Founded in 2001 in Beltsville, Maryland, Vitrum Studio provided kilnforming education as well as a wide range of Bullseye fusible glass and supplies to thousands of students from all over the globe. The first exclusive Bullseye Fusing Compatible Glass retail studio and teaching facility in the country, Vitrum Studio grew rapidly into an internationally recognized teaching institution. Though the brick and mortar studio closed two years ago, owners Judith Finn Conway and Kevin O’Toole continue to share their kilnforming experience and expertise in a series of five available eBooks, with more on the horizon.
A friendship that began when O’Toole took a class from Conway served as the cornerstone of Vitrum Studio. For the first many years, while teaching classes and retailing Bullseye glass and supplies, both artists somehow managed to design and fabricate their own individual artworks in kilnformed glass. Conway began her Chesapeake Waters series in the summer of 2004, marking a new direction in her work. The works depict abstracted images of the Chesapeake Bay’s waters and shores. O’Toole began producing his fantasy series of optical instruments in the mid 2000s based on an appreciation of antique telescopes, microscopes, binoculars, and the like. Taking advantage of the optical properties of glass, the artist relies upon many different techniques such as slumping, fusing, and coldworking to create these complex sculptures.
Working seven days a week at Vitrum became a strain that left Conway and O’Toole with no time to create or even think about their own art. Though the partners hated the idea of closing the doors and losing contact with their staff and students, at the end of 2016 the time had come.
It didn’t take long for Conway and O’Toole to realize that they could take everything they had developed over 15 years of teaching at Vitrum Studio and transform it into a collection of eBooks for the fusing community. A natural extension of Vitrum Studio’s classes, these eBooks contain beautifully-crafted projects and richly illustrated step-by-step instructions that delve deeply into the process of each project, exploring how and why each technique works. Currently available titles include StripCut Reimagined: Books 1, 2 and 3, and Finding Place: Light and Landscape Books 1 and 2. Conway and O’Toole have begun work on their sixth eBook, Optic Topics, with instruction on creating intricate patterns with stringers, and are in the research phase for their seventh eBook, to be titled either Powder Imagery or Botanical Portraits in Glass.