The ancient Chinese regarded the dragon as the most potent of all symbols of energy and good fortune. They believed it to be the harbinger of incredible luck, prosperity, abundance, consistent success and high achievement. These are the very gifts Mike Luna’s dragons have bestowed upon their creator. A pipe artist, grower and smoker, his love for the cannabis plant is at the center of a successful career designing and fabricating the industry’s most beloved dragon headies, pendants and sculpture.
Born in Torrance, California, in 1978, Luna was raised in Santa Fe Springs until age 15 when he moved to O’Brien, Oregon, to start high school at Illinois Valley High. After high school in 1996, he moved to Los Angeles and began working in automotive retail. By this time older brother, Chris, had already started his journey into glassblowing, and in 1999 offered Mike a job back in Oregon. Luna found work in a production shop ran by Gilbert Velosco. There, he met and befriended soon-to-be functional glass legend, Darby Holm, who took him under his wing as an apprentice in 2000. Luna says: “Learning under Darby changed my life! He and the Holms are like family to me. They are a big part of the reason I’m still in Oregon constantly learning and trying different things with glass.”
On February 6, 2021, Ziggy’s Smoke Shop in Huntington Beach, California, presents Enter the Orb, Luna’s current solo exhibition of new work and collabs with the likes of AKM, Ryno, Darby, Justin Carter, and Salt. His work will also be on view September 18 at Lifted Veil Gallery in Los Angeles, and in December at 2Sided Gallery, Stanton, California.
Arguably the hottest show on Netflix, the glassblowing competition series Blown Away–once again featuring expert glassmakers from The Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG) –returned for a second season on January 22, 2021. The Museum also hosts an exhibit of work made during Season 2, featuring one object from each of the 10 contestants. The exhibit Blown Away: Season 2 opened on the Museum’s West Bridge the day the show launched.
CMoG, which houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of glass, the library of record on glass, and one of the top glassmaking schools in the world, has served as a key consulting partner for the series since its conception. When the first season of Blown Away launched in the summer of 2019, CMoG was invited into the spotlight, bringing to the program its expertise in an artform that much of the world was discovering for the first time through the show.
“We are so pleased to again partner with marblemedia to put glass in a global spotlight,”said the Museum’s president and executive director, Karol Wight, of CMoG’s relationship with the Canadian production company behind Blown Away. “Watching new audiences around the world embrace glassblowing because of this series has been exciting, and we look forward to seeing that enthusiasm grow with the release of a second season.”
This season introduces a new group of 10 talented glassmakers from around the world as they compete for the title of “Best in Glass.” Season 2 is once again hosted by Nick Uhas, with resident evaluator and glass master Katherine Gray.
Andi Kovel, Ben Silver, Brad Turner, Cat Burns, Chris Taylor, Elliot Walker, Jason McDonald, Mike Shelbo, NaoYamamoto, and Tegan Hamilton.
Episode 1: Alexander Rosenberg – Season One Competitor; Episode 2: Benjamin Write – Pilchuck Glass School; Episode 3: Kathryn Durst – Animator and Illustrator; Episode 4: Heather McElwee – Pittsburgh Glass Center; Episode 5: Bobby Berk – Interior Designer “Queer Eye”; Episode 6: Michel Germain – Perfume Designer; Episode 7: Stepheen Weatherly – Defensive End, Carolina Panthers; Episode 8: Sunny Fong – Fashion Designer, VAWK; Episode 9: Deborah Czeresko – Season One Champion; and Episode 10: Robert Cassetti – Corning Museum of Glass.
In the season finale the Museum also provides the two Blown Away finalists with the expert assistance of its Hot Glass Demo Team—Eric Meek, Jeff Mack, Helen Tegeler, Catherine Ayers, George Kennard, and Chris Rochelle. A blockbuster ending to a 20-year career at CMoG, shortly before his retirement from the Museum senior director Rob Cassetti served as the final guest evaluator, helping to select the winner of the competition.
“It feels like I’ve come full circle,” said Cassetti, who developed the Museum’s hot glass programming. “When we first launched our demo at the Museum, we called it the Hot Glass Show, and put our makers on a stage. We knew glass was inherently exciting, and we wanted to bring that to our visitors. So now for the Blown Away series to capture that magic, bottle that energy, and to share it with the world through Netflix it’s really unbelievable, and it was a joyful honor for me to be part of it.”
As part of the prize package, the winner of the show will receive the coveted Blown Away Residency at CMoG. In 2019 the Museum hosted Season 1 winner, Deborah Czeresko, for three week-long working sessions. The residency takes place in the Museum’s Amphitheater Hot Shop where a live audience can meet the winner and watch the artist make new works. CMoG will host the Season 2 winner as soon as COVID restrictions allow.
“We are thrilled that Blown Away returns for a second season, available to Netflix’s global audiences to stream on January 22,” said Matt Hornburg, executive producer and co-CEO of marblemedia. “This show’s success is due in part to our valued partnership with The Corning Museum of Glass, and their unwavering support and guidance. Their contribution to the grand prize, offering a prestigious residency to the winner, raises the stakes that much more. We are thrilled that the Museum is showcasing the exceptional work done by these esteemed glass artists from season two. Seeing these pieces on display, representing the true essence of this show, is very rewarding.”
This special episode of TOYG podcast features interviews with Hornburg, Cassetti and artist contestant Mike Shelbo in this behind the scenes look at Blown Away Season 2.
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Micah Evans blew people’s minds with his fuctional flameworked glass sewing machines that balanced clean traditional craft form and personal sculptural work. Referring to his glass obsession as “a disorder,” Evans was the first flameworker to receive the glass residency at Penland School of Craft, which he served from 2012 to 2015.
He says: “Lately I seem to be describing my work falling into two categories, things I love to make and things I have to make. The first category is easy; I am in love with the material. Like many glass artists I am a slave to the substance, the way it behaves and looks, the way it demands and gets my full attention whenever I work with it. I love to work with the material, therefore whatever I am making brings with it a genuine feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. The second category is harder to define but equally important. The work I can’t help but make are the ideas that won’t let me sleep, the ideas that have me drifting off in conversations to my own world of redesigning and problem solving. It’s the repeated execution of the simple shape that seems to inhabit every page of my sketchbook at the time. It’s exploring ideas over technique and the struggles that come with that process. These two worlds often interact, and I bounce back and forth constantly.”
Born in Cashmere, Washington, in the eastern foothills of the Cascade mountains, Evans moved to Seattle in 1996. He attended The Art Institute of Seattle, focusing on computer animation and illustration before he started flameworking at Stone Way Glass in 1999. After relocating to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, in 2000, the artist opened his first glassblowing studio two blocks from the beach. Five years of workshops and hustle in addition to the struggles of coping with the federal crackdown on pipe making inspired a transition to making more traditional craft objects and personal work.
Upon resettling in Miami, Evans became a studio assistant to William Carlson, chair of the Art Department at the University of Miami. Shortly thereafter he began working with ceramic artist, Bonnie Seeman, combining glass and ceramics. Through working with both of these artists he was introduced to SOFA and Art Basel.
In 2008, Evans relocated to Austin, Texas, where his personal artwork and pipe designs began to mature and develop a symbiotic relationship. His friendship with pipe maker and sculptor SALT pushed both artists in new directions. A 2011 class at Penland with Carmen Lozar inspired a big shift in Evans’ career. He describes his subsequent Penland Residency as “the most wonderfully brutal four years” of his life, where he learned to balance the dynamic of pipes and fine art in more than one way.
In 2016, Evans began designing full time for GRAV Labs, a product design company based in Austin, Texas. Working with glassblower, designer and engineer, Stephan Peirce, Evans has learned the language of industrial and product design. This opportunity presented him with a window into glass manufacturing that changed the way he thought about the material and how it can be used. He regularly visits glass studios and factories in China to research new ways of working and designing in borosilicate glass, with a current focus on engineering and adapting small-scale manufacturing processes observed in Asia to his studio practice. These events inspired a “paradigm shift” in Evans’ understanding about borosilicate glass and what can be done with the material.
Currently building out an expanded studio space at GRAV Labs focused on both R&D and his own work, Evans travels, teaches and lectures at schools and universities around the world about flameworking, design and glass subculture in the United States.
Therman Statom – sculptor, glass artist, and painter – is most notably known as a pioneer of the contemporary glass movement for his life-size glass ladders, chairs, tables, constructed box-like paintings, and small-scale houses; all created through the technique of gluing glass plate together. Sandblasted surfaces become a canvas for spontaneous vibrant colors and line work, which take nuances from Abstract Expressionism and concepts of Minimalism, while simultaneously incorporating a twist by using blown-glass elements and found objects.
Born in Winter Haven, Florida in 1953, Statom spent his adolescence growing up in Washington, D.C. His interest in the arts grew from a fondness of painting and he began to investigate ceramics at RISD. However, after an experimental glassblowing session with Dale Chihuly, he was soon hooked on the spontaneity of hot glass and its limitless possibilities. Statom went on to pursue studies at Pilchuck Glass School during its inaugural year, completing a BFA in 1974 from RISD, and later studied at the Pratt Institute of Art & Design.
Throughout his career, public artworks have been permanently installed at prominent locations including the Los Angeles Public Library, Corning, Inc. Headquarters, the Mayo Clinic, San Jose Ice Center, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Jepson Center for the Arts in the Telfair Museum, Savannah as well as several hospitals across the country.
Statom’s artwork appears in numerous exhibitions annually, including solo and group shows around the nation and internationally. Over the span of his career, he has completed over 30 large, site-specific installations. Most notably in recent years, his 2009 solo exhibition Stories of the New World, at the Orlando Museum of Art, which spanned over 5,000 square feet, has been his largest installation to date. Exploring themes related to Juan Ponce de Leon’s 1513 search for the fabled Fountain of Youth as a point of departure, the installation referenced historic and contemporary themes of hope, discovery, ambition, and destiny. Visitors traversed the gallery space consisting of a mirrored maze, panoramic glass wall mural, a room-size structure built entirely of glass, and video projections. In conjunction with the exhibit, Statom partnered with the educational department of the OMA and the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Eatonville to work with over 80 young students to create a work of art titled “Glass House,” which was a large, walk-though structure built from glass boxes designed by the children. The piece was later displayed at the annual summer community festival.
Much of the latter half of Statom’s career has been focused on the importance of educational programming within the arts. He has taken a deep interested in employing workshops as a catalyst for social change and in affect, positively impacting a community. Working directly with the artist himself, adults and children alike share a combined experience of exploring art making via a hands-on experience. Inhibitions and limitations are left by the wayside, and the practice or act of “doing” becomes a journey of self-discovery, creating an opportunity for the participant to go to a new place within themselves.
Says Statom: “I believe art can be understood both conceptually and intuitively. I think there is a need for the general public to come to an understanding that to appreciate art and creativity they must trust his or her self; that extensive education is not a prerequisite for understanding art. Much of what I do is seeded in what is more of an intuitive process; a large portion of my work is exploring these processes within people and their environments.
“The fact is, I believe that creativity is a part of all aspects of what people do; my studio and educational efforts via workshops and the support of outside programming, general educational and cultural institutions, are a reflection of this belief. I feel that art is tool for empowerment and education. It’s also a viable tool to investigate positive change and engage a culture through exploration.”
Through their Ultra-Baroque polycultural work, Einar and Jamex De La Torre tackle topics of identity and contemporary consumerism. Influences range from religious iconography to German expressionism while also paying homage to Mexican vernacular arts and pre-Columbian art. They don’t consider themselves glass artists per se, but treat glass as one component in their three-dimensional collages, one that interacts with a multitude of chosen – not found – objects. Einar recalls their mother’s fondness for puns as a likely source for the brothers’ own interest in multiple layers of understanding.
Collaborating since the 1990s, the De La Torres were born in Guadalajara, México, in 1963 and 1960. They moved to the United States in 1972, transitioning from a traditional catholic school to a small California beach Town. Both attended California State University at Long Beach. Jamex earned a BFA in Sculpture in 1983, while Einar decided against the utility of an art degree. Currently the brothers live and work on both sides of the border, The Guadalupe Valley in Baja California, México, and San Diego, California. The complexities of the immigrant experience and contradicting bicultural identities, as well as their current life and practice on both sides of border, inform their narrative and aesthetics.
Gussie Fauntleroy wrote in the July 2009 issue of American Craft: “Similarly, in their art the brothers intentionally disregard conventional borders between dichotomous pairs such as high and low art and sacred and profane, and between deluxe objects and the detritus of everyday life. Virtually every assemblage and installation incorporates blown glass or cast-resin elements in sumptuous colors that shimmer, juxtaposed with an array of … objects, including plastic toys, snack food wrappers and old tires.”
The De La Torres have been honored with The USA Artists Fellowship award, The Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, The Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, and The San Diego Art Prize. They have had 18 solo museum exhibitions, completed eight major public art projects and participated in four biennales. Their work can be found in the permanent collections of Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; Museum of American Glass, Millville, New Jersey; The Kanazu Museum, Kanazu, Japan; Frauenau Glass Museum, Frauenau, Bavaria, Germany; GlazenHuis Museum, Lommel, Belgium; and the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, to name a few. Private collectors include Alice Walton, Cheech Marin, Elton John, Irwin Jacobs, Terry McMillan, Sandra Cisneros and Quincy Troupe.
Guest instructors at Penland, UrbanGlass, the Pittsburgh Glass Center and Pilchuck, the De La Torre brothers have shared their multifaceted knowledge of glass technique including blowing, bit work and flameworking with students worldwide. In the last 15 years they have been creating photomural installations using Lenticular printing as a major part of their repertoire.
“If ever there were a case where materials and their masterful use provide a perfect match—and metaphor—for an artist’s concepts and themes, it’s in the art of Jamex and Einar de la Torre,” wrote Fontleroy. “How better to convey the rich complexity and alchemic intermingling of border cultures than through mixed media creations as multilayered, thought-provoking and engaging as the cultures themselves?”
Using optical crystal, Karsten Oaks cold works sculpture that bends light and color via its unique forms. Often a discernible object appears from a momentary perspective creating a vision that allows the viewer to connect on a more personal level with the piece. This mystery inspires a deeply personal relationship between viewer and object and sets Oaks’ work apart from that of his coldworking contemporaries.
He says: “When working on the design within the piece I’m using elements of dynamic symmetry such as spirals and ratios. Using different shapes in the sculpture while staying consistent with the proportions I can create a sense of harmony within what would otherwise be a disorganized form. Even after all of the major reductive cuts have been made, I leave some of the design to be laid out when the rest of the piece is almost complete. I feel that this mild sense of chaos through the work’s creation gives each piece its personality and character when it is finished.”
Born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Oaks took an interest in the arts at an early age. He started playing music when he was 10 years old and went on to play a variety of instruments. As the son of a trained chef, Oaks grew up learning an appreciation of working with his hands in a creative way and enjoys cooking to this day. When he was 16, a friend introduced Oaks to glassblowing as a medium, and he traveled to Tennessee to take his first classes. This sparked the beginning of Oaks’ love of glass as a means to express his artistic vision.
Now one of the most respected and trusted cold workers in the glass sculpture world, Oaks received his BFA at The Appalachian Center for Craft at Tennessee Technical University under the mentorship of Curtiss Brock. There Oaks realized that the necessity of working quickly with glassblowing or hot sculpting did not give him the creative time needed to fully think through his sculptures. After graduating, the artist relocated to Seattle, surrounding himself with leading artists in the field of glass. His first cold working client was Martin Blank, who convinced Oaks that he should open a cold working studio to offer his services to other artists while continuing to formalize what would eventually be his own body of work.
Oaks was cold working for a list of respected artists when he met Lino Tagliapietra and was selected as the only artist to cold work and finish the maestro’s sculptures made in the US. This steady supply of work allowed Oaks to finally open his own studio, and as time permitted, develop his own artistic vision. In September 2014, Bender Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina, began to represent his work at the gallery as well as SOFA Expo Chicago, Art Palm Beach and Wheaton GlassWeekend with great response.
Lucy Lyon: Every Gesture Tells a Story
In these pandemic days of limiting contact with others and contemplating the dangers of simply being with another person in a shared space, Lucy Lyon’s ambiguous figurative works take on new meaning. Using a stunning combination of technical prowess and a sculptor’s eye, the artist transforms cast glass into atmospheric settings whose characters’ stories, stances, and placement are open to viewer interpretation. Whether solitary or in groups, the figures reflect their state of mind through gesture.
Lyon says: “Even though we are all meeting up with each other and interacting in twos or threes or crowds, each of us is essentially alone. That brings up a bit of melancholy, but it also makes the individual unique and therefore very important.”
An only child, Lyon was artistically inspired at a young age by perusing her mother’s art books that depicted works by Edgar Degas, Francisco Goya and Thomas Hart Benton. Later, in her early twenties, the artist became aware of Edward Hopper’s work. Though Hopper’s were painted and Lyon’s are cast in glass, their figures convey a shared sense of being alone, isolated, even in the company of other figures, reflecting that people have private thoughts in public places.
Born in 1947 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Lyon graduated in 1971 from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, earning a BA in philosophy. Further educated at Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, she has taken a number of workshops across the country from well-known glass artists. Working with glass since 1979, for the past 26 years the artist has been creating breathtaking tableaus from her Jaconita, New Mexico, studio.
Lyon’s work is included in the permanent collections of numerous museums including Imagine Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida; Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida; Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan; and the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass, Neenah, Wisconsin. Public commissions include the Sandy Hook Memorial; Night Read for Glencoe Public Library, Glencoe, Illinois; and Waiting Room for Western New Mexico University, Silver City, New Mexico. Recent exhibitions include Divergent Materiality, at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Narratives in Glass, held at Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California. Lyon is represented by Habatat Galleries and Lewallen Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
As with many artists, the seductive quality of glass, along with its ability to be sculpted, attracted Lyon to her medium. In much of her work characters read in libraries, places where one can be in a private and public space simultaneously. Settings or environments have been pared down over the years to simple geometric forms. Walls present opportunities to explore color and blending. For Lyon, the greatest challenge and satisfaction is born of sculpting her figures using subtle gesture - a turn of the head or twist of the hips- to express the figure’s state of mind. The refined figure is the cornerstone of Lyon’s sculpture.
Jon Kuhn: A Matrix for Eternity
Inspired by metaphysical studies and a couple of out of body experiences, Jon Kuhn developed an aesthetic language for expressing the architecture and light of the non-physical world. Though his life as an artist began in ceramics, interest in spiritual studies influenced the artist’s move to glass. Because similar to mediation where we go inside ourselves, glass can hold information and light within.
Regarded as one of the leading glass artists in the world, Kuhn has work in over 45 international museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Carnegie Museum, the White House Permanent Collection, National Museum of American Art and hundreds of private residences and public spaces. In 2006, the artist was presented with an Honorary Doctorate for Life Achievements from his alma matter Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and the son of a political science professor, Kuhn briefly attended Shimer College, then moved on to Washburn where he received his BFA in 1972. Although still uncertain about pursuing a career as an artist, he had learned a great deal about the vocabulary and processes of art and pursued these ideals via ceramics at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, receiving his MFA in 1978.
Interested in metaphysical studies from a young age, Kuhn read his first book on Zen Buddhism at age 12. In college he studied the I Ching or "Book of Changes" - an ancient Chinese divination manual and a book of wisdom which interprets hexagrams formed by tossed coins to form answers to questions about the future. The I Ching is a cornerstone of Chinese philosophy, describing the basic elements of the way to enlightenment (happiness, inner healing, holiness, in God living). He also read many works written by Edgar Cayce, who founded The Association for Research and Enlightenment in 1931 to research and explore subjects such as holistic health, ancient mysteries, personal spirituality, dreams and dream interpretation, intuition, philosophy and reincarnation.
Early explorations in glass revealed themselves in blown, irregularly shaped globes with crusty exteriors. Kuhn cleaved off slices of the raw-looking exterior to reveal the sparkling glass within,
providing us with a window onto our inner selves. But it was his personal involvement in a meditation group on healing that led him to express the qualities of light and architecture only experienced in the non-physical world. Through his sculpture so readily recognized today, the artist began to convey an interior life or central drama with a powerful pull on our imaginations.
After moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1985 Kuhn began focusing on his signature processes - cutting, grinding, polishing and laminating - which put him on the map and has delivered consistent acclaim ever since. At last, expressions of the light and architecture of the spiritual realm could be reflected in his cubes, columns and monumental works meticulously crafted in the purest glass fabricated on earth. If light is life, Kuhn’s sculpture is the stage on which the possibilities of this world and others can be pondered.
Of cold glass artists, Kuhn’s work stands out for its complexity, its geometric forms and above all, for its presence, which conveys a spiritual quality. Kuhn says, “The goal of spirituality is perfection. Striving for perfection has never been more evident than in what I do. Perhaps my glass sculpture could become an architectural model of a vision for a better world.”
Born into a working-class family in the industrial town of Lancashire, England, Simon Howard designs and fabricates traditional stained glass through meticulous craftsmanship and sensitivity to architectural surrounds. In demand as a skilled glass painter and restorer for other studios, the artist endeavors to create new contemporary commissions for domestic, private or public spaces.
Some of Howard’s notable works include his Beddoes Window, a commemoration of an 18th-century physician and his tragic Romantic poet son, full of playful symbolism; his Laura Ashley Windows, a full suite of windows for a remodeled Arts & Craft home (previously owned by Laura Ashley); the artist’s Talog series, created for clients who gave Howard creative free reign in their beautiful traditional Welsh farmhouse; Whitland Circles & Milo Stripes, his personal favorites; and his commission for Oldham Royal Hospital, a 3 metre tall panel in the hospital’s mortuary chapel.
Howard’s history reads like great novel. He writes: “Oldham was one of the powerhouses of the industrial revolution, a cotton spinning town with incredible pockets of wealth, beautiful civic buildings, rows upon rows of worker’s houses that supplied the brick mill with labor and a skyline full of tall chimneys pumping out smoke. My family were mill workers for generations and these ‘dark, satanic mills’ (as William Blake called them) and the rows of blackened Victorian terraced houses formed the background to our family stories.
By the time I came along in 1970 the region was well into a crippling decline, and my parents had a series of disparate jobs passing each other on the stairs to our ‘60s maisonette as they swapped shifts in working and looking after me and my older brother and sister. My mum was a seamstress and a district nurse and my dad began work in a large glass supplier. My very early memories of visiting my dad at work are of huge A-frames of green-edged slabs of polished plate and of feeling proud that this was my dad’s arena. He’d be there, in darkened leather wrist guards, calloused fingers in plasters. I’d watch him effortlessly pick up these enormous sheets and carry them to his cutting bench and watch him making quick pencil notes on his list of sizes, working out what he could get from the sheet with minimum waste. T-square, the sing of the cutter, and the snap…all with speed and confidence…and the swift clatter of the thin strips of waste shattering in the cullet. I never had any ambition to work there, but I loved the magic of it.
The funny thing about my dad, and I still wonder now where the impulse came from, was his love of art, the art of the old masters and the Modernists. He was a Grammar school boy, so his education was good, and he was a lifelong reader, later a merchant seaman, but I can’t think where his love of art sprung from. I mention this as it’s because of him that I became an artist; as a young kid I would spend hours looking through his art books, and it became apparent early on in school that I could not only draw, but that art was where my curiosity lay. I tell people now that I never really wanted to be anything else (apart from a rock star in my teens. But don’t we all?). From 5 or 6 I knew that was part of my identity and what I was going to become. My parents were always very supportive. I heard other kids speak of their parents’ resistance to them studying art, but mine were right behind me even when they didn’t have a clue what it was I was making.
Through school I was a painfully shy kid. My family and I moved town just before starting secondary school so I arrived without friends; I do wonder whether that had a huge influence on me. But I became well-known through my ability to draw. I was bullied early on at school (I’d eventually dress quite outlandishly, which the other boys hated me for because the girls liked it!), but I’d draw on demand in order to not get beaten up. Like a lot of kids, art and music were everything to me (it’s still pretty much the case).
I went on to Art School in London, the Byam Shaw School of Art, a wonderful independent school (founded by John Byam Shaw, one of the Arts & Crafts/Pre-Raphaelite group), where I went on to make minimal installation based work, which often used the body (my body) and its relationship to its environment as a way to examine metaphorical space, the gaps in language/communication, thresholds, the in-betweens, the space where one thing becomes another. I’m still very proud of the work I did then and would happily still show it now. My intention was to stay in London and try to make my way as an artist but in reality, I think I’d realized that I wasn’t a natural networker and didn’t have the confidence in fighting for funding or for the spotlight.
I left and spent a year or so volunteering for art galleries back up north until I was offered work with my brother who had spent the previous 10/15 years working with my dad. Mark had left school, began work as a glass cutter, but had decided to set up a decorative glass business within my dad’s place. It was a real family business, my sister ran the office, and on the shop-floor were a few cousins. Also, a natural artist, his talent rose to the surface and needed an outlet. He spent these years learning new skills, researching any technique he could find in mainly American books and magazines to broaden his knowledge. He became the only person we knew back then who was creatively sandblasting, engraving, deep reverse-carving, glue-chipping, kiln-forming, fusing, casting, painting, and enamelling. He became well- known for it across the north west, until he eventually began making traditional stained glass.
Whilst I was still at art school, I’d spend my holidays working with Mark where I’d learn all these techniques from him. He’d exploit my time there by giving me larger projects that he saw needed my artistic input, and I’d watch the panels get made up by him and the guys that worked for him. I’d go on to start making my own pieces, but even then I really only saw it as work, a chance to earn some money before heading back down to London.
The next few years, I really was at a loose end. My long-term girlfriend had gone to teach English in Japan and life had seemingly hit a wall. I took the money I’d been saving whilst working with Mark and went travelling. I spend around 18 months going around the globe, across America, Australasia, South East Asia, India. I had the best time and felt some changes. But, back home I fell back into working with Mark; by this time my dad’s company had been hit by recession and closed, my dad had swallowed his pride and had gone back to glass cutting for a company he’d left, and Mark had set up his own place. I worked there for a few years, still thinking that it was only a stop-gap for me until I figured out what it was I wanted to do. I started really delving deep into the international architectural glass books that Mark was buying (they were as rare as hen’s teeth) and realizing that there was something for me here (remember, this was pre-internet days, knowledge of what was happening creatively elsewhere was still found in traditional sources….it also helped that Brian Clarke was an Oldham born artist and his largest piece, in the world at the time, had just been installed in Oldham’s newly built shopping center). I still didn’t really know if architectural glass fitted me yet, but it was a huge step up from what I’d understood the discipline to be.
I spent a long time thinking about the separate polarities of art and craft and their overlaps until I reached a point where I felt comfortable setting aside the kind of art I’d previously made and seeing that glass craft had a value and could also be enquiring and expanding. Mark emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, around this time, and I had a few months to consider whether I would take over his business and continue on my own. Eventually I decided to and spent a couple of years slowly shedding what was previously Mark’s and pushing forward what was mine. I needed to do this. I needed to know if the decision was right, if I really could spend the foreseeable future as a glass craftsman and not an artist.
One thing I found necessary was to streamline the business; my time was being taken up with commissions that involved processes I had no love for. I realized that I could make interesting, contemporary work using just traditional stained glass techniques. It was all in the design. I slowly started guiding the small commissions I was getting into the kind of work that satisfied me. I began being more constructively critical of, not only other’s work, but of my own, until I started getting a portfolio of work together that I was reasonably comfortable with. It was still early days, but I saw potential and felt the discipline begin to take ahold of me, get into my veins and become part of my everyday consciousness. I started looking at images produced by other artists, not only stained glass, but printmakers and textile artists and wondering if I could do something similar with glass. I was consciously pushing what I saw as possible, trying to make what I hadn’t seen elsewhere. Looking back on some of those early pieces I’m still surprised by the odd unexpected detail or the ambition in such a small, unimportant piece.
Around this time, I met my wife and we started a family. Helen is from rural Wales, a first-language Welsh-speaker, and it felt natural that we would decide to relocate to her home town to bring up the boys. Llandeilo is a beautiful place, an old, hill-top market town that has a surprising wealth of creative folk below its surface. We moved here around 14 years ago and, after previously occupying huge studio spaces, I now work from a small garden workshop. The major change from the work I did up north is due to the almost total absence of traditional period glass locally. When we first moved I was horrified. Much of my work up north had been in restoring and repairing period pieces, and here, there wasn’t that kind of showy decoration, even the chapels were plain glazed. As it turned out though, in hindsight, due to the explosion of social media, I began to get more and more small, interesting commissions from clients who didn’t have an automatic association with the period work I was doing up north.
My current practice is an ongoing search for what interests me visually and technically. I’m a bit of a purist and, despite my experience and knowledge of a wide range of practices I like now to only use mainly mouthblown antique glass, lead and vitreous paints. I acid-etch flashed glasses, I don’t use enamels. If I need to I plate glass, I don’t use laminates or glues. It’s a personal choice; I like the restrictions that the traditional practices give me.
My work tends to flip between apparently simple abstract, pattern-based pieces where any reference to subject is restricted or absent, and playful, painterly, heavily stylized naturalism. It depends on the commission. I was told in art school that my art practice didn’t seem to have a recognizable fingerprint; I would be using whatever was needed in order to make suggestions and connections within each piece. I sometimes wonder if my work is still the same; one can often recognize a fellow maker’s work. They have a particular style. I’m not sure whether I do. I’ve been told otherwise, but I still don’t know what that fingerprint is. Again, it’s down to the commission. It took me a while to feel comfortable with commission-based work, comfortable with the inevitable compromises that are made when meeting the client halfway with a design. But I’m getting better at dealing with it now. I think having a body of work behind you gives the client trust in you if you feel compelled to push a piece in a certain direction.”
As a queer person of mixed race, Corey Pemberton often feels other. Knowing nothing about his African roots and very little about his European heritage, the artist considers lineage and the idea of connectedness in his glass art, paintings, and other works on paper. Pemberton’s vessels, blown glass baskets based on those of his presumed ancestors, are made in a European style that borrows forms and patterns from the sweetgrass weavers of South Africa. He says: “I use color and pattern as vehicles to describe situations where society has used a person’s uniqueness against them; where people have been labeled or categorized based on physical characteristics in an effort to hold them back. Can we, as a society, find a way to unite in our otherness?”
Born in Reston, Virginia, in 1990, Pemberton received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. After graduating and relocating to Augusta, Missouri, he worked as a production glassblower under Sam Stang and Kaeko Maehata. Subsequent travel through Norway and Denmark exposed the young artist to both country’s rich design history as he worked with fellow glass artists. Upon return to the US, Pemberton participated in a Core Fellowship at Penland School of Craft, Bakersville, North Carolina.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, Pemberton splits time between production glassblowing, his painting practice, and Crafting the Future (CTF), an organization he co-founded with furniture artist Annie Evelyn in early 2019. CTF partners with organizations across the country such as Louisiana’s Young Aspirations/Young Artists, known as YAYA; Kentucky’s STEAM Exchange; North Carolina’s Penland School of Craft; and Maine’s Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, with the goal of increasing access to education and opportunity for underrepresented artists in order to help them develop thriving careers. In 2019, CTF raised more than $8,000 to send two young New Orleans students, Tyrik Conaler and Shanti Broom, to Penland School of Craft.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, a growing number of artists have banded together to fundraise for student scholarships. The CTF membership page went live in February 2020, and in the next three months culled around 50 members and $2,000. Following the killing of George Floyd and several other innocent African Americans, and the ensuing protests that raised awareness of racial injustice, membership increased to more than 1,200 by late May. Over the next few months, CTF raised over $175,000 for scholarships and other programming, though more is needed to affect lasting change.
If you’re interested in joining or donating to Crafting the Future, visit:
Striving to bring together people of all backgrounds and identities, Pemberton breaks down stereotypes and builds bridges, not only through his work with CTF, but in his personal artistic practice. In the artist’s recent solo show creature, comfort at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) of Raleigh, North Carolina, painting, photography, and hand-blown glass came together to create visual environments that depicted subjects in both real and imagined homes. Pemberton’s goal was and is to make his subjects relatable and intriguing, so that viewers consider those subjects fully and are able to see themselves in the work.
Join Corey Pemberton next spring at the Chrysler Museum of Art’s Perry Glass Studio for a lecture and free demonstrations during the 2021 Visiting Artist Series. Next summer, the artist is scheduled to teach at Pilchuck and in the fall at Penland with Cedric Mitchell.
On the morning of September 8, a dry brush field north of Ashland, Oregon, caught fire along Almeda Drive. The National Weather Service called for a red-flag wind warning that day, predicting gusts upward of 50 mph, which was bad news for Oregon fire officials. The state was already battling more than 10 other major fire incidents, exhausting state resources. Strong winds from the east pushed the fire north, parallel to Interstate 5, resulting in the complete destruction of the towns of Talent and Phoenix, Oregon.
Before it stopped, the Almeda fire burned more than 3,200 acres, destroyed 3,000 structures, including one of Fire District 5’s three firehouses, and killed 3 people. It stopped south of Medford, a city of 82,000 residents, when the winds eventually shifted. Police said the Almeda fire had two points of origin, the first in Ashland and one later in Phoenix. Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, has been charged with starting one of the fires.
Artist studios destroyed by the fire include DoJo Glass Studio, Phoenix, including glassblowers Big Country, Jay (birddog) Harrower, Amani Summerday, Mia Shae Williams and Doug (Taco) Williams. Other glass community members affected by the Almeda fire include artists Ron Regan, Adam Kissinger, Bernie Rodriguez, Jenay Elder and Gabe Arafai; glass collectors Shawn Thompson and Benjamin. Two dispensarys burned to the ground, and those employees are also being helped by the Southern Oregon Glass Community Relief fund, to which over 350 people have donated so far.
On September 13, birddogart posted on his Instagram:
As most of you have already heard or seen, several miles of our beautiful little Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon burned down on September 8th due to a catastrophic wildfire. Over 3000 homes burned, countless businesses burned to the ground, and many lost everything. Our shop was one of the businesses lost that day. As with any disaster, many have risen to support those affected. We have local efforts as well as the national support of the glass and cannabis industries, which has been phenomenal. I know there has been some confusion as to which GoFundMe is which and who gets what help. None of us has ever been through loss like this before, and there is no handbook, so we’ve done our best, and we are supporting each other as well.
The support and love from this community has been overwhelming. There is a team of us making sure that the disbursement of funds is equitable, and that people have their needs met. My vision is that we will be made whole very soon because you all rock, and then we can be pillars in our community and help those who don’t have access to the amount of amazing people and resources that we do. We will get through this together, and I can’t express enough how much you all have meant to us during this trying time, whether it be shops, collectors, or other artists. Thank you so much!
In this conversation, Lacey St. George Walton, aka LaceFace, discusses the fire and its effects on her local glass and cannabis communities. Talking Out Your Glass podcast and all of its sponsors, along with Mountain Glass and Lampwork Supply, have made donations to Southern Oregon Glass Community Relief (SOGCR). Click on the link below to donate now!! Follow @LaceFaceglass on Instagram for the latest on the recovery.
Celebrated for her innovative, colorful blown glass and flameworked Amulet Baskets, Laura Donefer is also known for artwork that pushes boundaries by exploring memory, assault, bereavement, joy and madness. The artist has been using glass as the primary medium in her work for over 38 years, all while teaching, producing unforgettable glass fashions shows and promoting the glass arts worldwide.
Born in Ithaca, New York, but raised in rural Quebec, Donefer studied sculpture for a year in 1973 at the National Art School of Cubanacan in Havana. Back in Canada, in 1975 she graduated with honors in Literature and Languages from Dawson College and in 1979 with honors from McGill University, both located in Montreal, Quebec. After traveling the world and working with many interesting people, Donefer trained as a glass artist at Sheridan College, Ontario, graduating in 1985.
A tireless promoter, Donefer lectured extensively on Canadian contemporary glass in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Australia, including the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C.; the Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona; the University of Honolulu, Honolulu, Hawaii; and during AUSGLASS in Sydney, Australia. She curated a number of exhibitions in the United States to showcase Canadian work. In 1985, as president of the Glass Art Association of Canada (GAAC), Donefer was instrumental in uniting glass artists across Canada by publishing a quarterly magazine, The Glass Gazette, which developed into the major voice of Canadian glass artists. In 2006, GAAC awarded Donefer its first Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her tireless efforts in the advancement of art glass in Canada.
By conducting countless workshops worldwide, Donefer has influenced students from Red Deer College, Alberta, to Penland School of Crafts, Bakersfield, North Carolina, to the Sonoran School, Tucson, Arizona; and beyond in Japan and Australia. She served on the staff in the glass department at Sheridan College and was permanent faculty at Espace Verre, Montreal, for over 18 years, helping to mold the school with her dynamic classes. She continues to teach regularly at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, and at the Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, where she has served on the International Council for 17 years.
Since the mid-1980s, Donefer’s work has been exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions, including shows at the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art in Japan; the Art Gallery of Western Australia; the Hammelev Arts and Culture Centre in Denmark; the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston; the Museo del Vidrio in Mexico; and the Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, China. Her sculpture is included in many public and private collections, including the Corning Museum of Glass; the Tacoma Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington; the Museum of Art and Design, Manhattan; Imagine Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida; Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida; Barry Art Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan; and the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio. She is currently represented by Habatat Gallery and Sandra Ainsley Gallery.
A past board member of the Glass Art Society (GAS), in 2008 the organization presented Donefer with its prestigious Honorary Membership Award. Donefer has produced 15 of her unforgettable glass fashion shows, many for the organization. In 2018, her ground-breaking event included 33 glass costumes in 12 gondolas gliding through the canals in Murano, Italy. Her next glass fashion show is slated for GAS 2022. Donefer has also been awarded The Lifetime Achievement Award from Craft Ontario; the International Flameworking Award for “extraordinary contributions to the glass art world”; and the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass award for her role in the glass community.
On hiatus due to the Covid 19 pandemic, Donefer spends her days near Harrowsmith, Ontario, with her amazing husband “The Mighty Dave” and her dachshund Mr. Lance. She has become a mushroom detective, searching for and photographing these living sculptures and their unique forms and colors while exploring a new body of Covid Anxiety paintings. Donefer’s collaboration with glassblower extraordinaire Jeff Mack is currently on view in a ground-breaking exhibition curated by Tina Oldknow and Bill Warmus, Venice and American Studio Glass, at Le Stanze del Vetro Museum in Venice.
Public art projects present many technical and aesthetic challenges including, first and foremost, how the artist conveys her concept to a broad swath of the general public. When considering the Multnomah County Central Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, Lynn Basa took on the challenge of translating the principles of hope for users of the new building.
She says: “The American justice system is ultimately based on hope – hope that if you do something wrong and get caught, that you’ll get a fair trial; hope that if you go to trial you won’t get convicted; hope that if you get convicted, you’ll get a light sentence. Judges hope that they will be fair and impartial. Underpinning all of this is the hope for rehabilitation, to re-enter society, to lead a productive life.”
The Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) selected Basa to create a 25’ x 71’ glass artwork for the lobby of the new 17-story Multnomah County Central Courthouse. Designed by SRG Partnership / CGL Ricci Greene, the new courthouse is located at Southwest First Avenue and Madison Street. The artist chose Bullseye Studio to fabricate her 1,775-square-foot work – a series of 120 5′ tall x 3′ wide panels composed entirely of kilnformed glass. The panels required more than 200 firings and three years to complete.
Basa’s design for the two-story artwork—viewable from the lobby, the second and third stories of the building, and from the building’s exterior—was inspired by conversations with the project’s Artist Selection Panel, courthouse judges and employees, as well as formerly incarcerated community members. The focus of the artwork is a landscape that reflects the rippling passage of behavior, through redemption and rehabilitation, that is sought in the community justice process.
Basa says: “The composition reads from left to right. It starts out hot and in turmoil then becomes cooler and calmer. The crime and the criminal run hot. The job of the justice system is to treat that heat with cool rationality, to calm the waters. On another level, the artwork is a landscape. Living in the Pacific Northwest means living with the constant awareness that you’re on top of a volcanic chain, contrasted by being surrounded by water. The Wilmette River runs next to the courthouse and, of course, Portland’s famously rainy climate.”
Throughout the country, Basa has completed numerous public art commissions in mosaic, glass, steel, terrazzo, and light. In her studio, she paints with an ancient medium called encaustic that is a mix of beeswax and oil pigment. She is the founder of the Milwaukee Avenue Alliance, a community organization dedicated to the equitable cultural and economic reawakening of three blocks of the vintage, working-class main street where her storefront studio is located. With an undergraduate degree in ceramics from Indiana University, the artist earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and an MPA in public art policy from the University of Washington. Basa’s book called The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions, is based on a class she developed and taught at SAIC.
In order to create effects similar to those of encaustic painting, her primary medium, Basa elected to use glass for the Multnomah County Courthouse project. Bullseye Studio developed a process for translating between the mediums, then executed the work in colored crushed glass on canvases of opalescent white glass. She chose to work with Bullseye Studio to translate her imagery from encaustic to glass based on the success of her prior work with Bullseye’s team creating mosaic columns for TriMet’s Orange Line stations.
Funded by Multnomah County Percent for Art and managed by the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC), Bullseye Studio worked closely with SRG, RACC, Multnomah County, Hoffman Construction, and the engineering firm KPFF to realize this massive project. Installation of the artwork was performed by Artech.
In a time of darkness, Julie Conway relies upon her studio practice for survival, but also as a means of sharing sparkle, beauty and light with the rest of the world. A glass artist and lighting designer, she founded Illuminata Art Glass Design LLC to offer bespoke, luxurious custom lighting designed to amplify molten glass and its abilities to refract and reflect light. Named in homage to the Italian Renaissance thinkers and artists who expanded public consciousness, Illuminata currently offers a new version of enlightenment for the masses.
Says Conway: “We are dealing with grief, emotions, change, and finding life routines. There have been some solitary days in the studio. I put my time into some deep designing and launching new content on my new readymade website. My team and I have returned to blowing glass in limited capacity with a few extra juggling steps, but I am so happy to be back producing glass and installing new commissions. For me, it has been so important to have my studio practice. Getting lost in creative projects has now become a mode of survival. I feel that we must continue to find things that inspire us. The only way through is through. Feel the light. It is here for us.”
A passionate collaborator, Conway works closely with architects, designers and clients to create extraordinary hand-made, illuminated glassworks. She conceives all site-specific original designs and executes their fabrication in the hotshop with her team. Crafting the suspension systems, creating the blueprints for armatures, and integrating the technical electrical components are all part of her process. By communicating and coordinating with teams of electricians, installers, architects, designers and clients, her artistic vision is achieved. Merging concepts of art installation with functional design, spaces are transformed by light.
She says: “Light is fascination, attraction, a beacon, it is life. Light travels for eons before our existence. We see it after the millennia have past and the fleeting moment is gone.”
Beginning in 1997 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Conway took her first steps on the pathway to glass working as an apprentice for three and a half years alongside a glass production artist. From 2003 to 2011, she served as a class organizer, teaching assistant and Italian translator for various glassmaking classes on the island of Murano. Subsequently, she spent years teaching glassblowing and flameworking herself at Public Glass, San Francisco, and Pratt Fine Arts, Seattle. In addition to lighting, Conway creates glass jewelry, small sculpture and Christmas ornaments from her workspace within Seattle’s Equinox Studio, a nexus of collaboration where artists often contribute to each other’s projects and have renter equity in a collection of industrial buildings.
Recent awards include Conway’s selection as the 2017/ 2018 Visiting Artist for Motif Seattle, a hotel that blends its identity to the vision of an area artist on a rotating basis. In 2018, the artist participated in LuxLumen, an art glass lighting exhibition for Berengo Studio and Gallery, shown during the Venice Biennale in Murano. Her work FracTur(ed), exhibited at Glasstastic, the Bellevue Arts Museum Glass Biennial exhibition, won the global lighting award from Light in Theory. In 2019, she designed, created and installed chandeliers at SeaTac Airport and Din Tai Fung in Seattle.
In 2007, Conway founded BioGlass, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the efficiency of glass studios and glass making practices, and disseminating the latest information on the best practices to lower energy usage in glass studios. On a recent trip to Mexico, the artist began a collaboration project for her new LUMI Collection, making products from recycled glass and using a biofuels furnace with zero carbon footprint.
Conway’s work evolved outside of the gallery scene due to the functionality of glass lighting. Instead, her illuminated installations adorn luxury hotels, bars, restaurants, award-winning homes and museum exhibitions. The Illuminata collection is an intentional juxtaposition of elegant blown glass forms and industrial elements surrounding patterns of light and shadow unique to Conway’s artistic expression, merging concepts of art installation with functional design. The result is the transformation of space via light.
The 1950s and ‘60s marked the heyday of kinetic sculpture with Alexander Calder’s mobiles and Jean Tinguely’s junk machine that destroyed itself in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art. But to glass lovers, Bandhu Dunham put himself on the same map with his 2016 Rube Goldberg-esque Escape Room created for Arizona State University as a reflection of how sports could evolve 24 years into the future.
Dunham says: “Nature inspires me, the interplays between art and science always interest me, and glass merges these fields like no other material. After many years, fanciful steam engines and other kinetic sculptures represent a full turn of the circle, back to the colorful, magical mysteries that captivated my childhood self. He’s still in there, and he wants you to come play, too. I think that people like watching kinetic gizmos with gears and pulleys and crankshafts because, in a paradoxical way, these machines re-connect us with nature.”
Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1959, Dunham began to teach himself lampwork technique in 1975 while still in high school. As an undergraduate at Princeton, he received informal training from the University’s glassblower before completing his apprenticeship under American and European masters at Urban Glass, the Pilchuck Glass School and the Penland School of Crafts. The artist regularly teaches workshops at craft schools and private studios around the United States and internationally including the Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass, The Penland School of Crafts and the Pilchuck Glass School. A visiting foreign instructor at Osaka University of Arts in Osaka, Japan, Dunham has presented his work at numerous international conferences including The Glass Art Society, Ausglass, The International Festival of Glass, Kobe Lampwork Festa and Glassymposium Lauscha.
An internationally respected glass artist, author and teacher, Bandhu’s work can be found in the permanent collections of numerous museums in the US and abroad, and his Contemporary Lampworking books are the authoritative, standard instructional texts in the field. In addition to fabricating one-of-a-kind glass sculptures and goblets, Dunham supervises his apprentices in creating unusual gift items and decorations of his conception from his studio, Salusa Glassworks, Prescott, Arizona. In 2018, he designed a groundbreaking kinetic sculpture fabricated by Ryan Murray, GANESHA (Guard Against Negativity; Express Sane Healing Attitudes), for The Melting Point Gallery, Sedona, Arizona.
He says: “The effect on the viewer is a playful mix of contemplative fascination with bursts of excitement as the marbles make their way up and down the track. I enjoy seeing how much viewers of all ages and backgrounds are engaged by the simple drama of marbles circulating through a kinetic system. The key elements of art-as-experience are brought to life in this complex yet simple theatre. We are reminded of life’s magic when we allow ourselves to be captivated by the colorful story unfolding before us. In the best case, the world looks a little different after we have spent some time watching one of my machines.”
Dunham has established a Patreon page to support the creation and dissemination of his informative, inspiring and amusing videos about glass art.
Exploring themes of birth, death, animal-human relationships and parallel worlds suggests that Christina Bothwell is a magical realist. Her work conjures scenes from fables or children’s stories in which something impossible is happening quite naturally and spontaneously.
Bothwell says: “Since I was very young, I have been fascinated with the concept of the Soul… the idea that the physical body represents only a small part of our beingness. I am always interested in trying to express that we are more than just our bodies, and my ongoing spiritual interests and pursuits have run parallel to the narrative in my pieces.”
Bothwell studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia before teaching herself how to work with ceramics and cast glass. The artist lived and worked in Manhattan until 1994 when she and husband, artist Robert Bender, relocated to rural Pennsylvania – along with their three young children, eight pets, plus a snake named Lucy. Nature, the main source of inspiration for her work, helps Bothwell maintain an awareness of the interconnectedness that exists among all of life.
By the late 1990s, Bothwell was having some success making doll-like figures out of clay, found objects and cloth. But a perceived “disturbing quality” sometimes made the work a tough sell. A 1999 glassmaking workshop at the Corning Museum of Glass provided the breakthrough she needed. Realizing glass could do all the same things as clay but with an added element of delicacy and lightness, Bothwell has been combining the two materials ever since – a pairing that has become her aesthetic signature.
Since those early days, Bothwell has won numerous scholarships and grants including a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and a Virginia A. Groot Foundation award for excellence in sculpture. Additional awards and honors include the 2018 Artist of the Future Award for Most Compassionate Artist, Imagine Museum, Saint Petersburg, FL; The Haven Foundation grant, Brewer, ME; and the Craft Emergency Relief Foundation grant, Montpelier, VT, to offset damages and loss of artwork caused by a devastating studio fire Bothwell and Bender suffered in August 2018.
Bothwell’s work is held in permanent public collections such as the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY; Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI; Shanghai Museum of Glass Art, Shanghai, China; Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL; Palm Springs Museum, Palm Springs, CA and the Alexander Tutsek – Stiftung foundation, Munich, Germany. She is represented by Heller Gallery, NY; Habatat Gallery, Royal Oak, MI; and Austin Art Projects, Palm Desert, CA.
With an exhibition at Heller Gallery scheduled in February 2021, Bothwell contemplates new work. “My subject matter includes babies, animals, and children as they embody the essence of vulnerability that is the underlying theme in my work. Currently I am exploring metamorphosis as a topic, and have been incorporating figures within figures in my pieces. Within each glass figure there is a smaller figure seen through the surface of the glass. I think of these pieces as souls, each being pregnant with their own potential, giving birth to new, improved versions of themselves.”
In this special AMA (Ask Me Anything) episode of Talking Out Your Glass podcast, patron and co-producer Anthony Cowan participates in interviewing one of his favorite glass artists, Bothwell, as a reward for his support of the podcast via Patreon. If you’re interested in supporting the continued documentation of glass and glass artists while earning extra episodes and other rewards, visit
Creating under the pseudonym 2-Stroke since 2013, Christopher McElroy constructs one-of-a-kind pipes and rigs adorned with his colorful, psychedelic, textile-inspired patterning technique known as Heliocoileh. His current body of work includes polychromatic water pipes, dry pipes, cups, marbles, and beads, created with the philosophy that the ornamentation of daily objects serves to elevate an experience from mundane to mystical.
McElroy earned his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and his MFA from The University of Washington, where he studied under Mark Zirpel. His early glass mentors Emilio Santini, Sally Prasch and Rick Schneider encouraged him to forge his own path from the very start of his relationship with the medium. His sculptural and functional works have been exhibited at The Henry Arts Gallery (Seattle, Washington), Anderson Gallery (Richmond, Virginia), Traver Gallery (Seattle, Washington), Missoula Art Museum (Missoula, Montana), Dampkring Gallery (Amsterdam) and Pismo Fine Art Gallery (Aspen, Colorado).
Teaching has played an important part of McElroy’s history with glass and includes flameworking instruction at Kyoto University of Art and Design in Japan, Penland School of Crafts, the Corning Museum of Glass, Pilchuck Glass School, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel.
Growing up in Southwest Virginia’s scenic rolling hills and farmlands shaped McElroy’s affinity for agrarian and wilderness landscapes. Informed by color relationships in plants, animals, lichen, and minerals, the artist studies and examines how colors convey information of biological purpose. Lessons of age, nutrition, fertility, and danger are communicated among entities that speak the language of color.
Informed by avant-garde contemporary fashion, ceremonial objects of pre-columbian South American cultures, and textiles from around the world, the artist cites artistic influences to include Robert Irwin, El Anatsui, Kelsey Brooks, & Tom Sachs. Color, collection, and craft have always been and remain at the core of his studio practice.
In early June 2020, the artist exhibited new work in a four-person show, A Time for Passion, held at Stoked, Connecticut, and will be a part of Mins, a group pipe show held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 16, 2020.
From his studio in Hudson, New York, McElroy discusses the transition from sculpture to pipes, and how art school training affects his approach to functional glass.
More than a decade ago, Tanya Veit was a bartender living and working in Chicago, Illinois. While on vacation in Florida, a psychic predicted she would one day own an arts related business. Back home in the Windy City, Veit attended a glass exhibition with her husband John, after which she immediately applied for a business license, knowing that her company would one day dedicate itself to glass art.
The Veits established AAE Glass in Cape Coral, Florida, along with John’s brother, Mark Veit. Their 22,000-square-foot facility is a Bullseye Resource Center and distributor and also offers two classrooms, a retail store, cold working shop and shipping warehouse for their large e-commerce business. Some of AAE Glass’ offerings include products and equipment from Coatings By Sandberg, Olympic Kilns, Gemini Saw Company and many popular fusing supplies. Classes are offered almost daily by world-renowned glass fusing instructors from the U.S. and by international fused glass artists 10 to 15 times a year.
At an early age Veit was inspired by her grandmother, who provided pastels and chalks from the art supply store where she worked. Since that time, the artist has explored myriad mediums including PMC, art clay, wood, metal and glass. Constantly experimenting with new techniques, Veit has redefined what is possible in fused glass jewelry. A self-taught artist, her work has been published in many periodicals.
An energetic and “spicy” instructor, Veit developed a unique talent for assisting others in tapping into their own creativity to further their craft. Her students lovingly refer to her inspiring classes as “The Tanya Show.” The artist has travelled the US and Europe extensively, teaching her signature techniques and has expanded those offerings into highly anticipated online video tutorials.
AAE Glass currently offers more than 50 online tutorials by fusing experts worldwide. Two recent videos include Veit’s Creating Depth & Drama in Fused Glass Jewelry, which has become her most popular online offering to date. She says: “Being able to review instruction at your leisure in your studio is priceless. Referring back and watching repeatedly will also spark something new. Life gets in the way, so being able to have that resource when you need it is invaluable.” Look for Veit’s new release, Scenic Layering and Color Blending in Jewelry in the fall along with Kiln Casting by Nathan Sandberg.
Investigating a range of issues from equity and privilege to materiality and labor, Nathan Watson’s artwork addresses complex social issues through a combination of monochromatic glass and compelling form. After directing San Francisco State University’s small glass program for five years, the artist, designer, and educator became Executive Director of Public Glass, the city’s only public access glass making facility. As the director of an arts non-profit and in his life as an artist, Watson’s current practice continues to move intuitively between community building and art making as a way to examine and imagine how we might offer each other the same attention and regard as we do the object.
A Kentucky native, Watson received a BA in history from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where he also began investigating glass as a way to transform storied narratives into a visual medium. Before pursuing his graduate studies at California College of Arts in 2004, Watson received grants and awards from the Rhode Island Foundation and the Rhode Island Council for the Arts for his work concerning local crafts, identity, and immigration. Often formed by constructed architectural interventions and poetic imagery, Watson’s work in glass has been the subject of exhibitions at the Noma Gallery and Refusalon in San Francisco, POST in Los Angeles, and numerous surveys of contemporary artists using glass as an element in their practices.
Watson has lectured and taught nationally as a visiting artist at the Massachusetts College of Art, Centre College in Kentucky, UC Fullerton, San Francisco State University, and at conferences addressing issues surrounding arts education, youth programming and social justice. As a curator, he has contributed to exhibitions at Southern Exposure, Google, The Reclaimed Room at Building Resources, and directs the gallery and artist in residence programs at Public Glass.
In 2012, Watson co-founded Light A Spark, a glass-focused arts program that provides rare opportunities and resources for youth in the underserved communities of San Francisco. He’s also a member of an artist collective called Related Tactics, which brings together artists and cultural workers to collaborate on projects that deal with the intersection of race and culture.
Days before the most recent issue of GASnews was set to publish, the organization received a letter from Watson and published it in its entirety.
Watson wrote: “In this moment when all communities must ask, how did we get here, I think that it’s a meaningful statement in itself to say that I am one of two African Americans leading nonprofit glass organizations, and one of three helping to guide University glass programs in the entire United States. After sitting back and watching our glass community respond to the lynching of brown people and observing the social media-based processing of our complicity through inaction and a pervasive lack of inclusion, I’ve decided to put my heartache aside to share what it feels like from my perspective. With all of the wealth, privilege, and supposed progressive elements within our arts community, how could we let ourselves fall so far behind when it comes to supporting equity and opening doors for everyone?
Even when compared to the lack of representation across the art world as a whole, the glass community looks really bad. No words, propping up of black faces, or sudden unburying of works by black artists will solve this. We were wrong all along to be content amongst ourselves, content to peddle in shiny things with little connection to the realities of the world that is burning our eyes open now. We as artists, who are tasked with interpreting our collective condition, did not do our jobs, and the industry that supports us did not do theirs. The glass galleries did not look toward and support our futures, and our institutions looked to the past and the same sources for self-congratulation again and again until last week.
In the last few days my projects, my body, and the images of my black and brown colleagues have become all too popular in the social media posts of the many glass companies and organizations around the country who are trying to make a statement about how “woke” they are. If you use our bodies in your catalogues, in your posts, and in your applications for larger grants, YOU are responsible for helping to create a way forward for the many who have not been offered a seat at your table.
The leading nonprofit glass organizations from coast to coast who have been working on issues of access and diversity, lifting new voices, and supporting emerging artists for years with little to no contribution from our industry’s biggest donors and institutions have joined together to create the Give to Glass Campaign. We’ve united due to the devastating financial impacts of COVID-19 on our programs and studios, but also because our own glass community has never fully appreciated the value of what we’ve been working for all along. In this moment when everyone has
something to say about social justice, I ask….Do you see us now?!
If you as an individual or an institution have made a declaration about where you stand, then it’s your moral obligation to support change in our glass community. Words raise awareness, but contributions provide the resources for REAL CHANGE! Donate to Give to Glass, to Crafting the Future, or to any organization that is versed in fighting for those whose lives are compromised and voices muted, and for God’s sake, please VOTE!
If there is no action behind your statements, then please stop using our names, our black bodies, those of our youth, and the objects made from our alienation and pain, and step aside to let us build our own house.”
Talking Out Your Glass podcast and all of our sponsors have made donations to Give to Glass.
Give to Glass is a fundraising campaign created by and for Glass Impact, a nationwide coalition of nonprofit, community-focused glass organizations who are dedicated to equal access and uplifting diverse voices and ideas through glass. Each of the member studios is supported primarily through public programming, making the economic fallout of COVID-19 and social distancing particularly devastating.
By supporting Glass Impact through the Give to Glass Campaign, you are making a statement:
A diverse and accessible glass community is the best way that we can move the industry forward, and we cannot afford to allow COVID-19 to eliminate the studios that are fighting for inclusivity.
Glass Impact is:
Firebird Community Arts | Chicago, IL | @firebirdcommunityarts
Foci- Minnesota Center for Glass Art | Minneapolis, MN | @focimcga
GlassRoots | Newark, NJ | @GlassRootsinc
Hilltop Artists | Tacoma, WA | @hilltopartists
North Carolina Glass Center | Asheville, NC | @NCGlassCenter
Public Glass | San Francisco, CA | @PublicGlass
STARworks Glass | Star, NC | @STARworksglass
UrbanGlass | Brooklyn, NY | @UrbanGlass_nyc
Early exploration of flameworking and its applications play out in Elliott Todd’s diverse body of work that ranges from functional glass pipes to glass drawings to breakthrough video presentations on Instagram, such as the 2019 demonstration of musical instruments made at his torch. For his BFA show at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Todd aka et_glass, drew Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map using glass rods and his torch.
Todd says: “I make work based off of repeated geometric patterns. These patterns are often made up of many little parts. Eventually I can assemble it all to make a much larger piece than the individual components could ever be. When you put the earth on a 2D scale, it distorts the sizes and the relationship of the continents. What I like so much about the Dymaxion Map is it uses geometry to make a more fair map of the world. And it creates this really interesting perspective where we’re all connected instead of all being separated by our different continents.”
A native of Boone, North Carolina, Todd visited Penland School of Crafts as a boy with his father and attended community open house events. As a teenager, he started making flameworked beads at home with a simple gas torch and rods of glass. Upon graduation from high school and unsure of his direction, the young artist attended Penland classes beginning with a hot glass intensive taught by Ed Schmid and followed by further glass studies taught by Dave Naito and Scott Benefield. More recently, he attended a workshop with one of his favorite torch artists, Micah Evans, and served as teaching assistant for Carmen Lozar.
After earning his BFA from Tyler in 2016, Todd returned to his hometown and established a studio where he designs and creates a line of functional glass combining reticello in contemporary forms, networked and framed pieces that are sold through Gallery 42 and direct to galleries. In 2020, he was looking forward to serving as teaching assistant at Penland and having his first solo exhibition in four years in Asheville, both events cancelled because of Covid. However, thanks to his presence on Instagram, et_glass is coordinating on a project with a glassblower from Kuwait who is the lead artist at the first school for glass in the Gulf region, Yadawi. He’s also recently donated proceeds from the sale of some beautiful Sherlocks and bubble sculptures to Crafting the Future.
Through constant experimentation, et_glass blends non- functional forms with the objects he loves to use and turns mistakes into great pieces just by being open to the idea.
A process that involves creating a model, pouring a mould, and carefully applying very thin layers of powdered glass within that mould, pâte de verre has historically been associated with the matt/frosted, translucent vessel forms of Lalique and Daum. Enter Alicia Lomné, who has not simply redefined the techniques, but pioneered the acceptance of radical new non-traditional forms created with paste of glass. Her glorious plant/ underwater creature hybrids are a wonder to behold with their rounded bellies, spikey spines, and stunning color gradations and values.
Born on the island of Corsica, France, to two working artists, Lomné was exposed to life as a maker from the beginning. Her mother, well-known glass artist KéKé Cribbs, introduced her to the glass community at large and gifted her with the Pilchuck workshop where she fell in love with glass casting. Lomné studied the techniques under the tutelage of Clifford Rainey, Daniel Clayman, Jeanne Ferraro, and at The California College of Arts and Crafts.
Having recently relocated from Whidbey Island to Tacoma, Washington, Lomné has spent the last 21 years exploring and developing her own unique style of pâte de verre. She has exhibited her work nationally and participated in shows at The Kentucky Museum of Art and Design, The Museum of American Glass, Figgie Art Museum, National Liberty Museum, Bergstrom-Mahler Museum, and The Muskegon Museum of Art.
For the last 17 years, Lomné has invested more of her time in teaching, enthusiastically sharing her knowledge of pâte de verre with others at Pilchuck Glass School, Penland School of Crafts, The Corning Musuem of Glass, Bullseye Glass resource centers across the country, as well as in Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, England, and Germany. Though she never thought of herself as an educator, sharing knowledge has resulted in a genuine love and an enthusiasm for teaching which she describes as one of best experiences of her life. One of a few artists who have inspired a resurgence in pâte de verre, Lomné has also released four educational videos, the first with Bullseye Glass Co. and three others with AAE Glass. https://www.aaeglass.com/video-tutorial-exploring-pate-de-verre-w-alicia-lomne-1.html?noforce=1
Currently on a self-imposed hiatus, Lomné takes a much-needed break from teaching, traveling, and juggling many jobs. She says: “I need a reboot. Time to explore and expand my own techniques, time to rethink how to function as an artist in this world, time to build a new website and diversify myself.” Future goals include creating a line of greeting cards and fleshing out book ideas. In 2020, Lomné’s work will be featured in a new book about pâte de verre by Max Stewart and Tone Ørvik. And of course, explorations of new work to push the technical and aesthetic limits of pâte de verre continue.
“The pieces I made in the Alluvial series, which I will still be working on now, are about the flow of water, sedimentary layers, a reflection and recording of time. So much of what I do is wrapped up in my process. There is a love and calm in the making that I find nowhere else in my life. Each line laid is a loving meditation and a small record of my time past. Time is, I believe, the only thing we really have in life.”
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Silvia Levenson brings the black humor of the survivor into the domestic arena with a wit that tempers what might at first glance be shrugged off as simple, more caustic feminism. Hers is a tango danced by twin outsiders of the Venetian glass community: female artist/ kilcast glass. And to further insult the traditionalists, she concocts her iconoclastic cakes with American glass. – Lani McGregor, director, The Bullseye Connection.
Razor blades embedded in wedding cakes. Knives hanging precariously above recliners. Shoes pierced with nails. Empty chairs. Silvia Levenson does not claim her work is universal, but rather an intimate reflection of her own feelings about childhood, domesticity, travel and exile. Though she lives and works in Italy, her work cannot be defined by the usual Italian glass parameters. There’s nothing shiny or exclusively beautiful about her cast glass; rather, it is raw, emotional and unforgettable.
Levenson is a survivor, a descendant of Russian Jewish fugitives from the 1904 Revolution, herself an exile from Argentine repression. From 1976 to 1984, during the dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla, 30,000 people known as “desaparecidos” disappeared in Argentina, including members of Levenson’s own family. People who were identified as terrorists were abducted or murdered outright in their homes or safe houses, at their jobs or high schools. When one of Levenson’s cousins and her aunt were killed, she emigrated to Italy with her husband and two children, Natalia and Emilano. She was only 23 years old at the time.
Coming to art as a painter and graphic artist, in 1987 Levenson read Glass Fusing I and discovered that artists were able to work in glass independently. At this time, she also attended Bertil Vallien’s exhibition of stunning new work in cast glass and was again surprised by the potential of the medium. This attraction and excitement led to her early glass studies at Creative Glass, Switzerland, and Sars Poteries, France. She says: “I was fascinated, not only with the beauty of glass but with the fact that glass is a material used in our daily lives. I do not believe the more complex the material, the better the result. I think that a good piece begins with a good idea. I don’t like virtuosity in art. I love feelings, pathos, intuitions. Being a slave to technique is boring.”
In 1995, Levenson served an artist residency at Bullseye Glass Co., where she created work for her first U.S. exhibition Il Viaggio: Selected Works, held at Bullseye Gallery. In 2004, when she was awarded the Rakow Commission from the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) for her work It’s Raining Knives, the first congratulatory e-mail was from McGregor. Her relationship with the company, which is both personal and professional, continues today.
Through iconic objects such as tea pots and wedding cakes, pink hand grenades and empty chairs, Levenson’s work reflects the fragility and vulnerability of humankind. The sculptures symbolize myriad painful truths including the inability of parents to protect children and the repetition of parents’ mistakes by their offspring. One might believe collectors would shy away from such intense or painful content to focus on the decorative quality of glass, on its beauty. But, when Levenson created her Little Bad Girl dresses made in glass and barbed wire, she sold them all. Levenson explains: “If you look at what is happening in a contemporary art context, my work doesn’t look so aggressive.”
Though the Covid 19 pandemic altered Levenson’s teaching and exhibition schedule, the artist currently offers online workshops, including a sold-out class for Warm Glass UK, and future class for Bullseye in August 2020. She is scheduled to teach August 3 – 8, 2020 at CMOG, https://www.cmog.org/class/shifting-boundaries. Check the websites for updates. The artist is also providing one-on-one online tutoring. Find out more at www.silvialevenson.com.
Fall 2020 exhibitions include Punto sull’arte Gallery, Varese, Italy, September 29 and Argentinean Embassy, Rome, October 29, with Levenson’s daughter, Natalia Saurin. Post pandemic, Levenson will install new work at the Art Applied Museum at Sforzesco Castle, Milan. A travelling exhibition, Missing Identity, addresses her experiences as a survivor of Argentina’s Dirty War. The show has been exhibited at the American University Museum in Washington DC, the Argentine Consulate in Barcelona, the Galerie Argentine in Paris, the Murano Glass Museum in Italy and Bullseye Projects, Portland, Oregon. Recovered Identity, Levenson’s 130-piece collection of glass baby clothes, was acquired in 2018 by the Alexander Tutsek Fondation in Germany. The work will be exhibited some time in 2021.
Ellen Mandelbaum creates environments in stained glass that inspire connection between the viewer and the serenity of the spiritual world. Painting with light not only allowed her to transcend art glass limitations, but offered a broader concept for expanding artistic vision in the medium.
After receiving her MFA in painting in 1963 from Indiana University, Mandelbaum worked for several years as a painter, educator and lecturer before developing an interest in stained glass. In 1975, her studies in leaded glass began in earnest at the now defunct Stained Glass School in North Adamas, Massachusetts. By the mid 1980s, Mandelbaum had studied in workshops with such well-known masters as Ludwig Schaffrath, Johannes Schreiter, Jochem Poengsen, Albinas Elskus, Ray King and Ed Carpenter.
Having learned the basic skills of leaded glass, Mandelbaum found herself wanting more fluid motion and softness in her work. The pathway to breaking free of rigid lead line confines was to paint on the glass, techniques she learned from Elskus, who encouraged her to paint in a more personal way. Becoming a member of the Glass Painting Society, founded by John Nussbaum, introduced her to other glass painters with new ideas and approaches, and pushed the artist to further explore free expression using glass paints.
From the beginning, Mandelbaum’s primary interest was the architectural use of stained glass, though throughout her career she designed and exhibited exquisite autonomous pieces, such as Martinique. She says: “I sat on the edge of a dock, plein air painting like Monet. This piece was painted from life with special glass paint and glass I’d brought from Queens, New York, wrapped in newspaper and nestled in the clothes in my suitcase. Miraculously it made it home unbroken where I could fire it in the traditional way – in my kiln at 1200 degrees.” Bold, often geometric designs appeared in concert with expressive free-hand use of paints, stain or enamels. Mandelbaum made use of clear and light tints to enable what was beyond the stained glass to play a role in her designs. Her aesthetic signature, painted elements interacted with what was occurring in the view beyond.
Exhibited internationally, Mandelbaum’s autonomous panels have been featured in several one-person exhibitions at the Queens College Art Center in Flushing, New York, and in a couple of one-person shows at Gallery35 in Manhattan. A member of the Women’s International Glass Workshop since its inception, in 2016 the artist participated in the group show La Grange Aux Verrieres- Lumiere Visible, in Saint-Hilaire-en-Lignieres, France.
Mandelbaum is internationally recognized for her innovative stained glass commissions including installations for the Queens College Art Center, the Marian Woods Retirement Facility in Hartsdale, New York, and a 30-foot high window for the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, South Carolina. Liturgical projects include: Temple Beth Shalom, Annapolis, Maryland, 2014; Kol Shalom Synagogue, Rockville, Maryland, 2012; and Adath Jeshurun Synagogue, Minnetonka, Minnesota, for which she was presented with the 1997 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Religious Art Award.
In 2014, Mandelbaum was accredited as an Artist/Designer by the Stained Glass Association of America (SGAA). Two years later, she was appointed Senior Advisor for the American Glass Guild. Other awards include the Ahavas Sholom Honorable Mention Award for Design Excellence, Newark, New Jersey, 2014, and the Williamsburg Art & Historical Society’s 16th Anniversary Grand Harvest Award for Excellence, 2012.
In 2019, Mandelbaum received the SGAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Education. Her teaching experiences include the instruction of glass painting at the SGAA Stained Glass School, Raytown, Missouri; and in New York at Hunter College, Pace University, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2020, the artist will teach long weekend workshops at her Long Island City Studio. A class including Bruce Buchanan, this year’s James Whitney Scholarship recipient, was rescheduled, hopefully for September 4, 5, 6. Check her website, ellenmandelbaum.com for the latest updates.