for nine months until Dan Dailey, a former teacher at Mass Art, invited her to be his teaching assistant at Pilchuck.
Three weeks at Pilchuck in the summer of 1978 proved to be a pivotal time in Blomdahl’s career, for it was there that she viewed the Italian master Checco Ongaro demonstrate the double bubble or incalmo technique. She honed this process over the next two years while working at the Glass Eye Studio in Seattle and teaching glassblowing at Pratt Fine Arts Center. After her first exhibition at Traver in 1981, Blomdahl stopped working at the Glass Eye, bought a three-month Euro Rail pass and traveled around Europe. There, she had the opportunity to produce new work in Ann Wolff’s studio in Sweden – a wonderful experience that further entrenched Blomdahl’s desire to establish her own hotshop. She shipped the work made there back to Seattle and had a second sell-out show at Traver, allowing her to build a studio in 1982, where she worked for the next 25 years.
Currently on view in Venice and American Studio Glass, curated by Tina Oldknow and William Warmus, Blomdahl’s work was the focus of solo exhibitions at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Montgomery, Alabama; Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks, West Tisbury, Massachusetts; and the William Traver Gallery, Tacoma, Washington. Permanent installations and collections include American Craft Museum, New York, New York; Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, Little Rock, Arkansas; Museum of Decorative Art, Prague, Czech Republic; Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; and Kitazawa Contemporary Glass Museum, Kitazawa, Japan, to name a few. She has held teaching positions at Pratt Fine Arts Center, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine, and the Appalachian Center in Smithville, Tennessee.
Blomdahl’s focus has been the vessel. She states: “In the vessel, I find the form to be of primary importance. It holds the space. In a sense, the vessel is a history of my breath: It contains the volume within. If I have done things correctly, the profile of the piece is a continuous curve; the shape is full, and the opening confident. Color is often the joy in making a piece. I want the colors to glow and react with each other. The clear band between the colors acts as an optic lens; it moves the color around and allows you to see into the piece. The relationship between form, color, proportion, and process intrigued me.”
Indisputably one of the most renowned artists in the industry today, Elbo is co-owner of Everdream Studio in Evergreen, Colorado, where he works alongside a number of top industry artists. Having made a name for himself in the pipe world via his dinosaur motif and diverse portfolio of original design work, he says: “My work is an attempt to transcend the function of the pipe by giving my very self to the process. I am led through the open field of my medium by personal life experiences and my reaction to the relationships in my life.”
Beyond art creation, Elbo’s cutting-edge approach to business and marketing has made him one of the most popular and best-selling pipe artists, with an Instagram following of 240K. His business interests and ventures have included everything from Bitcoin to NFTs (non-fungible tokens). In association with Blunt Action, Elbo experimented with the potential for an augmented reality app, which would provide an immersive way for users to experience a 3D computer-generated reality to interact with his creations through their iOS devices. In response to his travels in Japan, the artist also began making plush and vinyl toys, some 4-feet tall, further entrenching the Elbo brand in the hearts and minds of fans and followers.
In 2005, Elbo began working with soft glass in the hot shop at Tyler School of Art and Architecture in his hometown of Philly. It wasn’t until after he graduated in 2009 that he started working with borosilicate glass and making pipes. He credits Zach Puchowitz with early inspiration and lessons on the torch. After running his own successful studio, in 2014 Elbo and JOP! opened 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.
In 2013, Elbo relocated to Colorado and became one of a stable of the industry’s best glassblowers including WJC, Eusheen, Adam G, and N8 Miers working at Everdream Studio. Created as a space for all creatives not just glass, the studio provides a secluded environment with not many distractions, enabling Elbo to focus on his craft and the development of art.
Pipe making represents the American renaissance of sculptural art, Elbo believes. “I want pipe making to be synonymous with high-end art, but I don’t believe it’s there yet. I thought it was, but the more I’m exposed to true high-end art, I see that pipe making has a long way to go. The biggest hurdle we have to get over is the close-mindedness in the industry. We need to take bigger risks, create things not for other people to see but what we want to see. If people begin to do that in our industry, it will naturally evolve into a higher form of art.”
In Nancy Gong’s installation for RIT’s Innovation Center, titled, In Art, Science and Life, What is the Question?, a wide range of complex topics are referenced, ranging from RIT’s nine colleges to everything from the binary system to the black hole. A grand representative of her body of work in glass, the commission was heavily inspired by the marriage of science, technology and art.
An accomplished glass artist with world-wide recognition in contemporary architectural glass art, Gong’s focus is on large and small commissioned work including installations, fine art designs, sculpture, donor walls, gifts and awards. Her designs embrace traditional techniques of stained glass craftsmen and stone carvers, combined with new materials, fusing, laminating and other new and emerging technologies. Developing skills in laminating and fusing glass has allowed Gong to display her colored glass art outdoors. Fused glass techniques enabled the artist to create impressionistic designs with soft edges, moving her art more towards abstraction.
Having mastered her own style of creating texture and painting, Gong depicts various levels of contrast using striking color, motion and spontaneity. As the ever-changing light plays against her integrated design elements, a unique living, breathing work of art is created, beckoning the viewer to see and experience something new and fresh with every passing look. American born of Chinese descent, her free-flowing modern designs echo the spirit, energy and beauty of all living things.
Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder and Phillip Stark to name a few, Gong studied at the Naples Mills School of Arts and Crafts, the Allofus Art Workshop, SUNY Empire State College, Corning Museum of Glass, the prestigious School of American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology, Narcissus Quagliata design workshop, Norm Dobbins stained glass workshops, the famed Orsoni Smalti Veneziani in Italy, the Glass Art Society, and the American Glass Guild. She continues to hone her skills in workshops instructed by contemporary masters such as Quagliata, Kenneth von Roenn Jr., Martin Rosol, Tim Carey, Kathy Jordan, Deborah Coombs, Amanda Taylor and others.
As owner/principal designer of Gong Glass Works since 1979, Gong designs and fabricates commissioned architectural and fine art glass projects for residential, commercial, institutional and public clients. Her commercial and public clients include The Akron Civic Theater, The City of Rochester, ARTWalk of Rochester Inc., Beckoning Path, Corning Tropel, Duke University, LiDestri Foods, Rochester Museum and Science Center, State of Vermont, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, and Virgin Travel/Vacations. Her sculptures and fine art glass designs are acquired for private collections throughout the world, and are often presented as special gifts.
For her achievements in the world of glass art, Gong has been recognized by PBS – WXXI Arts in Focus, Who’s Who in Contemporary Glass Art, The World’s Who’s Who of Women, and 2,000 Notable American Women. She and her works have been profiled in over 20 professional publications, including: Interiors & Sources, China Daily News, The Design Journal of Korea, Stained Glass Quarterly, Professional Stained Glass Magazine, Builder/Architect Magazine, AmericanStyle Magazine, Beautiful Glass Magazine, Glass Now, ARTform, SOFA Chicago, and Guild Sourcebook of Architectural & Interior Art and Architects + Artisans. Professional memberships include the Glass Art Society, the Stained Glass Association of America, the American Glass Guild, AIA Rochester and New York, and the Society of American Mosaic Artists
Gong states: “My focus is to design artwork that speaks to the ages. If it’s good design, it will endure. My main goal is for artwork to bring peace and joy to the spaces through an experience. I want to feed the souls of people who are utilizing the space.”
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.
One of the leading ecclesiastical artists in the United States, Sylvia Nicolas is a member of an illustrious and prolific stained glass family. She is the fourth of five generations specializing in the liturgical arts and the daughter of Joep and Suzanne Nicolas, both famous artists who immigrated from the Netherlands to the U.S. in 1939 to escape the rising tide of Nazism. Joep Nicolas was sometimes referred to as “the Father of Modern Stained Glass.”
In 1996, Sylvia Nicolas completed 13 windows for the Basilica of St. Pancratius in Tubbergen, the Netherlands, for the Four Generations Foundation, which contains windows made by her great grandfather (Frans Nicolas, 1826-1894), grandfather (Charles Nicolas, 1859-1933) , father (Joep Nicolas, 1897-1972) and cousin. Her son and fifth generation Nicolas, Diego Semprun Nicolas, created the remaining 10 windows in 2002, finalizing this unprecedented multigenerational project.
As a young artist, Nicolas was interested in costume design. She attended the Lycée Francais and the Dalton School in New York, the German Institute in Rome, and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques and Académie de la Grande Chaumière, both in Paris. She studied with Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo and Ossip Zadkine, French-Russian artist known for his figurative-Cubist sculptures. Throughout her career, Nicolas has designed costumes and sets for ballet productions in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Paris, France, and Manchester, New Hampshire.
From her studio in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire, Nicolas has created commissions for monasteries, churches, hospitals, government buildings and public spaces. A few of her most successful stained glass projects include 10 windows for the Church of the Annunciation, Washington, D.C.; two large windows for St. Mary’s Chancery, Wichita, Kansas; 24 windows on the life of St. Benedict for the refectory of St. Anselm Abbey, Manchester, New Hampshire; 23 windows for Saints Philip and James Church in St. James (Long Island), New York; 47 windows for St. Dominic Chapel, Providence College, Providence, Rhode Island; and 19 windows for St. John’s University, Queens, New York.
In addition to her work in stained glass, Nicolas is skilled in a wide range of other media including oil, pen, conte, sculpture, mosaic and mosaic garden sculpture, concrete relief and painted tiles. Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, is home to three of her bronze sculptures and a large mosaic in the sanctuary chapel.
The recipient of The 2019 Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Governor’s Art Award and the 2012 Barnes Lifetime Achievement Award, Nicolas is currently the focus of a Virginia Raguin essay to be published in an upcoming book about Franz Schroeder. Raguin is also working on a video interview of Nicolas for the American Glass Guild, an organization for which Nicolas serves as Senior Advisor.
In this conversation with Nicolas, the 93-year-old artist discusses recent windows created for St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Charlottesville, Virginia. She also reveals the secrets to her painting process, whether stained glass is an art or craft, and the importance of iconography and mythology in her work.
No matter the medium, Nicolas expresses the humanity of her subjects. Her focus on people, mingled with talent in a variety of media, allows her to produce art both delicate and evocative. “Foremost it is people I am concerned with, in whatever context. I’m a storyteller, really.”