Sunday, January 27, 2013


    I found myself in south western New York state.  When one is in these parts and has any interest at all in glass, Corning is a must.  It is one of the glass meccas of the western world and frankly, it had been WAY too long since I have visited.  As it turns out, I have several friends there - one of which I had recently reconnected with in Toledo.  That visit to Toledo turned out to be very pivotal, even though I didn't actually attend the conference itself!  It was exactly what I needed and when I needed it.  That is the way life goes, if you allow it to. That has been one of the toughest lessons for me to learn, but now that I understand and have succumbed to this truth, the world seems to open up as needed.
    Jeremy and I have some history that goes back to former lives, and we hadn't actually seen each other since then.  He also attended Tyler, and worked at a manufacturing company in north Philadelphia, where I was a Project Manager. He had commented to me one day that he had never been West of the Mississippi, so I requested that he accompany me on my business trips out West.  He was a fantastic companion, as I had a tendency to get a bit manic, he would always remain steady, and keep me as level as was possible at the time.  He is now Technician and Teacher at The Corning Museum of Glass' Studio, and has a place just outside of Corning.  When I ran in to him in Toledo, he offered up, so being in the area, I decided to give him a call.
    The Corning Museum of Glass is an amazing place.  The collection runs the gamut, I am a real fan of the super early stuff.  Egyptian, Roman, the stuff that was made way back in the day when glassblowing was Invented.  For the First Time.

    There is a fantastic collection of such objects at the museum.  Researched, restored & displayed to let you know where this all started.  Things were made two thousand years ago that would take a lifetime to recreate!  That is one of the things I love about glass (in case you are keeping a tally)  there are tools and techniques that I have learned, that someone discovered thousands of years ago. Without a Natural Gas pipeline. Or a welder. Or electricity. Fire, sand, and seaweed, man.  It is a healthy perspective on life, culture and society to trace it back to its Roots.  You have probably heard the phrase "It's all been done before".  Bare Naked Ladies wrote a damn song about it.  You go to the Corning Museum, and you see all those original thoughts you thought you had, that someone had a thousand years ago.  Then you bring that current, add the twenty years that I have been at it, watching how it has all expand exponentially even in that short time,  and it is a bit overwhelming.  It is pretty amazing to me that all these objects exist, and am grateful that they are preserved & presented in a way that is accessible to contemporary attention spans.  Here is a link to a batch of pics.  Be sure to read the captions!
    I stayed for about a week - I originally planned on staying for just a couple of days - I was supposed to be in Cincinnati in early November, and didn't really want to jam up my schedule - but a couple of things came up.  Hurricane Sandy was one - as I had to pass through Philadelphia & Gettysburg on the way - I didn't think heading southeast straight at it would be the brightest move.  The second was that mid way through the week, Jeremy's teaching assistant for the weekend class had a schedule conflict, the position was in turn offered to me.  I am not the type to turn down an opportunity to teach, especially at The Studio in Corning! I managed to keep myself occupied between the museum, fireplace, pool table, great food, beer, company, and catching up on computer work, that the week flew by in a very pleasant manner.
    I neglected to mention above that Corning has the Rakow Research Library, perhaps the most extensive collection of glass related materials in a single location in the world.  I didn't even go there....saving that one for another trip.
    Suddenly, I am teaching at The Studio in Corning!  Pretty much all of the world renown artists who teach workshops have been affiliated with this shop at some point. You see that is the deal with taking a class at the Studio at Corning.   It is a beautifully equipped, immaculately maintained place to blow glass.  They don't mess around. Period.  Except for the messing around.  It maintains a balance between tight & laid back like no other place I have been to.  Which is why it was such a great thing to be invited to be there.  I was the Teacher's Assistant for the cane working workshop.  It was kind of great (aside from all the obvious reasons) for the role reversal, as Jeremy always worked for me in the past, and now I was working for him!  We had only been in the hot shop together once before, a really long time ago, and in our former lives.  He is a fantastic teacher, and we worked very well together.  The students were great, and we tried a couple of things that none of us had ever seen any one do before. Including this fun thing with a cordless drill attacking a cane pickup!  My visit ended with a few hours of blow time, where I got to pull out my molds and introduce everyone.  Wouldn't you know it, another long standing friend was blowing on the bench beside us!  It was a blast!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Roman Style Glass Blowing

    About mid way through my stint on Philly I saw a post from my friend Angus Powers on Facebook.  He has built a Roman Style wood fired furnace in his backyard.  My immediate response was something along the lines of "I want to play!"  It's like when the neighbor kid got the new Star Wars toy you've always seen in catalogues, but didn't have yourself.  In response to all the comments, he decided to host an open house, for all to come & participate.  I am so there.

    The open house was on Saturday, and I had work booked through Friday night around 10 pm.  I worked a 12 hour day in the hot shop, packed the truck, and headed North.  Alfred is about 6 or 8 hours from Philadelphia, I have actually never been there before.  I drove 'till about 3 am, and passed out on an exit ramp somewhere in upstate PA.  I woke at sunrise, had breakfast in some small town along the way, and rolled into Angus' driveway 5 minutes prior to the start of the open house.  Strange sensation pulling into the driveway, as I had never been there before, for a split second I wasn't really sure if I was in the right place!  That does happen to me once in a while, I just figure there is no embarrassment in making a mistake, so long as a shotgun doesn't appear....
    Angus has a fabulous backyard, the furnace overlooks the valley near Alfred, NY.  Just like his backyard, his life and family are fabulous as well.  Few folks have his kind of energy - it is infectious - I always appreciate the moments I get to spend around him.  This was no exception.  The little wood fired shop is amazing.  It is one of those things that all glassblowers want to experience, but few actually ever build.  Angus is a bit of a pioneer in this field -  this is not the first that he has built, he is getting pretty good at it. I am very much looking forward to owning the book (Hint, Hint).  The furnace is stoked by his friend & fellow pyro, Dan.  Everything needed to make glass is right there in the lean-to, except the annealer.  It is about 30 yards up the hill in the studio.  Which means after you are finished forming the glass, there is one last flash heat, the piece is held up for the spectator's approval, then, as the applause fades out in the distance, you jog up the hill through the autumn mist, hot finished glass on the end of the stick.  There wasn't a single casualty from the Olympic style marathon to the annealer.
    I had a blast.  There is a mini bench in front of the furnace, close to the ground, so the flames coming from the opening of the furnace do not remove facial hair.  It just so happens that I have a shorty blow pipe which turned out to be the perfect size - it got lots of use that day.  One by one, I would bring the molds out.  I would make a piece, do the triathlon up the Hill,  have a sip of cider, then go to the truck & walk another one down, and quietly place it behind the bench.  There were lots of folks there, we all took turns making stuff.  It was an experience like no other, as far as blowing goes.  Totally different than gas or electric fired equipment.  It really felt like I was getting to the roots of my craft. Here are some pics of the fun!
    The open house was timed with an event down at the school, where a massive iron pour was taking place.  We went down that way to watch, if you've never seen an iron pour, its a pretty wild thing to see.  Fire, sparks and molten metal.  Here are some pics.
    The day ended with an invitation to the local homebrew club Halloween party.  I am a little anxious about going to parties where I only now one or two folks, especially Halloween, when I don't have a costume.  Never fear when Angus is near.  He produced a costume from the garage for me (he just has these things laying around, you see).  Bacon!!!  The best ice breaker costume EVER!

Because Bacon makes everything better!   

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tyler Art Market & A Fresh Attitude

    I suddenly had a plan.  It felt like I was just getting into the groove of this whole not having a plan thing!  Now I'm going to move to Georgia, go back to school, RENT AN APARTMENT, maybe even get a part time job. This is Craziness!  But first things first, I had to get back to Philadelphia for the Tyler Art Market - my first art show since Hot Glass Cold Beer in April.  The Art Market was a collection of talented folks, most of whom I either went to school with or know from my years in the Philadelphia area.  I decided to go with the travelling salesman theme, my display consisting of the various suitcases I carry my work around in.  I think there is a lot of potential with this theme - although I will admit, I need to refine it a bit more.

    Doing a show like this is an interesting exercise.  You learn a lot about what you are all about when you put it out there for the public to see.  There is this idea of what you stand for that dictates everything, the process of making, the subtleties of your designs, how things are arranged on the table, the whole package.  Things look great (or not so) in your mind, in the vacuum of your Space,  and then you put it out there, for all to see.  You make a commitment to these objects, these are a part of your being and soul, there is so much energy that goes through you into these things.  Now there they sit, arranged on a table, and there you stand, not really knowing what to do the present situation.
    I do not always handle this part very well.  I tend to have no problems selling the interaction of person / material in the sense of making.  Get me in the shop, and I shine, demos, lessons, playtime - I love it and I thrive - but when it comes to the objects, the residue of the experience of making....that's seems to be a different story.  One of those things that I am working on.

    All this said, I had a BLAST at the show.  I made many new friends, saw many long standing ones, sold some work, maybe even inspired a couple of budding glass artists!  I was pretty exhausted afterwards, and was reminded of what a friend once said about trade shows - "It's like giving birth to a child - by the time it comes around again, you have forgotten how painful it is!"  I spent Recovery Monday at East Falls Glassworks, planning out the next couple of weeks worth of lessons.  All in All, my stay in Philadelphia this time around was really fun, I was able to catch up with quite a few folks that I missed the last time around.