Back on the grind ... even in the Summertime!
I realize that it's been a really long time since my last blog post, and there's so much to catch up on so I'll do my best to bring ya'll up to speed! Life has been crazy in the past year - crazy good - but still crazy nonetheless. For starters, I was accepted and awarded scholarships to Summer workshop classes at the Pittsburgh Glass Center and Corning Museum of Glass Studio respectively, and this was the first time since 2004 (when I was graduating from college) that I was able to attend such classes during the Summer months! So what is typically is a slow couple of months for me in June, July and August (every year we shut the furnace down at the Corradetti Studio in Baltimore due to heat and humidity), became a whirlwind of preparation, packing, traveling, learning, glassblowing, more packing, more traveling, rinse and repeat! It was a grueling month and a half, but what I learned became invaluable to my glassblowing ability and my art career in general.
The first class I attended in June 2022 was at the Pittsburgh Glass Center with renowned glassblowing artist, Raven Skyriver. Now when I say that this guy's sculptures have been some of my greatest inspirations through the years, I truly mean it. I first met he and his wife, Kelly O'Dell, at Pilchuck Glass School in 2004 (the last glassblowing workshop that I had attended), and I've been following their work like a fanboy ever since. I can't begin to count the hours spent watching youtube videos of he and his team, working on large scale sculptures of aquatic creatures, including my favorite - his glass fish. In my opinion, Raven is the world's best sculptor of glass fish and to get a scholarship to take a class with him in Pittsburgh was a dream come true. I was a student at the Pittsburgh Glass Center back in 2001, and it was really cool to come back over 20 years later and see the evolution of the studio as well as the growth of the neighborhood around it. I absolutely loved the PGC back then, and it has since grown in size and stature over the years to become one of the world's foremost glassblowing educational facilities. The class was a week long, and I was a literal sponge for everything that I saw and learned about glass sculpting. Raven did a different demo every day, and although he didn't make any fish during the class because he left his fin tools at home, he and his assistant, Jack Gramann (an incredible glass artist in his own right), both helped me to make my largest fish to date - a 30" Yellowfin Tuna, on the final day of the class. It was an experience that I'll never forget, and I would go back to Pittsburgh in the future to take another class without a second thought. In fact, the PGC recently announced the groundbreaking for a $15 million renovation and expansion of the facilities, so I can definitely see myself heading back there either to rent studio time or participate in a residency in the not-so-distant future!
After the glass sculpting class in Pittsburgh, I set my coordinates to Corning, NY for a two-week class at the Corning Museum of Glass with two other renowned glassblowing artists, Michael Schunke and Josie Gluck. This duo runs a glass art company called Vetro Vero, and they taught the two-week intensive class together with teaching assistant, Jen Elek (an incredible glass artist in her own right). The class was called "Cups & Color" and the focus was on Venetian-style glass goblet making - which just happens to be on the complete opposite end of the glassblowing spectrum from the previous sculpting class that I took with Raven Skyriver at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. So not only did I have to switch gears completely in order to become tuned in to making thin and delicately-dainty goblet cups, but making goblets has never been my strong suit and I was anxious to get my hands and brain moving at a different pace (a very fast pace indeed)! Although I struggled initially, within a few days I started to feel more comfortable and by the end of the class I knew that my technique and overall ability as a glassblower was vastly improved. The 18 hour days spent in the hot shop were grueling to say the least, and I could barely make it back to my AirBNB and into bed at the end of each day of the class. From 8am - 11pm, we were in the studio either watching demos or assisting/blowing glass with the other students. We made cups all day, every day and by the end of the two weeks, I felt super confident with my newfound goblet-making skills. I confirmed my belief that I don't ever want to make goblets for a living, but I am glad that I boned up on my chops since it considered one of the hardest disciplines in glassblowing. I would be lying if I said I wasn't ready for the class to be over so that I could catch up on sleep and see my family again. If I had to do it over again, I would try to space out the classes a little bit more but when you receive scholarships to these workshops - you find a way to make it happen. Like I mentioned before, it had been almost 20 years since I last had the opportunity to take glassblowing classes at these prestigious institutions - I didn't want the opportunities to pass me by and I'm glad that I made the commitments in the end!