10 years ago….I walked into Washington Glass School

The Washington Glass School was located on Half Street, SE from 2003 to 2005. It was part of the Washington Sculpture Center until the area was all claimed as part of the Washington National’s baseball stadium. Not the poshest part of town back then.

I am interjecting a bit of personal story into the blog – in January of 2003, my wife and I moved to the USA after living 10 years in Australia, initially staying with my sister-in-law’s family out in suburban Virginia. I wanted to educate myself to become a glass artist, and had been commuting from my Alexandria, to Baltimore, MD to blow glass. Without a car, this got old fast – real fast. In September of 2003, the second “Warm Glass Conference” was held in Arlington, VA, and since I planned on attending the seminars, I visited a number of the DC area glass facilities to see what glass courses were available locally. At the time, Washington Glass School was part of the Washington Sculpture Center, an organization that provided public access educational programs in sculpture. Wandering around Washington, DC, I discovered the practical aspects of DC’s quadrant names (Northeast, Southeast, etc) – I was wandering around on the wrong Half Street – and I discovered the seamy underside of Capitol Hill. Just before the conference, I took a fused glass workshop that dealt with architectural applications of glass at the Washington Glass School, and was hooked.

This is a photo of me in my first fused glass class. L-R: Tyler Frisbee, Michael Janis (me), Kathryn Cosmos, Tim Tate.

Tim Tate and Erwin Timmers were the teachers and Jeff Zimmer was the teaching assistant (Jeff has since earned a MDES Glass & Architectural Glass, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh, UK).  
This class dealt with aspects of fused glass and included kilnformed projects such as dry plaster casting. It was my first foray into kilnformed work – and that introduction shifted my thoughts and process to fused glass.

Erwin Timmers and Tim Tate at the Warm Glass Conference, September 2003.

Glass School Co-Founders Tim Tate and Erwin Timmers were part of the Warm Glass conference- leading a seminar on how to hang glass, and they brought the student castings to the glass school students that were attending. Shortly after, I became the studio’s shop monkey, working every day and assisting at every class. By 2005 I was teaching the very kiln-forming glass class I had begun my journey in glass… ah, the circle of life…

Here I am teaching glass fusing class, October 2005.

The days became weeks; weeks into years, and by the time the Washington Glass School relocated to Mount Rainier, I had become a Co-Director. And still time marched on. Recently clearing out old file cabinets had me look thru old documents and class schedules, I came upon the 2003 class list and nostalgia hit. 10 years on – who’da thunk that events would unfold as they had!  
Anyhow – am still enjoying the ride – Cheers to all!

Happy Labor Day!

Detail from artist Slate Grove’s MFA exhibition “Everyday Heroes

Glass artist and sculptor Slate Grove was named one of the ‘Rising Stars” at Glass Weekend held at Wheaton Arts in Millville, NJ this past June. The Washington Glass School first met Slate when he was the Glass Studio Coordinator at Penland – around 2008. His glass tools fit the concept of Labor Day – intended to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.

From Slate’s bio and artist statement: 
“Growing up in the blue-collar town of Fort Dodge, IA, I was surrounded by hard work. Gypsum mills, Limestone quarries, meat packing plants and trucking companies provided the majority of jobs in town. Like many Midwestern towns, there was no shortage of strong willed, physical folks with impeccable work ethic to fill those jobs. The town depended upon factory work and the workers depended on each other. Many in my family were displaced when Hormel closed its Fort Dodge plant in the 1980’s and, more recently, when Electrolux decided to move their Iowa operation to a facility in Mexico.”

My art work focuses on the fragility and the invisibility of those who do service jobs daily. I attempt to elevate the ghostly memories of the character of people who raised me and who, I feel, deserve our unending reverence.”