Howard Theatre Topper by Sean Hennessey


The Washington DC Howard Theatre restoration is a big story being covered by all. With good reason – the historic performing arts venue has new life and the building is topped with a sculpture by Brower Hatcher and Mid-Ocean Studios that included work by DC artist Sean Hennessey (click HERE to jump to WGS posting about the process Sean used to create the trumpet of the ” Jazz Man”.)

Sean Hennessey – The master caster.

Sean made two cast concrete-and-glass trumpets; one for the outdoor sculpture, one for the lobby of the refurbished theatre.

Here are some shots from the topping out of the building with the new sculpture finial:

It has been said that any artwork that requires a crane to install is automatically awesome – I agree!

Over 2,000 visitors attended the opening ceremony, and later in the day, Sean was on NPR radio talking about the work. Congrats to Sean, Brower, Mid-Ocean Studios and all involved in the theatre renovation!

JRA Penland Trip Update


Tim Tate has an update on the James Renwick Alliance trip to Penland. Its First Come – First Served, and 10 have already signed up – there are 10 slots are left!
Have a look at the description of the tour:

Hey There…

The most enjoyable trip I have ever taken was to Penland School of Crafts, outside of Asheville, North Carolina. This area of the country is dense with amazing artists. You may know my work, but you may not know what Penland and the artists in the Asheville area have meant to my career. I first attended a class at Penland in 1989. Thus began my lifelong relationship with this spectacular school and the generous artists who surrounded it. Here is a link to an article that goes into depth on why I have such a strong commitment to this area.

A central focus of the trip I am planning for the James Renwick Alliance will be attending Penland’s 27th Annual Benefit Auction, featuring the sale of over 200 craft items and the centerpiece of a gala weekend in the North Carolina mountains. The Penland auction is one of the premier craft collecting events in the Southeast, and it is a wonderful opportunity to interact with fellow craft enthusiasts. Additionally, we will be visiting the studios of some of the most talented artists in and around Asheville. This will honestly be the best five-day excursion you have ever taken (at least I’m gonna’ try to make it that way)!

Here is an outline of events:

  • Wednesday, August 8 – Arrive at the Inn at Little Switzerland, our base for this trip.
  • Thursday, August 9 – Visit the studios of ceramist Michael Sherrill, wood art sculptor Stoney Lamar, metalsmith Hoss Haley and bookmaker Dan Essig, finishing at Blue Spiral Gallery in Ashville.
  • Friday, August 10 – Visit the studios of ceramist Christina Cordova and her husband, glass-maker Pablo DeSato; the Penland Gallery, featuring work by artists affiliated with Penland School of Crafts. Our last stop is at Penland for a cocktail party, exhibition preview, silent auction, dinner, live auction, dessert, party, live music and dancing.
  • Saturday, August 11 – Start with coffee at The Barns at Penland, shows by both the resident and Core students at Penland, silent auction, lunch, live auction, and a reception at the Penland Gallery. Two major works will be the big spotlight, one by Beth Lipman, and the other by Dan Clayman – both stunning! After the auction, we will head back to the Inn at Little Switzerland for a lovely farewell cocktail and dinner party, where you will be able to swap stories with the new friends you made on this spectacular trip.
  • Sunday, August 12 – Time to go home. Transfers are offered to the airport, if needed.

Cost of the trip is $525 for members and $625 for non-members, which includes a $100 non-refundable tax-deductible contribution to the James Renwick Alliance. The cost of the trip covers airport transfers (if needed), one welcome dinner, Penland ticket to four auctions, coffee, one lunch and one dinner.

Participants will be responsible for the cost of their hotel room, breakfasts at the hotel, 2 lunches and 2 dinners, travelers insurance and airline tickets or car rental fees. Ground transportation will be by car. Those who want to drive down from Washington, DC can share on-site transportation with those who choose to fly down. Hotel rates are from $199-189 per room, and each person is responsible for hotel reservations. Details on reservations will be available once deposits are made.

Confirmations will be sent out once deposits are made. A deposit of $250 is due by June 1, and final payment of $275 ($375 for non-members) is due by July 2. Hotel cancellation fees apply and are the responsibility of the individual. Invitations from Penland will be mailed in early June. Refunds will be based on expenses incurred minus the $100 non-refundable tax-deductible contribution to the James Renwick Alliance. No refunds will be given once final payment is made or benefit tickets have been purchased. Cancellations must be in writing.

Love you all,

Tim Tate

Tour Organizer

James Renwick Alliance Board of Directors

To register for the Penland trip, please fill out the registration form and send it to the James Renwick Alliance by email at, fax at (301) 907-3855 or mail to the office at 4405 East West Highway, Suite 510, Bethesda, MD 20814.

Vanderbilt University Glass Panels (Part 2)


Vanderbilt University’s Critical Care Tower Nurse Stations

Ardent readers of the Washington Glass School blog will remember earlier posting about theVanderbilt University, where the University’s new Critical Care Tower installed kilnformed glass panels. The project has expanded and additional floors were designed to incorporate more of the kilnformed glass panels in new areas, each with the floating leaf motif. The leaf is the symbol of Vanderbilt University and the oldest part of the Vanderbilt campus is known for its abundance of trees and green space. The campus was designated as a national arboretum in 1988.
The imagery of swirling leaves were always part of the design of the custom glass architectural panels.
Mick Coughlan and Erwin Timmers worked on the creation of the new series of glass panels – some shots of the panels in progress:

Mick Coughlan gives the glass set into the kiln one last clean.

The deep-relief dry plaster kiln casting method is used to create the panels.

Erwin Timmers edge polishes the glass panels. Dousing everything with water.

After the edge polishing Mick & Erwin’s glass edge grinding, impromptu dryers (aka hot kilns) sported wet clothing.

Tim Tate on the Telly!

>This Sunday – April 8, 2012, public television WETA TV (channel 26) will broadcast Vincent Gaines’ documentary on the work and motivations of our superstar Professor Tim Tate – just returned from his successful Fulbright assignment in the UK. The film is “Hearts of Glass” and it is scheduled to air at 2:30 pm on Sunday, and again Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 5:30 pm. Get those TiVos set!

DC’s Historic Howard Theater’s Rebirth

>Public art is part of the restoration of the historic Howard Theater in Washington, DC.

The Howard Theater was a Beaux Arts Style theater built in Washington, DC in 1910. During its hayday it catered to African American clientele and was an extension of U Street’s “Black Broadway”. Many famous performance artists came through the Howard including Duke Ellington, Danny Kaye, Abbott and Costello, Pearl Bailey, Buddy Holly, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown and the Flames, Otis Redding, Lena Horne, Lionel Hampton, Redd Fox and Chuck Brown – so many amazing shows!

The theater closed in 1980 and has sat empty for the past 30 years. The D.C. Preservation League listed it among the District’s Most Endangered Places in 2002. The renovation and restoration work that began five years ago is just about complete but for a few finishing touches and the reopening is scheduled for next week.

The sculpture will be the building’s crowning finial – replacing the original “Apollo” sculpture that was lost long ago.

Artist Brower Hatcher and his team at Mid-Ocean Studios won the commission to create a public art installation at the Howard Theater. Installation of “Jazz Man” sculpture to the facade of the Howard Theater is this weekend, with a ribbon cutting ceremony to be held on April 9, 2012.

Initial concept of “Jazz Man” sculpture by Brower Hatcher in 2007.

Brower’s eight foot sculpture called “Jazz Man” is the image of a man holding a trumpet formed by a scaffold-like metal frame. The framework is painted in the sculptor’s favorite color – blue. “They call it Brower blue,” Brower said, “Blue works particularly well because as a color it’s quite transparent. Certainly against the sky, it almost absorbs light.” That allows the metal frame to almost disappear, as reflective objects attached to the frame and dangling inside make the whole piece sparkle.

Often, it is the practice of Mid-Ocean Studios to work with artists in the cities that they have received commissions and they invited WGS’ master of glass and concrete castings – Sean Hennessey to create the trumpet for the Jazz Man sculpture.

Sean Hennessey’s shop drawing of the Jazz Man’s trumpet – made in cast concrete and glass.

Sean gives an insight into his work as a component of the historic building’s sculpture on his blog Scenic Artisans.

“This is a dream project for me in many ways” said Sean. “The Howard Theater is a building I walk by often. It is only 6 blocks from my house and with both my history in working in theater and my fascination of urban American ruins, I have been very drawn to the space. I have also been looking for ways to get into public art and haven’t yet had the opportunity. This is a great thrill and honor for me. And I’ve been so excited I can hardly stand it!”

Sean created original forms that would then have urethane rubber poured around to create a negative mold.

“The overall trumpet will be in cast concrete -the bell of the trumpet will be glass” said Sean as he outlined his process, “…to create the final piece I will construct a mock up in clay, wood, metal pipe, cut glass, and found pieces, then make a 2 part rubber mold of the maquette … I will fit the glass sections into the rubber mold, add a stainless steel armature, and pour tinted concrete into the void. After the concrete sets up I will demold the piece, clean it up, and seal it.”

Sean pours urethane rubber around the positives he made, creating an accurate mold for the later concrete pour.

After the urethane sets up, the mold is opened to clean and prep for the next stage.

Sean worked with glass artist Dave D’Orio to create the trumpet’s glass flare.

The finished cast concrete and glass trumpet for the sculpture.

The trumpet is integrated into the sculpture at Brower Hatcher’s studio as the work is prepared for the installation atop the refurbished building.

Installation of “Jazz Man” sculpture to the facade of the Howard Theater is this weekend, with a ribbon cutting ceremony to be held on April 9, 2012.

“It’s like the Cotton Club inside The Apollo,” said Michael Marshall, partner at Marshall Moya Design, the District-based architectural firm hired to create the theater’s new interior, creating a cabaret-style ambiance, with tables and chairs on the main floor, a balcony with banquettes. The “new” Howard Theater is expected to offer a balance of national events and community performances. The Howard’s future cabaret-style format will host a variety of cultural events and is expected to lead the rebirth of jazz, R&B, soul, blues, and funk in Washington D.C. The theater’s $25 million rebuilding project will also feature a museum and gift shop.

The ribbon-cutting, which is open to the public, will be on Monday, April 9 from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. You can get a tour of the theater and witness the unveiling of “The Jazz Man” followed by live performances by Robert Thompson & The James Brown Experience Band, along with a host of other talents.

The Grand Opening Gala is April 12.

The Howard Theatre
Monday April 9th
11:30-2:30 PM
620 T St NW
Washington, DC

UPDATE – for pix of the installed sculpture atop the Howard Theatre and to find out why there are two trumpets made by Sean- click HERE

Ooh La La! Susan Taylor Glasgow ‘s “Glamorous Lift” @ GAS Auction

>Susan Taylor Glasgow plans to “support” the Glass Art Society by “lifting” the game of the auction. Her Glass Lingerie Set is part of Laura Donefer’s famed fashion show production that will be part of the the Glass Art Society 2012 Conference (June 13 – 17, 2012 in Toledo, OH).
This conference will specially celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Studio Glass Movement.

Laura Donefer had put a call for wearable glass creations as part of the auctions that provide the finale for the GAS conference. Susan Taylor Glasgow (the little minx) was once a seamstress, and now takes her needle and thread to glass. The award winning artist often references images of domestic bliss and nostalgic imagery to create sculpture that is strangely comforting and unexpected.
here to jump to Susan’s website.

Kiln Formed Glass History – Part 2


Exploring Technique and Content – the ’60′s, ’70′s & ’80′s

Untitled sculpture, Mary Shaffer, fused and slumped industrial sheet glass, 1975

As part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations in honor of the 1962 Toledo Glass Workshop, the Washington Glass School blog is looking the heritage of the art movement. This is the second part in an historical overview of how fused glass (aka kiln-formed, or warm glass) fits into the contemporary Studio Art Glass Movement. Much of the information was based on published writings by
Martha Drexler Lynn, William Warmus & Beth Hylen, Richard LaLonde, Dan Schwoerer & Boyce Lundstrom and from the Corning Museum of Glass library.

The 1962 Toledo glass workshops indeed marked a watershed. After the workshops, glass moved into university and college programs and significantly into fine arts programs. After the two workshops, by 1964, (hot) glass artists were increasingly college educated in fine arts degree programs that required the same course work demanded for painting or sculpture. In the early days of the Studio Glass Movement the compelling attitude was the quest to spread the word and distance glass art from both the factory and hobbyist. Hot glass had reconstituted itself with the museum’s blessing, and had achieved a new identity.

Other aspects also had an influence on the growing art movement. The young artists were entranced by notions of an alternative lifestyle free of the establishment values of the older generation. “We were hippies, Okay? People have to understand that. No watches, no underwear, no nothing” remembers Toots Zynsky regarding the early days at Pilchuck. Learning to make art with glass, rejecting bourgeois rules, and living an anti-establishment lifestyle were irresistible and became part of the lore both of Pilchuck and of the glass movement in general.

Clipped Grass, Mary Ann “Toots” Zynsky, green tinted fused and thermo-formed glass threads, 1982

Antique collecting in the 1960’s brought about a renewed interest in stained glass. Citi
es such as Denver, CO became trading centers for stained glass windows removed from old East Coast houses and buildings. The demand for turn-of-the-century stained glass encouraged studios to create works ranging from Tiffany style reproductions to contemporary designs.

The rapid growth of the new stained glass studios across the country, brought about by the demand for stained glass, was made possible by new types of glass manufacturers and the influence of the growing Studio Glass movement and Harvey Littleton.

Ray Ahlgren, Dan Schwoerer, Boyce Lundstrom

The modern stained glass movement, started by mimicking the traditional work evolved into a very diverse art form. Boyce Lundstrom, one of the founders of Bullseye Glass Company wrote:
Our experience in the glass world pointed to a need for more colored sheet glass for the stained glass industry…(I) began working with glass in 1965, when I joined the new glass program established by Dr. Robert Fritz that year at San Jose State University in San Jose, California. At that time I was a ceramics major, studying with one of the great ceramic glaze technicians of our time, Dr. Herbert Sanders. The close correlation between the calculating and making of ceramic glazes and the process of making glass is a natural one. So, as a potter studying glaze calculation, I found it natural to apply the technology to glass, and was soon drawn by the material.
In Dr. Fritz’s program I learned to control all phases of the process of making finished blown objects. We built glass melting equipment, calculated and melted batch, formed the glass, and carried out all the cold working processes for finishing the annealed work. After my graduation from San Jose State, in 1967, I operated a ceramics and glass studio in southern California for two years before my wife and I moved to Corvallis, Oregon, in late 1969, where I blew glass for galleries and craft fairs. While participating in craft fairs and shows, I met many other glass artists who had become infatuated with hot glass in the early years of the studio blowing movement in this country. We were all struggling to support our individual studios and families, while experimenting
with new glasses and equipment.”

Two of those artists were Ray Ahlgren and Dan Schwoerer, who were partners in a glass blowing. (Ray Ahlgren started his glass career in Wisconsin in 1965. His background in ceramics, glass blowing, glass chemistry, studio fabrication and design. Daniel Schwoerer graduated from the University of Wisconsin where he also worked in the art department as graduate assistant to Professor Harvey Littleton in 1968-69. He then moved to Portland, where he set up a glassblowing studio. In 1974 the three self-described “hippie glassblowers” started Bullseye Glass Company, a small factory for making specialty sheet glass – initially focused on making colored sheets for use in stained glass.)

Ray Ahlgren, fused glass tiles, plywood, 1982

Said Boyce: “
For the next four years, the pressing demands of an infant company consumed all of my time. In 1978 I began designing independent stained glass panels, executed for me by more capable craftspersons. Since, at Bullseye, we produced mixed colors of glass daily, and had control of the formulas, it seemed a foregone conclusion that we could make sheet glass with similar coefficients of expansion.

Boyce Lundstrom, red glass fused bowl, 1979

The thought process went something like this: if sheet glasses had the same coefficient of expansion, they could be cut into shapes and fused together. So, I started experimenting in 1979 or 1980–I don’t know exactly when because the process was slow at first, fraught with many failures and just a few successes. If there was one memorable breakthrough, it was the application of the method of testing for stress with a polarimeter (from glass blowing) to glasses fused to a clear sheet glass with a constant coefficient of expansion.

When making sheet glass it is not important to have a constant coefficient of expansion among all the glasses. Single colors can all be different and mixed colors only have to be within one or two coefficient points of one another. In glass blowing it is not uncommon to use glasses together that vary in coefficient of expansion by four or five points, because the casing process holds the glass together. But when fusing glass flat, the glasses must be very close in coefficients. Establishing a clear glass as a constant, and then formulating the melt for all colors to fit that constant, made the contemporary glass fusing movement possible.

The ability to fuse glass, by taking it through the complete process of heating, holding and annealing, then checking the finished results with an accurate test, really stimulated my dreams of unlimited possibilities. I saw kiln fired glass as the wave of the future, providing freedom for all those who would like to be freed of the lead lines! Tiles, windows, bowls, sculptures, and building facades could all be made with fused sheet glass… By 1981, I became adamant about producing glass for the fusing market at Bullseye Glass. My remaining partner, Dan Schwoerer, supported me in my one-man campaign to make fusing available to everyone. During the next few years we succeeded in making available a line of fusing compatible glasses. By 1983 we were teaching fusing in diverse parts of the world, establishing a line of products and working with kiln manufacturers to get kilns designed for glass on the market.”

The influence by the hot glass education and artwork by the artists that came from the universities now teaching glass artwork outlined the directions that warm or kiln-formed glass would take. In the late 1960s there was the emphasis on technology and education. The glass artwork was part of broader international craft movement of the 1960s in which clay, fiber, wood, and metal are used for creative expression.

Gyes Arcade, Christopher Wilmarth, flat and curved plate glass elements, 1969

In 1969, glass was rarely seen in contemporary art, especially in large-scale sculpture. However, the American Studio Glass Movement was gathering national momentum. Many studio glass artists looked at contemporary sculpture, such as Gyes Arcade, for inspiration on how glass might be treated artistically.

At the 1972 National Sculpture Conference in Lawrence, Kansas, Harvey Littleton introduces his phrase “Technique is cheap” that continues to influence artists. The dichotomy between the sculptor in search of form (the “technique is cheap” attitude) vs. the craftsman striving to create a perfectly executed functional object is a strong motivation for many artists.

Bowl #2, Mary T Warren, glass, wire, 1978

The explosion of glass schools and studios in the 1970s and 1980s paves the way for a new industry of glass tools, equipment and glass suppliers.

Glass kilns originally were ceramic kilns with cones that required watching the stage and temperature of the progress. With the programmable computer controls, the fused glass industry was revolutionized. In the early 1980s Spectrum Glass introduced System 96, and Bullseye Glass introduces its “Tested Compatible” glass designed specifically for fusing.

Mosaic Bowl, Klaus Moje, glass, 1978

The work by glass artists pursue narrative, political, gender issues and create more multimedia work, combining glass with other materials (wood, metal, paint, stone). The “Art vs. craft” debate pushes aside technical issues.

Blast Off To Oblivion, Richard LaLonde, fused glass panel, 1983

By the mid-1980′s there was an explosion in alternatives to hot glass: pâte de verre, lampworking, kilnworking, coldworking, even microwaved glass jewelry, and women play an increasingly prominent role in the glass movement. With the increase in interest and new glass specific art galleries emerging, art museums begin to exhibit glass in contemporary art sections – and the interest in glass art helps glass magazines flourish.

Charles Parriott, glass, enamels in sgraffito technique, ca 1983

Pajaritos en la Cabeza (Little birds in the head) and Cabellos de Angel (Angel hair), Toots Zynsky, fused and thermo-formed glass threads, 1988

In the summer of 1971, Dale Chihuly brought a small group of his friends and a few RISD students, including Toots Zynsky, to Washington State. There, she participated in the founding and early development of Pilchuck Glass School. By early 1972, she was making installations with slumped plate glass. In 1973, she began experimenting with video and performance works that incorporated hot and cold glass with artist Buster Simpson. Her experimental work—which was characteristic of much of the art being made in the 1970s—was important for the development of glass as a material to explore issues in contemporary art.

Throughout the 1980′s art glass collectors sought to build collections based less on investment value and more on the inherent worth of the artworks and auctions of contemporary glass begin at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The camaraderie of collectors and friendly competition for the glass artworks lead to a relatively stable market and the development of a glass community. In 1985, Glass Weekend begins at Wheaton Village, Millville, NJ. The biennial seminar brings together leading contemporary glass artists, collectors, galleries, and museum curators.

Opposing Fields, Charles Parriott, glass, silk-screened decal imagery, 1982

As it became more acceptable for artists to use of glass as a fine-art medium, there began a more expansive use of glass as a component – there was more multimedia work, where glass was combed with other materials (wood, metal, paint, stone), and a perceived reaction against the “beauty” of glass. Artists continued to pursue narrative, political, gender issues as expressed in the glass.

In 1989 the late Dan Klein, former director of Christie’s auction house and studio glass collector noted that hot glass, which had “enjoyed what seems in retrospect a disproportionate degree of popularity during the 1960’s lost ground to other techniques, until it was felt during the 1980’s that it had been almost completely phased out”.

An interesting note to end this segment of the history of fused glass within the context of the American Studio Glass Movement.

Click HERE to jump to Part 1 of the Washington Glass School blog about the History of Fused Glass.

UK Hosts 2nd International Symposium of Architectural Glass


The UK International Institute of Research in Glass (IIRG) presents the 2nd International Symposium in Architectural Glass, focusing on ‘Working with light as a means of interaction between space and the mind’.

The emphasis of this event is on how flat glass is used three dimensionally in space and as a creative means of expression. This will explore both the theoretical and practical aspects of this process: idea exploration; design development; use of new technologies; the possibilities of technical restrictions; and the multi-disciplinary approach prevalent in many projects.

The Symposium will run on Thurs/Friday, May 17 &18, 2012 at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, England. The event will take the form of traditional lectures, panel discussions, workshops demonstrations and informal networking opportunities. Speakers include:

Marian Karel

Dana Zamecnikova

Judith Schaechter

Algirdas Dovydenas

Daan Roosegaarde

Rodney Bender

Tim Macfarlane

Alexander Beleschenko

Early bird fees, if you book and pay before the 1 May:

One day £55, Two days £90

You can book your place through the University online shop, just search Conference/Events International Glass Symposium.

University of Sunderland, National Glass Centre

Liberty Way

Sunderland, UK, SR6 0GL