200th Anniversary of War of 1812 Battle of Bladensburg

or How the Washington Glass School is Tied to the War of 1812, The Brits Sacking the White House & The Star Spangled Banner.

This is a re-run of a Blog Post from 2012 – as the Bicentennial of the 1814 Battle of Bladensburg is this August 24th – it is a fitting reminder of where we began.

The British burn the President's Mansion 1814
The British burn the President’s Mansion 1814

One of the beauties of being in Washington, DC is the sense of history that surrounds the place. Growing up in northwest suburban Chicago, history seemed to have started after WWII, with suburban subdivisions overtaking farmland. Here, the area is so steeped with the history that appears in grade school books, that important – but deemed lesser – sites can be forgotten; the scurf of yesterdays. As the Maryland area celebrates the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, it is interesting to note that the Washington Glass School building sits atop an important battlefield – one of the key parts in the Battle of Bladensburg. With the US loss at this battle, British forces swept into Capitol Hill and burned the White House, the Capitol and the Treasury.
Since there are no signs on this site – this blog will act as a virtual ‘historical marker”.

Historical Overview

The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the United States of America and the British Empire. In these battles, the British set off their new weapon – the Congreve rocket – a rocket carrying about one pound of powder that could travel almost 1,000 yards and their success had a tremendous impact on modern warfare.

After the defeat and exile of Napoleon in April 1814, the British were able to send newly available troops and ships to the war with the United States. On August 20, 1814, over 4,500 seasoned British troops landed at the little town of Benedict, MD and marched fifty miles towards Capitol Hill.

Artists Rendering of the Battle of Bladensburg (Gerry Embleton-Courtesy NPS/Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail)

Artists Rendering of the Battle of Bladensburg
(Gerry Embleton-Courtesy NPS/Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail)

What Went Wrong

Incorrect deductions that were drawn gave the Americans the impression that Baltimore was their destination. General Armstrong could not be convinced that Washington would be the target of the invasion and not Baltimore, an important center of commerce. There was much confusion trying to outguess the British.  In Bladensburg,MD, American troops began to be assembled by Brigadier General William Winder, the Secretary of War, John Armstrong, as well as the Secretary of State, James Monroe. General Smith, another American commander, used his aide – Francis Scott Key – to assemble his troops. Calvary units were positioned to the right of the main road (now called Bladensburg Ave.), while the first and second American lines were positioned nearly a 1/2 mile apart from each other. The organization (and constant second guessing by commanders) of the troops, the general concern about the size of the British army, and the lack of preparation by the rag-tag militia would eventually lead to the undoing of the hastily assembled group.

Current day map showing US troop positions in Battle of Bladensburg

Current day map showing US troop positions in Battle of Bladensburg

As the British entered the town, they were greeted by the American troops firing the first volleys across the Eastern Branch of the Potomac (now called Anacostia River). The British initially fell back and moved behind the masonry buildings in Bladensburg. Soon though, the British set off their new weapon – the Congreve rocket. These rockets would eventually become the famous “rocket’s red glare.” British troops began to return fire as the rockets burst above the Americans. American leaders on the first line, unclear on their support from the second line, ordered retreat. American soldiers began to fall back and leave the field via the Georgetown Pike (now Bunker Hill Road). The second line, (positioned approximately at the modern 40th - 38th Avenue) and the members of the Cabinet left the field of battle at or before this point. Cannons were left behind, soldiers moved in haphazard movements responding to the need to fight and the orders for retreat. General chaos reigned across the field of battle.

Commodore Joshua Barney - painted by Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827)

Commodore Joshua Barney – painted by Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827)

The strongest attack against the British was made by Commodore Joshua Barney and his seasoned Floatillamen. At Dueling Creek, Kramer’s Militia (troops from Montgomery and Prince George’s County) fought hard against the British but eventually retreated up the hill past Commodore Barney’s men.  Barney’s men were valiant fighters, however, the authorities in Washington “forgot” Barney for several days. Without orders, he and his men arrived in the midst of the battle. Combined with Captain Miller’s Marines, Barney fired down the hill toward the British, causing significant British casualties. British troops were ordered into a single file line, flanking  Barney’s troop placement and overtaking them. Commodore Barney, after having had his horse killed under him in battle, was severely wounded by a musket ball “near a living fountain of water on the estate of the late Mr. Rives, which was later known as Barney’s Spring“ Benson Lossing, Field-book of the War 0f 1812, Chapter 39, 1869

General Winder ordered a general retreat. The retreat order was never passed to Barney’s command, but with no ammunition, flanked on the right and deserted on the left, the Commodore knew that the end had come. He ordered the guns spiked and the men to retreat. The officers and men who were able to march effected the retreat; but the Commodore’s wound rendered him unable to move, and he was made prisoner. He died shortly after; but not before he was able to have influence on Francis Scott Key in his efforts to compose the Star Spangled Banner.

The building that houses the Washington Glass School is located on the site (now near the intersection of Oak and Otis Street).

Then & Today Left inset: Engraving (ca. 1860) of battlefield site where Joshua Barney fell by Benson Lossing in "Field Book of the War of 1812 " ; Right: Washington Glass School on the same site. Over the past 200 years, the topography has been modified and changed tremendously - the creek now flows under the concrete pathway opposite the Glass School.

Then & Today
Left inset: Engraving (ca. 1860) of battlefield site where Joshua Barney fell by Benson Lossing in “Field Book of the War of 1812 ” ; Right: Washington Glass School on the same site. Over the past 200 years, the topography has been modified and changed tremendously – the creek now flows under the concrete pathway opposite the Glass School.

Immediately after the battle, the British sent an advance guard of soldiers to Capitol Hill. The President’s house was burned, and the British raised their Union Flag over Washington.

The Brits pillage the White House.

The Brits pillage the White House.

The First Lady Dolley Madison remained behind to organize the slaves and staff to save valuables from the British.  The buildings housing the Senate and House of Representatives were set ablaze not long after. The interiors of both buildings, which held the Library of Congress, were destroyed, although their thick walls and a torrential rainfall that was caused by a hurricane the following day preserved the exteriors.

During the war of 1812 when the British attacked Washington DC, The First Lady, Dolley Madison stayed behind in the White House to save the artifacts and symbols of America. The engraving above shows her saving the Declaration of Independence.

During the war of 1812 when the British attacked Washington DC, The First Lady, Dolley Madison stayed behind in the White House to save the artifacts and symbols of America. The engraving above shows her saving the Declaration of Independence.

With their mission accomplished, the British feared the Americans would reassemble their forces and attack while they were in the vulnerable position of being a long distance from their fleet. The men were miserable in the sweltering temperatures. They were tired, ill and wounded. At dusk the troops quietly withdrew from the city. The troops were so exhausted that many died of fatigue on the four day march back to the ships, several deserted, but the body of men marched on. 

wgs.4th.julySeveral of the British stragglers and deserters were arrested by citizens in Maryland. When the British commanders learned of the incident, they sent a small force back to arrest William Beanes, a well respected doctor and town elder. Following his arrest, Georgetownlawyer Francis Scott Key and U.S. Agent for Prisoner Exchange John S. Skinner went to secure Bean’s release from the British. They brought with them letters from British troops who testified as to the compassion that they received while in Bladensburg after the battle.  Brought on board one of the British vessels, Francis Scott Key would see the battle in Baltimore raging on and the flag standing at the end of the battle, leading to the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.

Times have changed, and we now rely on the Brits as an important and trusted ally – however -the next time representatives from DC Sister City - Sunderland, England comes for a visit to the Glass School, they have some ‘splaining to do.For more info – check out the book A Travel Guide to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake.

History of Studio Glass: What Came Before

The audience gets settled into Flux Studios for the start of the history of American studio glass.

Professor Debra Ruzinsky’s lecture on the history of the studio glass movement was a treat! Debra’s slide lecture outlined the traditional lineage and then featured many of the artists and works not normally included in the standard time line history that starts in March 1962 and focuses primarliy on blown glass works. Deb’s discussion included pre-’60s and ’70s works, works by women, European glass artists, kiln casters, and narrative works – all the alternate viewpoints.

Debra Ruzinsky’s lecture takes the students on a journey.

Novie Trump of Flux studios offered the use of their stunning space for the talk, and it was SRO – which is always heartening.

Tim Tate addresses the students from Salisbury University glass program that traveled hours to be part of the talk.

Assistant professor Steve Durow arranged for a group from the glass program at Maryland’s Salisbury University to join the lecture and the students had a tour of the glass school. The idea that the young-un’s (as well as us old coots) are getting a sense of the rich history of glass as the medium rushes forward into the 21st Century makes all of us at the Glass School happy.

History and Evolution of Studio Glass Lecture Oct 5th

© Erwin Eisch / CMOG

Whats going on in the photo above? 
Is it a new 8 member boy band created from TV show “X Factor”? No.
Still photo from the latest sequel to a Hollywood slasher/gore film? Nope.
Some Portland hipsters gathering at a coffee café that doubles as a low-carbon-footprint bike shop? Wrong Again.

European glass innovator Erwin Eisch made the 8 mold blown works as a tribute to Harvey Littleton in 1976. Eisch’s non-traditional approach to glassmaking had a profound impact during the formative years of the American Studio Glass movement, and his relationship with American glass pioneer Harvey K. Littleton forged an important link between European and American studio artists working in glass. 

Want to know more about the history of Studio Glass? This Saturday, October, 5, from 1 pm, the Debra Ruzinsky of the Washington Glass School will talk and show images presenting a  broad international survey rooted in the early days of studio work. Works by artists Sybren Valkema,  Edris Eckhardt, Michael and Francis Higgins, Libensky and Brychtova, Ann Wolff, Erwin Eisch, Kyohei Fujita, Vera Liskova, to name a few early & influential artists — such as female glass artist Asa Brandt, who has been called the “Harvey Littleton of Sweden”.

This free talk is a great way to know who and where glass has come as we move boldly into a new future of the medium.

BLUE MADONNA by Ann Wolff

What Came Before / A Slide History Of The Studio Glass Movement

Lecturer : Debra Ruzinsky 

When : Saturday,October 5th  

From:1 pm

Cost : Free of charge…RSVP to: washglassschool@aol.com
Where: Washington Glass School
             3700 Otis Street, Mount Rainier, MD 20712

Oh, and the titles of the Erwin Eisch heads:
(A) Littleton the Gentleman: mirrored inside, with glasses, with marble base. (B) Littleton the Poet: with glasses and beanie. (C) Littleton the Teacher: mirrored inside, glassblower painted on right side of head; set on square black base. (D) Littleton, Man of Frauenau: cold painted in facial area and around base with scene of town. (E) Littleton the Worker: applied band of colorless glass across nose and around head, square black base. (F) Littleton’s Headache: painted with bandages surrounding head and chin area, etched in other areas, square black base. (G) Littleton the Fragile. (H) Littleton’s Spirit: with collar and tie.

Time To Get (Glass) Schooled! Free Lecture on the History of Studio Glass

The Washington Glass School Presents a free lecture titled ” What Came Before / A Slide History Of The Studio Glass Movement.” The talk will be a broad international survey focusing on the early days of studio glass work.

Who was there, what they did, and why; in the US and abroad; male and female artists; people you may never have heard about!   

Perfect for Glass Seccessionistas who want to learn a bit of glass history that isn’t just about the biggest names – this is a great chance to get the overview of the medium and provide new insights!

Lecturer : Debra Ruzinsky 

When : Saturday,October 5th  

From:1 pm

Cost : Free of charge…RSVP to: washglassschool@aol.com
Where: Washington Glass School
             3700 Otis Street, Mount Rainier, MD 20712

Debra Ruzinsky received her BA in Design from the University of California at Los Angeles, and her MFA in Glass Sculpture from RIT. She has been working in glass since 1982. She serves on the publications committee of the Glass Art Society, and was Visiting Asst. Professor of Glass at RIT for the 2008-2009 academic calendar year. Her work is part of the collection of the Seto City Museum in Seto, Japan, and the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark, as well as the RIT Wallace Library Collection.

Kiln Formed Glass History – Part 2

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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.

Kiln-formed Glass & The American Studio Glass Movement – A Parallel History

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Part 1 The Glass Pioneers

Frances Stewart Higgins

fused crushed glass and enamel vessel, 1958-1959.

2012 marks the 50th Anniversary of the American Studio Glass Movement, and its celebration will be marked with many events and exhibitions. The focus of the anniversary celebrations will mainly be on hot-glass and taking glass making from the factory to the artist’s studio, using the 1962 Toledo glass workshop as the birth date.


Toledo glass workshop in the spring of 1962

As the Washington Glass School features kiln-formed glass, we wanted to join the celebration by outlining the parallel and often co-dependent history of the kiln-formed glass section of the movement (aka warm glass, or fused glass). This series of postings – often based directly on writings by glass artists Richard LaLonde, Boyce Lundstrom, Dan Schwoerer, Bert Weiss and Corning Museum of Glass’ history information online. It also strongly references Martha Drexler Lynn’s seminal study “American Studio Glass 1960-1990. Thanks also to Chip Montague and Betty Py for sourcing images and backgrounds on the featured artists.
Shifts in art practice after WW2 opened the door for materials not previously considered.The popular story about the origins of the American studio glass movement casts Harvey Littleton as its Prometheus. Littleton and his teaching had a significant effect on the evolution of studio glass. His work, and that of his students and their followers built a basis for the current glass art scene. While

Littleton’s passion for hot glass originally led him to define “studio glass” to that blown or worked in a hot-glass studio – his later works included kilnformed plate glass and printing on glass plates, a new concept that he called vitreography.

Horizontal/Vertical, 1974. Harvey Littleton. Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin

Early Fused Glass

While the precise origins of glass fusing techniques are not known with certainty, there is archeological evidence that the Egyptians were familiar with basic techniques. Some historians argue that the earliest fusing techniques were first developed by the Romans, who were much more prolific glassworkers. Fusing was the primary method of making small glass objects for approximately 2,000 years, until the development of the glass blowpipe largely replaced fusing due to its greater efficiency and utility.


Vase, 1923.François Emile Décorchemont. pâte de verre

Two government actions helped to propel crafts to greater acceptance in the 1930s and 1940s, the Works Projects Administration Federal Arts Project (later WPA) created employment for the approximately five thousand artists and craftsmen. Another consequence of the war that contributed to the emergence of studio glass was that as returning veterans’ formed new families, they required housing and furnishings. This fostered a trend toward mass-produced anonymous objects. Handcrafted items, in contrast, were refreshing and capable of expressing individuality. Crafts were seen as an antidote to the suburban Levittown and as a means to creating a sense of individuality in the new American suburban tract house.

Sept/Oct 1959 issue of Craft Horizons Magazine. The cover shows images from the 1959 Corning International Contemporary Glass Exhibition. The magazine changed its name in 1979 to American Craft.

In the late 1940’s and 50’s glass pioneers set up studios to experiment, and made functional household objects like plates, bowls, jewelry and the occasional art object or hanging mobile. Their success often came from the transfer of ceramic and other craft techniques to glass. These artists fused enamels that were created for metal enameling on and in between pieces of window glass in electric brick kilns used for ceramics.

Glass Artists of the Post War Era – an outline of a few of the pioneers:

Maurice Heaton, a designer of stained glass, became adept at slumping flat sheets of hot glass into or over a mold to form vessel shapes. Born in London, he was the son of an Arts and Crafts cloisonné enameller and the grandson of a stained-glass maker. He moved to New York in 1914. His work is characterized by detailed, linear patterns created by fusing crushed, brightly colored enamels onto the surface of the glass.

Africa, 1948. Maurice Heaton

Kilnformed glass, powdered glass, enamel.Corning Museum of Glass

Fish Platter, 1940′s. Maurice Heaton

Kilnformed glass, powdered glass, enamel.
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Michael and Francis Higgins in the 1950′s

Michael and Francis Higgins’ were a husband-and-wife team who produced commercial tableware for Dearborn Glass.Both studied at the Chicago Institute of Design. The couple individually created unique hinged boxes, mobiles, flat panels and vessel forms that were distinguished by bold geometric patterns and innovative techniques that retain their freshness with their delicate designs.

Vessel, 1958-1959 Frances Stewart Higginsfused crushed glass and enamel. Corning Museum of Glass

plate, 1960′s Michael & Frances Higginskiln-formed glass
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Edris Eckhardt, a well known Cleveland School artist, is recognized for her virtuosity in ceramics, enamels, and glass work, invented her own glass formulas to create her sculpture. She may have been the first American studio glass artist to formulate her own batch instead of simply melting cullet. Eckhardt changed her first name to Edris, after a genderless angel, after being declined for an art school scholarship based solely on her gender.


Archangel, 1956. Erdis Eckhardt
cast glass. Corning Museum of Glass


Uriel, 1968. Erdis Eckhardt
cast glass. Corning Museum of Glass

This year, the Museum of American Glass at WheatonArts has the above artists featured in an exhibit titled “Pioneers of American Studio Glass“, now thru 12/30/2012.

Early Writing About Studio Glass
For the glass practitioner, collector or scholar, there were few published information sources were available, beyond meeting the artist in person. Teaching about glassmaking – or “glass technology” would, at best be taught in a school’s manual arts curriculum or as a hobby. First published in 1942, the craft magazine Craft Horizons provided limited information about glass techniques, but typical of the focus on the arts, it had three times more information about other craft media as on glass. The magazine later became American Craft in 1979 and was redesigned with an expanded awareness of studio glass.


1944 Craft Horizons and 2012 American Craft Magazine


Early books about glass offered technical advice, a general history of glass, or the occasional survey of contemporary work. Information about glass was available only in industrial manuals, amongst them “The Art of Glassmaking” (1947) by Sydney Waugh, a designer for Corning Glass. Waugh’s book included declarations that glass could only be made in large factories.
California artist Kay Kinney studied glazes and ceramics and later experimented with glass in the early 1960′s. Kinney’s book “Glass Craft: Designing, Forming, Decoration” (1962) was written long before the “fusing-compatible” era. Her book has information about mold-making, fusing and slumping projects utilizing window glass, bottles, and other types of glass.


Kinney’s book was written for glass novices, with simple, straightforward instructions on cutting and fusing.

The Toledo Workshops were indeed a watershed. After the workshops, glassmaking programs entered the college, university and fine arts programs. Other venues for glass study began opening up, and established regional craft centers like Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Craft had more intensive learning opportunities. By 1973, glass programs had penetrated the university and craft world to the extent that Glass Art Magazine listed seventy educational programs. This expansion had a profound effect on the establishment of the critical mass of artists devoted to learning about, producing, and promoting studio made glass. Additionally, the G.I. Bill, started in the 1940′s, had a strong effect on the lives if the returning veterans. That bill, (as did the later, similar Veterans Acts under the Johnson, Nixon and the Ford Administrations) through the mid 1970′s – offered veterans a college scholarship to any college of their choice. As it turned out, art school was very attractive and glass blowing extremely attractive. There were glass programs across the country. By the time the GI Bill was gone, so were the glass programs.

Click HERE to jump to Part 2 Exploring Technique and Content – the ’60′s, ’70′s & ’80′s

Compelled by Tim Tate

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Many in the DC area know the work of sculptor Tim Tate – but I am sure many are not aware of the origins of his imagery and what drives him to make such personal artwork. Recently, Tim met with a museum curator for a show later to be installed this year and Tim outlined his obsessions. It is such a fascinating story – I insisted that the school blog share it with all:

The Foundations of Tim Tate’s Artwork

My art grows out of my life filled with unusual experiences, though it begins simply enough. I grew up in a household filled with art supplies, as my mother was an artist. My original intent as an adolescent was to take ceramics at Cranbrook, but my family could not afford to send me, so I had to settle, making art on the side while beginning a different career path.

Then, as a very young man, I received a terminal diagnosis. I was given less than a year to live, a very difficult concept for a young man to get his head around. I remember that one of my first thoughts was that I was living in someone else’s life. That I was living the life others wanted me to live. I decided at that instant to try to reclaim my artistic side.

With only a year to live, there was no need to apply to grad school….so I discovered the amazing workshops at Penland and threw myself into learning. Yet, at the end of a year, I was surprisingly still alive. They told me I was lucky, but that I should sew up my affairs, as I still had but a year at most. I heard this yearly for the next 10 years.

It’s hard to imagine, I know….to live for over a decade believing I would be struck down at any minute. It changes you and your priorities. Legacy becomes imperative. To be remembered after you are gone. It affected me the most by making sure that every free hour or trip I could spare was to Penland. My entire reason for surviving became the need to master and understand the artistic medium of glass, though I could only afford the 1- or 2-week classes. I lived this way for 10 years.

Then my mother passed away. In her will she left me enough money and instructions to take a concentration class at Penland. Now I had 2 full months to invest towards my work. Prior to this concentration I had completely focused on technique. The class completely changed my life. It focused almost entirely on narrative content. My final piece was a design to hold my mother’s ashes and memories. One of these works went straight to the Renwick Museum. Today it is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

So much about glass art at this time was technique driven, but I truly believed it could be so much more. I was determined to have glass taken seriously as a sculptural medium. My work revolved around healing and memory, heaven and hell, nostalgia and resurrection. I began working in the form of reliquaries.

Glass, and Penland, had saved my life to that point. I began seeing each of my pieces as a way to connect to the viewer…to act as a healing agent for them, as well as for me while creating the piece. At first these pieces simply included objects, then they began including text. I also became obsessed with miniaturizing objects. I would make them out of clay, then use lost wax casting to make objects…..hundreds of objects. Each one I made became a language in my image library. Each one carried significance, and by combining them I could produce a dialog. These dialogs became very elaborate, but always with my true themes of healing and memory, heaven and hell, nostalgia and resurrection.

I produced over 100 of these reliquaries….each one healing me just a little bit more. In my mind, each one was truly imbued with existential healing powers not only for myself, but for whoever owned them. I still believe this.

At a certain point I realized that by adding video to my work, my narrative could be exponentially expanded. I became as obsessed with video as I was with glass. Now I could really examine the themes I had become so interested in. I also started realizing that I could leave glass behind. My work separated into two distinct categories. For shows like S.O.F.A. and the material-based galleries that supported it, my work focused heavily on my interest in miniaturization of objects in glass. When I added video, the dialog in these forums was still frequently about the technique used in producing the glass, though the intellectual property had shifted. There will always be a fascination with small glass objects.

In the shows like ArtBasel and its satellite shows, however, as well as the galleries that support them, the dialog completely shifted to the concept behind the piece. This has allowed me to fully expand my specific narrative to video, not always including glass. Now I could expand my work to larger series, and have shows that were solely video. This will be the case in my large museum show next summer.

In all this, my narrative has not changed. Knowing that I am headed to Heaven (or more certainly Hell), I love inventing heaven and hell the way I want to see them. I still am always investigating man’s relationship with healing and reliquary…even when the reliquary takes the form of video. I still work through my own angst about memory and nostalgia, but I broaden it beyond my immediate experience to make it more universal…less specific. Thus my videos may be the most healing of all my work.

You are probably asking what happened to the terminal diagnosis – which was 28 years ago. Well, the diagnosis still stands. But fortunately the doctors were wrong regarding its speed. This helps explain why I’m driven so hard. I always believe I will be struck down suddenly.

My obsession with healing and reliquary continues, even in video form. Hopefully this will give you additional insight into each piece you see. The more a viewer relates to my work, the more successful it becomes to me.

I see my sculptures as self-contained video installations. Blending a traditional craft with new media technology gives me the framework into which I fit my artistic narrative. Revelation — and in some cases self-revelation — is the underlying theme of my electronic reliquaries.

My interactive pieces can be seen as disturbing because the face that stares back from the video screen — your own — prompts a variety of responses: amusement, discomfort, embarrassment, something akin to the feeling you have when someone catches you looking at your own reflection in a store window as you walk by.

But the important revelations here are in the viewer’s response to my hybrid art form and its conceptual nature. I try to bare everything — the guts of my materials and my inner thoughts — in deceptively simple narrative videos set into specimen jars. Nothing is random, all elements are thought out.

To me, these works are phylacteries of sorts, the transparent reliquaries in which bits of saints’ bones or hair — relics — are displayed. In many cultures and religions, relics are believed to have healing powers. My relics are temporal, sounds and moving images formally enshrined, encapsulating experiences like cultural specimens. And perhaps, to the contemporary soul, they are no less reliquaries than those containing the bones of a saint.

History of Fused Glass

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Update: Click Here for Part 1 The Pioneers

Click HERE for Part 2 The 60′s, 70′s & 80′s

2012 is the milestone year for the American Studio Art Glass Movement – taking its start the Toledo workshops with Harvey Littleton &  Dominick Labino. I know there are many events planned and stories that will be published this year about how glass moved from the factory into the hands of artists – but for studio glass – usually the focus is on blown glass.
I want to do a blog posting that references the history of warm glass.

Who would you suggest as the fused glass pioneers, superstars & legends? I know of Klaus Moje and Richard La Londe – but who else jumps to mind when mentioning kiln-formed glass?

Klaus Moje

Ray Ahlgren, Dan Schwoerer, Boyce Lundstrom (Bullseye Glass Founders in the groovy 1970′s)


Personally, I’d prefer suggestions of artists that set the foundation for and outlined the language on which we all build our work upon. Pix, links – all is welcome as suggestions.

You can post ideas here or email me at the glass school: (washglassschool@aol.com)

Thanks! B

Historical Glass Fun Facts : Invention of Pyrex & the Studio Glass Movement

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From this. . . . . . .. . . . . . . .to this.

“It was all her idea”

The History of Pyrex
Back in the early 1900′s, Corning Glass Works was working on a request from the railroads to produce lantern glass that would not break when the hot glass was struck by rain or snow. In response to this request, Corning developed globes made from low-expansion glass that could withstand the abuses of weathering and handling which readily broke the flint glass globes. Ironically, the shatterproof lantern globes generated were so good that Corning‘s managers witnessed a decline in sales of replacement globes. This super-tough “fire glass”, as it was called, was resistant to temperature fluctuations, chemical corrosion and even breakage.
Eugene Sullivan, Director of Research at Corning Glass Works, developed Nonex, a borosilicate low-expansion glass, to reduce breakage in shock-resistant lantern globes and battery jars. (Borosilicate glass was originally developed at the Jena Glass works by Otto Schott, which Sullivan had learned about as a doctoral student in Leipzig, Germany.)

In July 1913, a series of events involving Bessie Littleton, the wife of the company’s newest scientist – Dr Jessie Littleton, forced Corning managers to focus their attention on the consumer venture. Apparently, Mrs. Littleton had used a Guernsey brand casserole only twice when it fractured in the oven. Knowing the strength of the glass her husband worked with on a daily basis, she implored him to bring home a substitute from the Corning Glass Works plant. He returned the next evening with the bottoms of two sawed-off battery jars made from low-expansion glasses. Mrs. Littleton cooked a sponge cake in one of the surrogate baking dishes. She noted several remarkable findings:
• The cooking time was shorter
• The cake did not stick to the glass; it was easy to remove with little adhesion
• The cake was unusually uniform
• The flavor of the cake did not remain in the dish after washing
• She could watch the cake bake and know it was done by looking at the underside.

Mr. Littleton brought his wife’s creation to work the following day. Laboratory researchers inspected the cake, which was a “remarkable uniform shade of brown all over.” The men deemed it delicious and very well baked. (A favorite of any lab conclusion, Ed.) Thus began a two-year process to perfect this new invention. The notion of baking in glass was a whole new concept to the public. In 1915, a wondrous new line of “glass dishes for baking” appeared in the nation’s hardware, department and china stores. On May 18, 1915, Boston department store Jordan Marsh placed the first PYREX bakeware order.

The Littleton’s had a son – Harvey K Littleton. Harvey was born in 1922 and was briefly employed by the Corning Glass Works in the 1940s, where he developed his glassmaking skills and began to pursue the idea of glass as a medium for artistic expression. The earliest objects in the exhibition are two experimental cast female torsos, dating to 1942 and 1946, which are the first works in glass made by Littleton while working at Corning Glass Works. Also featured are glass vessels from the early 1960s, dating to the years just after the seminal Toledo Workshops, as well as a bottle made at the 1962 Workshops.

Click HERE to jump to the story of Harvey Littleton and his historic workshops that brought glass from the factory to the artists.

Other Glass Fun Facts to know and tell:

Glass Fun Facts: Gaffer/Composer

More Glass Fun Facts: Bullseye Glass

Float Glass Fun Facts

Glass Fun Facts – Shattered Glass Predicts Weather

Why is Glass Transparent?

Glass Sparks: Michael Janis

photograph by Tom Wolff

Michael Janis studied architecture at Mies van der Rohe’s IIT in his hometown of Chicago, IL. In 1993 he moved to Australia and there he worked on a number of large scale architecture projects, including work for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It was in Australia that Michael first started working with glass, designing walls of cast glass.

Moving back to the United States in 2003, glass artwork became his focus. Michael began glass blowing at a Baltimore hot shop and was soon taking glass courses at art centers such as Haystack Mountain in Maine, North Carolina’s Penland School of Craft, and Urban Glass in New York.

Michael at Penland School of Craft

Attracted to the experimental and adventurous approach to the medium that defined the Washington Glass School, he soon became involved with the school as the Studio Coordinator.

L-R Washington Glass Studio directors Erwin Timmers, Tim Tate, Michael Janis. From the 2006 American Style article “Filling Glass With Meaning“. Photo by Roger Foley.

In 2005, Michael became one of the Co-Directors of the Washington Glass School, and he is the Director of Public Art projects for the Washington Glass Studio.

“The Gravity Between Us” Hotel Palomar, Washington, DC

Public Art sculpture for Prince George’s County Circuit Court

Michael continues teaching at the Washington Glass School, and also has taught glass art workshops at Istanbul’s Glass Furnace, the Penland School of Craft and the Bay Area Glass Institute (BAGI) in California.

Michael teaching fused glass technique class at Washington Glass School, 2005

Michael Janis teaching at California’s Bay Area Glass Institute, 2010

His kilncast bas-relief glass and steel sculptures were featured in the seminal “Compelled By Content” exhibition at Bethesda, Maryland’s Fraser Gallery. In this show, artists that used glass with narrative content showed how the traditional craft of glass was evolving.

“Liar Paradox” Collection of Susan and Fred Sanders. Photo: Anything Photographic

Michael began incorporating imagery into his glass works, and by manipulating crushed glass powder he has been able to create intricate detail images within the glass, layering the images to emphasize the depth within.

Text and imagery work their way through Michael’s artwork panels, similar to an architect’s diagrams, suggesting elements of stories not fully disclosed. Michael’s work references the Surrealist artists of the early twentieth century and Neo-Dada concepts as seen in the work of artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Cornell and Jasper Johns.

Click HERE to jump to a short documentary on Michael and his sgraffito frit powder technique.

From the catalog of the 2011 exhibit “Material World”:

“When viewers see images of Michael Janis’ work, they may not immediately recognize it as glass art…The virtuosity of Janis’ technique supports his imagery, which is often tinged with a nostalgia for days where innocence reigned and magic seemed possible. Janis is not simply naïve, for there is a darker undercurrent to these works that speaks to the loss of this sense of wonder.” Stephen Boocks curator, April 2011

Maurine Littleton Gallery space, SOFA Chicago 2009

In 2007, Maurine Littleton Gallery began exhibiting his glass artwork at international art shows such as Art Miami, SOFA Chicago and SOFA New York. Currently, his work is on exhibit at the Flemish Center for Contemporary Glass Art in Lommel, Belgium.

In 2009 he was awarded Florida’s “Emerging Artist” award by the Florida Glass Art Alliance, in 2010, he received the Saxe Fellowship from California’s Bay Area Glass Institute. This year, Janis will be named a “Rising Star” by the Creative Glass Center of America and the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass at the biannual glass art conference held at the Museum of American Glass at WheatonArts, in New Jersey.

The Memory of Orchids, 2011

His first museum solo show will open this year (August 6 thru November 6, 2011) at the Fuller Museum of Craft, in Brockton, Massachusetts. Michael Janis also was just awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, and will be at the UK’s University of Sunderland and National Glass Center in 2012.

Detail from “In the Evening Twilight”

Michael will be one of the featured artists in Long View Gallery’s exhibition of Artists of the Washington Glass School:

Washington Glass School: The First 10 Years
LongView Gallery
1234 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC May 19 – June 19,2011
Artist Reception, May 19th, 6:30-8:30 PM

For other Washington Glass School artist profiles:

Diane Cabe

Sean Hennessey

Allegra Marquart

Teddie Hathaway

Elizabeth Mears

Jackie Greeves

Erwin Timmers

Jeff Zimmer

Robert Kincheloe