This year, flameworking pioneer Paul Stankard will celebrate his 80th birthday. To commemorate more than six decades at the torch, the artist joined Talking Out Your Glass podcast for a return visit featuring a discussion about his contributions to glass and art, including his new book, Inspiration from the Art of Paul J. Stankard: A Window into My Studio and Soul.
Jack Wax, artist and head of the glass department at The Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, wrote the following about Stankard’s latest and fourth book:
“Paul Joseph Stankard is the living master of the art of the botanical paperweight. There ought not to be any argument as to where he stands in the history of this endeavor, an undertaking that dates back to the mid-19th century and the famed Venetian glassmaker Pietro Bigaglia. He has, as a noted autodidact, aimed at elevating the production of these objects to stratospheric heights. His patient and long-term focus on capturing the subtle beauty of blossoms before they fade, and of bouquets that never wilt, has brought to the world marvels of observation, obsession, fixation, and, importantly, of invention. There is a tendency for people to gaze in wonder and become infatuated when encountering “impossible objects” for the first time. This has been his purview.
That said, becoming a master in the world of 21st-century decorative art production might not ensure that your corollary endeavors—writing poetry and laying out the inexorably tied-up nature of beauty’s role in the success of an artwork—needs to be shared with posterity. Stankard’s voice is sincere and heartfelt. His choice of words is deeply weighed, his phrasing and pacing seriously considered. He is, after all, attempting to distill, out of the quickly dispersing mists of creativity, an essence, a tincture that will contain some drops of truth. That can, at times, become a dangerous area to interpret and translate for a broad swath of the population. Being great at one thing in no way guarantees that one is good at another…
If you pick this book up, you will assuredly spend time considering the beauty of Paul Stankard’s botanical images in glass. He is a genuinely passionate, sincerely earnest maker who cares deeply for the natural world and has devoted a lifetime to the true intricacies of what is visible—and what is not—for those who persevere and cultivate what may be revealed in the application of an extraordinarily sustained and amplified focus.”
Considered a living master in the art of the paperweight, Stankard’s work is represented in more than 75 museums around the world. Over his 40-year artistic journey, he has received two honorary doctorate degrees, an honorary associate’s degree, and many awards within the glass community, most recently the Masters of the Medium Award from Smithsonian’s The James Renwick Alliance and the Glass Art Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a Fellow of the American Craft Council and a recipient of the UrbanGlass Award—Innovation in a Glassworking Technique.
In 1961, Stankard enrolled in Salem County Vocational Technical Institute’s Scientific Glassblowing program (now Salem Community College). During his subsequent 10-year scientific glassblowing career, fabricating complex instruments was his focus. As head of the glass department at Rohn & Haas in Philadelphia, the artist began experimenting with floral paperweights as a hobby. The work was eventually noticed by art dealer Reese Palley at a craft expo in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and in 1972, Stankard abandoned industry for art.
Stankard’s role as educator includes establishing the flameworking studio at Penland School of Craft, Spruce Pine, North Carolina, and serving as a founding board member and President of The Creative Glass Center of America, Millville, New Jersey. The artist taught students in the US at Penland; the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington; and abroad at Kanaz Forest of Creation Japan with Hiroshi Yamano as well as at North Lands Creative, in the Scottish Highlands. He remains an Artist-in-Residence and Honorary Professor at Salem Community College, where he founded the International Flameworking Conference.
Now dividing his time between flameworking and writing, Stankard is the author of Inspiration from the Art of Paul J. Stankard: A Window into My Studio and Soul; an autobiography No Green Berries or Leaves: The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass; an educational resource Spark the Creative Flame: Making the Journey from Craft to Art; and Studio Craft as Career: A Guide to Achieving Excellence in Art-making.
In March 2023, Stankard will once again attend the International Flameworking Conference (IFC). He will also be instructing a workshop with Lucio Bubacco in May. IFC details are at www.salemcc.edu/ifc and workshop info is at https://salemcc.edu/glass/intensive-glass-workshop
In celebration of his 80th birthday, WheatonArts will host a Celebration of the Life & Work of Paul J. Stankard, Saturday, May 20, 2023. Click link below for the latest information. Campus-wide activities will be highlighted by collaborative Glass Studio demonstrations with Stankard and friends, curator tours of the Museum of American Glass featuring Amber Cowan’s solo exhibit Alchemy of Adornment, and special fare catered by Feast Your Eyes Catering. Proceeds benefit the WheatonArts Glass Studio programs. Dan Collins – documentary filmmaker with strong roots in the glass art community, producing work that focuses on both the American Studio Glass Movement and the often-misunderstood borosilicate pipe movement – filmed Stankard for a documentary that will be shown in May at the WheatonArts event. The film includes the artist creating a piece from his Celestial Bouquet series. Stankard’s work will be exhibited at the Morris Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, in Morristown, New Jersey, in early 2023.