Artist Mary Van Cline’s Love Letter Portrait Project to the Glass Art Community

Mary Van Cline; The Floating Sea of Time;  Photosensitive glass, pate de verre, 24 x 20 x 5 in.

Mary Van Cline; The Floating Sea of Time;
Photosensitive glass, pate de verre, 24 x 20 x 5 in.

Mary Van Cline artwork blends pâte de verre elements with photographic images creating a new quality in dimension. Recently she has focused on the photography aspect to create “The Documenta Project,” which she hopes to build an archive of life-size photographic portraits that capture the unique personalities of the major glass world figures.

Mary Van Cline has been known for her artwork combining photography and glass since 1978.

Mary Van Cline has been known for her artwork combining photography and glass since 1978.

Since early 2017, she’s been traveling the U.S. to take photographs of glass artists, prominent dealers, collectors and critics in an effort to document and immortalize the unique artistic ecosystem that defines the Studio Glass world. Mary’s goal is support to capture the spirit of the people who enabled and contributed to the glass community using life size photographic images where their gestures and presence will be preserved on large format B&W film, and high-resolution color digital files. 

Glass Artist Laura Donefer captured by Mary Van Cline

Glass Artist Laura Donefer captured by Mary Van Cline

 

Mary said that she has taken some 10,000 photos. From each session alone, she took at least 400 photos with the digital camera. 

NYC Uber collectors Susan and Fred Sanders

NYC Uber collectors Susan and Fred Sanders

 

Though almost entirely self-funded so far, Mary hopes that others who appreciate her project and the progress she’s made on her own might approach her with offers of support. This year the project has been invited back to SOFA and, in April, Van Cline hopes to bring it to Detroit during the Flint Museum opening and the Habatat International.

Glass Maestro Lino Tagliapietra

Glass Maestro Lino Tagliapietra

The fact is that such an ambitious project is costly and donations are needed in order for it to continue. The Tacoma Art Museum has agreed to accept nonprofit donations on behalf of Van Cline, and transfer any funding directly to the project with no fee.

WGS Glass Artists Michael Janis & Tim Tate documented for the Documenta Project

WGS Glass Artists Michael Janis & Tim Tate documented for the Documenta Project

Donations can be mailed to the Tacoma Art Museum at the following address:

Tacoma Art Museum
Rock Hushka, Curator
Attention: Documenta Project
1701 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, Washington 98402

For any questions, contact Mary Van Cline at: mary@maryvancline.com

Habatat Michigan’s 42nd International Glass Invitational Opens Next Week

Habatat Galleries was established in 1971 in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. It is the oldest and largest gallery in the United States devoted exclusively to artists working with glass as their medium. The 12,000 sq. ft. gallery in Royal Oak, MI, is the home of the International Glass Invitational, which for 42 years has introduced and exhibited the greatest artists working creatively with glass. This year, three artists from the Washington Glass School – Sean Hennessey, Michael Janis and Tim Tate are included in the exhibition.

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Habatat Galleries – Michigan works with many museums and art centers where they have developed exhibits that have been displayed in over 100 public institutions. Each year Habatat publishes catalogs celebrating these both national and international events.

michael janis.glass. habatat_michigan.international.martin.janecky

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Habatat Gallery has the catalog for the 42 International Glass Invitational online – click on image to jump to online publication.

In Memoriam: Harvey K Littleton

We mourn the passing of the “Father” of the American Studio Glass Movement, without whom none of us glass artists would be where we are now.

Harvey K. Littleton (1922-2013) was the seminal glass artist whose work ranged from functional vessels to sculptural forms. His father was a physicist at Corning Glass Works providing him early exposure to glass in the factories. Trained as a ceramicist, he began experimenting with hot glass in his studio in the 1950′s. Through two landmark workshops and by establishing the first Studio Glass curriculum at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he helped to bring glass out of the factory and into the artists’ studio. Harvey died on December 13, 2013, at his home in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, at the age of 91. A letter circulated by his family states that his death came “after a long decline.” A private celebration of his life, and that of his wife, Bess, who died in October 2009, will be held by the family on January 11th.

He attended Brighton School of Art in England, received his Bachelors of Design at the University of Michigan, and received his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art.


Harvey Littleton, left, with student Dale Chihuly, right, in 1974. Photo courtesy of Chihuly Inc.

In his role as an educator, Harvey was an “…outspoken and eloquent advocate of university education in the arts.”  He organized the first hot glass program at an American university (the University of Wisconsin–Madison) and promoted the idea of glass as a course of study in university art departments in the Midwest and northeastern United States. Several of Harvey Littleton’s students went on to disseminate the study of glass art throughout the U.S., including Marvin Lipofsky, who started a glass program at the University of California at Berkeley and Dale Chihuly, who developed the glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design and later was a founder of Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington.

Harvey retired from teaching in 1976 to focus on his own art. Exploring the inherent qualities of the medium, he worked in series with simple forms to draw attention to the complex interplay of transparent glass with multiple overlays of thin color.

Harvey  was married to Bess Tamura Littleton in 1947. She died on October 8, 2009.The couple had four children: Carol L. Shay, Thomas Littleton, Maurine Littleton and John Littleton. All work in the field of glass art. Carol L. Shay is the curator at Littleton Studios; Tom Littleton owns and manages Spruce Pine Batch Company, which supplies batch (the dry ingredients of which glass is made) to artists and art departments around the U.S.; Maurine Littleton is the owner and director of Maurine Littleton Gallery which specializes in glass art, in Washington, DC. With his wife and collaborative partner, Kate Vogel, John Littleton is a glass artist in Bakersville, NC.

Harvey’s work can be found in the collection of the High Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Victoria & Albert Museum in England, amongst others.

From our friends at the Corning Museum of Glass: Donations in Harvey Littleton’s name can be made to The Hospice and Palliative Care Center of Mitchell County that provided invaluable support to his family in the care for Harvey, and/or to the Penland School of Crafts “Harvey and Bess Littleton Scholarship Fund” that provides one full scholarship for a two-week summer session in hot glass.

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.

Asheville, NC Celebrates Studio Glass’ 50th Anniversary

>North Carolina’s Bender Gallery, located in the hip arts city of Asheville, will host an exhibition that will celebrate the diversity of glass as an artistic medium since the inception of the American Studio Glass Movement in 1962. New works made expressly for the exhibition along with work never before shown by thirty two regional and national as well as Canadian glass artists will be on display. 

Erwin Timmers “Banding Together”

 
Divergent Visions: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of American Studio Glass” will showcase the various techniques of glass art inspired by each individual artist’s unique vision and interpretation. There will be an extensive variety of contemporary art glass on exhibit including delicate flame-worked sculpture; tactile kiln cast glass, hot formed glass pieces, gauzy pate de verre and glass “painting” with vitreous enamel.

The Bender Gallery will host an opening reception from 5-8 p.m. Thursday June 7, 2012.

Erwin Timmers “More or Less”

The “king of recycling” – ErwinTimmers‘ striking glass sculptures made from recycled glass are featured.

Janis Miltonberger “Between Worlds”

Also in the gallery are new flame-worked glass sculptures by Janis Miltenberger.


The Bender Gallery is located at 12 S Lexington Avenue in Asheville, North Carolina. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 am – 5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm – 5 pm. For inquiries call 828-505-8341.

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