I'm writing this blog on a plane to Seattle, WA. Saturday, July 22nd. My time in Washington will be spent assisting the wonderful Jason Chakravarty and Jennifer Caldwell during their Monday/Tuesday residency at the Tacoma Museum of Glass. This is the first time I'm visiting the Museum of Glass! I don't know why it took me so long to visit, but this seems like the perfect moment. In between work at Tacoma, I will piggy back this trip with my book tour. I'll hit up a few local studios, book in hand, to continue to spread the knowledge.
The past two months were surreal. I turned my visit to the GAS Conference in Norfolk, VA into a two week road trip. I stopped through Flame Run in Louisville, KY, the Glass Spot in Richmond, VA, Cary, NC to visit a good friend, two days at StarWorks in NC, Penland School of Crafts to drop off books with Sallie at the store, back through Louisville to shoot arrows, and on to Calumet City, IL.
One week later, I jumped on a plane to Gent Glas in Belgium for a European book release of Life on the Rails. Gent Glas is two years young. John, Katrien, Momo and the rest of their crew created something special in the European glass community. The studio defines many aspects of what the American Studio Glass Movement and the Glass Art Society represent. Gent Glas has a contagious energy. One wall is lined with a display of glass art from local and past visiting international artists. Across from the gallery is a bar where you can sip on a selection of Belgian beer, Cava, coffee, or espresso (cheapest prices in the city!). Tables and chairs fill a central seating area where you can relax and be entertained by some of the finest local glass makers. If it's warm in the studio, step outside to the covered outdoor patio for a smoke. Don't worry about missing the glassmaking action! A projector displays a live feed on the outdoor wall. I would suggest a visit during their Friday Night Live Demonstration in the evening. Friday Night Demos do not run during the hottest summer months, but will re-open in September.
Gent Glas is the first time I had a large team of four to five people to make work. I'm accustomed to only one assistant in the studio. This opened doors and broke down barriers in my glass making process.
John, Katrien, Momo, Charlyn and I visited Leerdam, Holland. We went to an International glass exhibition in an old castle called the Fort. Each artist had their own room in the castle to create an installation of glass. I met some talented artists and glass makers. It was here, I watched a man with a home made furnace make a long neck bottle, swan, and flower. I wanted to talk with him and hear his story. There was a language barrier. I could only communicate with simple words. I showed him my book to communicate through glass making illustrations. I thought he would be interested in it, and he was! A lady standing nearby heard the difficulty in communication and offered to translate. She was talking to him earlier and told me he is a Syrian refugee with family still in Syria. After a bit more time, we parted ways. As I was walking away, I stopped, realized I had extra books in my backpack and took one out. I turned around and gave it to him. I wanted him to have it. It was the purest feeling I've had in a long time.
I spent two nights with the city of Gent taking photos of the evening lights. It's an inspiring city.