Meet the Artist: Steven I. Weinberg and Joel Philip Myers

Corning Museum of Glass, November 1, 2007

Tina Oldknow: Hi. I’m Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass at The Corning Museum of Glass.

On November 2, 2007, we opened Masters of %%Studio Glass%%: Joel Philip Myers and Steven I. Weinberg, the first in a series of exhibitions highlighting the works of influential contemporary artists whose work is well-represented in our Museum’s collection.  

Joel Philip Myers and Steven I. Weinberg joined us at the exhibition opening for a lecture and discussion. What follows is a special videocast of that event as part of our ongoing “Meet the Artist” podcasts.

Tina: Thank-you both for coming here and for being with us tonight Joel and Steve.

Joel Myers, who will speak first, is one of the first generation of studio glass artists; he is what we call a studio glass pioneer. Like many early studio glass artists, Joel came to glass from ceramics and he came into it pretty much by accident. After earning his BFA in ceramics from nearby Alfred University in 1962, he was hired as the design director at Blenko Glass in West Virginia. Joel spent seven years at Blenko, during which time he earned his MFA from Alfred, graduating in 1968. He also taught himself how to blow glass at Blenko. In 1970, Joel began a glass program at the Illinois State University at Normal, where he taught for nearly 30 years. During his time as a teacher, Joel also built a successful studio practice. He has consistently exhibited his work, which is collected by private collectors and museums worldwide.

Steven Weinberg represents the next generation of artists working in studio glass. He received his BFA from Alfred in 1976. While Steve entered Alfred as a ceramic student, he soon switched over to glass.  He studied with Andre Billeci, who founded the glass program at Alfred, which is still a very good glass program, by the way and Eric Hilton, who most of you know as a designer for Steuben. Steve continued his education in Providence, in Dale Chihuly’s glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design where he graduated with a MFA in 1979.   Although popular now, Steve’s interest in kiln-casting and cutting and polishing glass was quite uncommon in American studio glass of the late 1970’s. After his graduation from RISD, Steve began to build his studio practice and in his case he literally had to build all of his studio equipment. Over the thirty years that Steve has been working with glass he has made a successful living as a studio artist, like Joel, his work is exhibited and collected internationally.

Welcome again Joel and Steve. [Applause]

Joel: Little did I know when I was a ceramic student at Alfred University in 1960 that I would be standing here in front of you and talking about a 44-year career in glass.

I began as a graphic designer. I went to Parsons School of Design in New York and worked as a package designer in New York City for two and a half years and that would put me about 1957.  And at that time I became interested in ceramics because I was very much influenced by the Scandinavian movement which I saw throughout New York City.

 I was greatly influenced by that and made a decision—oh here’s something that I designed—so I decided that I wanted to go abroad and live in a Scandinavian country because I felt about Scandinavian design. So I sailed over on a freighter in 1957 with the idea of living in a foreign country, Denmark, and to study ceramics at a Danish school of ceramics. So here I am sailing over in July of 1957. And I can tell you, Denmark was such a wonderful county at that time in terms of its quaintness, its trolleys, just everything. I’m glad that I was there at the time. It’s still a very beautiful city. I designed a spice set that was made there. And I married a Danish woman there, who has so influenced my life that I couldn’t possibly spend more than forever talking about itThis is us on our honeymoon in Venice. Of course the connection with Denmark has been and will always be an important connection in love.

 I came back to the United States in 1960—‘59 actually—made some money to go to Alfred University, where my wife was also a student. I’m just briefly showing you some of the pots that I made. Then I was spoken to by the chairman of the art department at Alfred University, Ted Randall, asked me if I wanted to be a designer for a glass factory in West Virginia.  And of course I had no idea that I wanted to do it. I had studied to be a ceramic teacher. So I went down to the factory and I was blown away by the drama and they made glass completely by hand.  So I knew then that this was a place to be able to learn to blow glass by hand, so I signed on, but I signed on only as a designer, that’s all they wanted.  So the previous designers had both been graduates of Alfred, but I was the first on that went there with the idea of learning how to do it myself, and that was of course because ofHarvey Littleton when I saw what his, what his idea was about.

These are images that of course you are familiar with but  I always like to look at this slide because I had color in my hair then. [laughter]  And I would try to find whatever time I could to work on the floor while they were working as well. These are some of my designs. Actually, two of my designs are in the exhibit—it is nice to see them there. These were all in production. And then, while I was at Blenko, I taught at Penland.  This is 1965 and this is a great studio at Penland.

This is, as you see, The Toledo Glass National and you have to realize… what brought interest to glass was through the efforts of museums and a few galleries and it was very important that the Toledo Museum sponsored these exhibitions—competitions actually. The person in that picture was Marvin Lipofsky.

I was interested in doing something with glass after I was finished, and I was interested in painting, so I used lusters to paint on glass, which could be fired on, which I could do in my own quiet space, not in the hub-drum, the din of a factory, which you all know about.

Keep image & this wording: The first factory that Marvin worked in was at Blenko.

All right, I had a workshop at the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1968 and I can tell you it was the most unbelievable experience for me living in West Virginia, so isolated.  This was the ‘60s and we were completely isolated from…it was great and if anyone knows these people…I can tell you quickly there is Steve Maslach, Dick Marquis, John Lewis.

This was an exhibition in Toledo.  This is one of the Zharkov pieces that you see one example of here. I did a series of those in the early ‘70s.  Pieces that I made, individual pieces that I made at night and eventually glued together.  And these are ceramic decals, which I was also playing with. The reason for it was to give some scale to glass because whenever you saw a glass exhibition, you could just go about that high.

This is Illinois State University at Normal.

This is our chicken farm.

These are pieces inspired by the garden that we grew in Normal.

Workshops…these are events that had a great influence on spreading the interest of glass.

This is a conference in Zurich, Switzerland—Paula Barton on the left—these are so full of people that are still active in glass that began so long ago. Sam Herman, Marvin Lipofsky.

These are pieces that I made in the early ‘70s,  I focused on the hand because I lost a finger in the factory on a machine.

These are pieces I was making at that time, trying to really paint with glass.

In 1977, I had a sabbatical in Austria where I did a body of work that was influenced, influenced by the vineyards surrounding Baden and this is one of the pieces.

I also worked at the Glass Factory where I exploited the use of clear glass.

1978, the conference in Kyoto, the World Craft Conference, these are now the Emperor and Empress of Japan watching a demonstration, the first demonstration in glass and responsible, I believe for the fantastic growth of glass in Japan.

These are pieces that I made subsequently, late ’79, ’80 and ’81.

Sars-Poteries, France, the first workshop in France ever, in 1982. which led to fantastic growth in a museum in Sars-Poteries itself.

This is our home in Denmark; it was our home in Denmark. We more or less had to sell last year because of . . . just too difficult.

But this has been the inspiration for a lot of work…the Danish countryside, the Danish color.

Flowers from my own garden, because I am a gardener.

In 1985, the first conference, the first international conference in Czechoslovakia.

Making work there.

My two Japanese students.  And their studio on the island of Niijima.  Do you see that studio down there on the left?  That’s a fantastic engineered, I mean designed architectural building.  And it’s off the coast, on a small island, south of Tokyo and they have this facility. A wonderful place that I’ve been several times.

Aha. . . my great love is fishing.

This is my two Swedish friends up on top of the mountains between Norway and Sweden; we flew there on a helicopter. That was the days that I could do that sort of thing.

I just wanted to show you what it’s like to be on top of that part of the world. And it has influenced my work That’s called “Arctic Summer.”

Aha!  Another great experience.

These are big pieces.

In 1990, before the revolution—or whatever it was—I was in Russia, doing a workshop.

This thing has spread fantastically. This was a body of work that I called the “Dialog Series”. Which was done about 1997, ’98.

And another very important, probably the most important sculptural piece, in a way, is a piece called “The dogs go on with their doggy life while the torturous horse scratches its innocent behind on a tree.” Which is a line from a W. H. Auden poem called the “Musée des Beaux-Arts.” I don’t have time to talk about that either. [laughter]

These are some of the pieces. This is the interior of those pieces, cut open.

And this is a piece called “The Ghosts of War,” and I don’t have to say more than that.

This is taken in Lybster, Scotland where I taught a few years ago with Paul Stankard. . .  wonderful place, another new workshop.

And these are a few of the latest pieces that I have made. And I can tell you that the way I work, that these are deliberately geometric, because who sees that kind of geometry in glass, in that sense.

So, thank you very much.

Steven Weinberg:

Hello.  First I want to thank the museum and in particular, Tina for those kind, kind words, it’s nice to hear them. I too started my career working with glass coming from a ceramics background as an undergraduate at Alfred University. A mutual friend of  Joel’s and myself, William Carlson . . .  I heard him lecture and I’m not allowed to listen to him lecture and he is not allowed to listen to me because we blackmail each other and say, “You really said that?” But I did hear him describe my work as ‘I organize space’ and I couldn’t agree with him more.

I came to glass after folks like Joel, Dale Chihuly, Henry Halem, really broke ground and said  there is something really here and I was fortunate to be part of a time where I did not have to go into academia.  Markets were starting to grow, the collectability of the material. So by the time I finished graduate school, I set out on my own. I have four sons and I’m asked, “Am I pushing them to do what I do?” And the answer is: If they start making glass, I’m going to dress them up in dresses and parade them through town because it’s not an easy way to make a living! [laughter]

This is a sister piece of one of the pieces in the exhibition here. The piece that is here is from the Exhibition Glass 1979 or it soon turned into New Glass.

The Glass ‘79 was an outtake from the previous show Glass ’59, which if you look back was a great reference of where a lot of things started. It didn’t really all start in 1964; there were artists and folks working in glass and really making some very strong statements. I did have to buck the tide of kind of “loosey-goosey, anything goes,” abstract expressionist concerns of the material, what the material can do by flinging it, twisting it.  The odd part about this is when you look at my work, one of the first things that you’ll see is the absolute control of the material that I have, which is one of those great jokes in life, because my life is completely chaotic and out of control.  It’s this duality. . . and even walking into my studio, it’s not even controlled chaos, its just chaos.

This is pretty much a chronology of the work that I did or have done. I tried to pick out what I considered some of the most successful pieces of each of those series.  I tend to make objects to fulfill a certain need at a given time. As an artist you don’t have a business plan because if you did, as soon as I become successful at what I do then its time to stop doing it.  Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but as soon as I know that I am going to have a high rate of success, then I start getting bored and its time to move on.

Pieces talking about architecture, balance, grace.

I also like to consider myself a pioneer in a different sense. Pushing the material that . . .  The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t. I’m pretty obstinate, and a lot of this work came out of balancing what I need to do for visual form— to achieve this certain image I have—but also just to push myself that one step further than I thought something would really go.  And I look back at the work and I still get excited by it. I unfortunately—until my wife, about ten years ago, just broke into the studio and said “That one, that one, that one, that one and that one are going home in boxes and you are never showing them to anybody”— I didn’t own any of my own work.  It wasn’t about even the finished product . . . it was about the finished product but also about the process.

This piece—I like puzzles—this piece has a 125 different elements put together in one single mold and cast. I have a second copy of this but this actual piece was purchased by an unsavory building developer, that I know.  She bought 5 pieces at one time and it was like, oh my gosh.  And they ended up in her basement. One on them has come up on E-Bay because I know she was broken into also, but that’s a different story. You’ve got to remember, I’m from Rhode Island and things happen differently.

I began working with more massive forms. This is really the first of a series which is called “The Cubes,” there are two of them upstairs. Something I really like is for a while, people described this work as the definitive series of work that I had done. The work has changed many times since then and no one says that any longer. So either they forgot that I made these pieces or they’re looking at what I’ve done today. I’m still not clear.

One of the people, two people that I thank in my career, one of them is Bill Carlson, a dear friend, my dearest friend.  We just never stop talking about this stuff. The other is Eric Hilton. Because when I was an undergraduate student he gave me license not to do what everyone else was doing, and really encouraged me. I was at the right place at the right time.

 These pieces were made by machining the negative forms out of a plaster base mold. I’m a kid from Brooklyn and what do I know from a milling machine?  And I saw a milling machine at a used…we had a jewelry industry in Rhode Island and I didn’t know what it did, but I knew that I had to have one We now run about six of them at the studio. And once again, ideas for me generally start as very simple concepts and become more complicated and I lean towards the complicated.

One of the problems of working with this material is that as I get older I haven’t figured out a way to make lead crystal lighter. It was tough enough when these were 85-90 pounds when I was 30, 35.  I’m working on a series that you’ll see in a minute of mandalas, inspired by my travels to China and they are much larger and much more difficult.

I love the engineers over at Schott, where I bought a lot of the glass, they were great fun. They’d go, “We spent so much energy taking all the bubbles out of glass.  What the heck are you doing?” My formula, it got more complicated.

I started doing some other work, it just never clicked. I’ve had some really dry periods of working where I didn’t know what the next piece. . . and then something else would happen.  This is part of two series that look the same but that are not, that happened at the same time. One were still lives, and this is one of those, comparing man’s perfection to nature’s perfection.  But others were more natural, this also was a still life, and then the stories started coming.  I had some hard times during the years that these pieces were made, including the death of my father.  And lots of people would ask questions about what was going on in my life that were hard to answer, so I became a story teller. A lot of people don’t even know about this, they just see pretty objects, but each one of them has a very clear story in my head.

These are about fallen angels, and living really hard. I remember the person that bought it, they called me up and said it was the prettiest thing that they have ever seen and I went, Oh my gosh, I better not tell them what any of the symbolism is.

 I’ve lived on the water most of my life.  The next group of work were “The Boats and the Buoys”. The buoy forms were actually found objects that I translated into cast crystal. And then colored them using techniques, what they call spray metalizing, actually liquefying metal, spraying them and then adhering it to the glass and then using a patina. I love the idea of taking a man made object, a piece of foam, and “The Fisherman” the  39, that’s how I found it. There’s just all that folk art in each piece. This is my translation, and putting it on its pedestal. Very different than anything I had done before.

It’s curious how I relate to my own work, and how I remember it. There certainly is no relationship between what you make and you love and what sells in a gallery. I try to take that formula that I did with the buoys, and going back to my ceramic history, and I loved old ceramic jugs. This thing probably weighs about 150 pounds. I only did 2 or 3 of them.

And these are the boats. Probably the next group of work that defined in some people’s eyes my career, and these came to a halt about 3 years ago. And, once again, it may look like a lot of chaos in there but there is an enormous amount of control. I love pushing the envelope in terms of technique and making machines and the glass do not maybe necessarily what it thought it was going to do.

I wish that this was more true to the color; this was very much the same saffron color that Christo used in his “Gates” in New York City. I came across the material in Germany.  The factory owed me some money because it did not deliver on some other glass. The salesman said how about taking these two pieces of yellow glass. When I got back to the states an optical manufacturer saw them he said that they were worth probably close to      $400,000 and they just had to get them off their books. The company they made them for went out of business and they were just sitting on them.  So I made 7 pieces. I’m lucky to say that Sir Elton John owns one of them.

And kind of this brings me to where I’m working today, the mandalathe circle—but there are square mandalas too. Much more painterly in terms of how I’m dealing with surfaces. I’m really excited about this body of work.

And actually these next couple pictures are things that literally just went out to a gallery, there’s an an art fair going on in Chicago. And this is one of the pieces. This piece is called “About Nines”. These are large pieces, they are 18-20 inches across, 4 inches thick, probably weight 125-130 pounds each. It’s a lot of glass to be hustling around and doing it the old fashioned way.

 I also love studying the female anatomy.  We did a series of work, it’s on-going. It’s been put to rest for a short time now. It’s a group of life studies. These are lifesize pieces, taken from models. My favorite model is my wife, who is my backbone, who is wearing a Linda McNeil piece.  And we own a design business together. No, I did not design the diamond, the nape we made. I’ve had the great fortune working with some incredible people over the years. A piece we did for Swarovski, for the millennium, the toasting flute. I almost had an “Absolut Weinberg” ad but it fell apart.

You just kind of process stuff. My wife is a great draftsperson. It’s World War III when we design something together and we do it often. Never be in the same room as us, as there are flying objects.

This was for Brown University, “Boldly Brown”— their mission was to raise a billion dollars in a year and they did it.

Variations on a theme. We do the Elton John Aids Foundation Award every year. We’re asked to do a lot of things pro-bono. But, we have a great life and it’s worth doing.

And pretty much. . . that’s my guys.

And I think that I took my fifteen minutes. [Applause] So thank-you.

Tina: What I thought I would do is ask Joel and Steve a few questions and talk about them a little %%bit%% and then we’ll open up questions to the audience. I had a couple of things that I wanted to ask both of you that you really didn’t address in your talk and always interests me as an art historian…Who were some of your favorite historical glass designers or even artists working in other media, painting and sculpture?

Joel: I thought about that question and first of all there are too many, too many artists that have influenced me. Not directly in any way, but they have influenced me by their creativity. When I go to a museum, I’m always so re-inspired to be a creative person because of what they have done. We’re not talking about everyone; we’re talking about a very select group of people over the years in history.  I’m very much interested in people from the early part of the 20th century as painters and draftsmen and so forth and even earlier on. The people that appeal to me as artists come from all fields: designers, painters, architects, sculptors and some glass people. I think that their body of work that they left behind and when I see it…..You now when I came to jury the new glass two years ago, my favorite works were, the works that I had to select, were pieces from the collection that I hadn’t seen in a long time were just wow, I said wow I wish I could have made that piece. Creativity is such a wonderful gift to give the world.  There are such wonderful artists that have done that, and so that’s how I would like to look at that idea.  I would say that in the field of glass it’s interesting, I have never found young students of glass to be interested in history at all and I know that people will probably contradict that. But nevertheless that’s my impression. I would go to Sweden and I would ask some of the Swedish students if they ever knew EricHöglund.  Now Eric Höglund was the one who liberated Swedish glass, and he put the bubbles back in the glass. And  he was an inspiration to me as an artist.  When I was in Denmark in 1957, his work was all over and I just looked at that work and said that’s wonderful, because this guy was a young guy who was really turning everything upside-down in terms of what the image of Swedish glass was. And so that’s my answer to your question.

Tina: Thank you. How about you Steve?

Steve: I like the idea of an artist working in the confines of a studio with an eye for personal expression, yet he has a factory also.  Lalique, Galle, Frederick Carder, they were great artists. So I find inspiration in the glass world. As far as artists, you go in a museum on a regular basis and looking all the time and we are bombarded with images. It’s hard not…there’s not a name that I can pick to say. I do disagree with Joel in the sense that students and history… I think it’s more so today, that students today know less of what has happened in the last 25 years…

Joel: Know less?

Steve: When I was a student I knew every piece that you were making [talking to Joel].

Joel: But you know in the beginning, there were only that many people.

Steve: It made my job easy.

Steve: If you use Glass ‘79, New Glass as a pretty good reference where beginning   maturity of contemporary glass starting about then. . .  as a random... We all knew what everyone was making. I have no idea exactly [Talking to Tina] and as a curator I imagine having the daunting job of filtering through so much caca to get to the good stuff is a full time job. [laughter]

Tina: Well it is, it is a full time job!

Joel: Two full time jobs.

Tina:  Two full time jobs. That’s interesting that you talked about Glass 1979 because I was telling someone that in 1979, I could literally sit here and tell you every single person working in glass, and it was not hard. and by 1989, I could not do that, it would be impossible. I think that partly there’s been this huge growth because of programs like yours that you started at Normal [speaking to Joel] and because of people being influenced by these pioneer two generations of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s a really fabulous success story. Where more museums—you were talking about the importance of the Toledo Glass Nationals, in the late ‘60s, those shows really were an important validation of the movement as was Glass 1979… thank you Tom Buechner. Also, thank you to Tom for Glass 1959. These things really helped to bring glass to the fore—this incredible success story that we have no idea who is making anything anymore because it’s so big—is really part of that.

Steve: Back to what Joel said, I think that a lot of the young contemporary glass makers today…I’m mean I’m still pretty young and I’m pretty ancient in their eyes, and they have no idea what I have done for 30 years.  And once again, go back 30 years, and we all knew everyone who was working.

Tina: Which brings me to another question, which I think is the last one I’m going to ask you because I want to open it up to the floor: What would you say is the biggest difference between...we were talking about working with glass in the ‘70s and working with glass today?

Joel: That’s easy to answer that question.  Look at Lino. What happened with Lino Tagliapietra.  An example of how Italy was brought here instead of in 1969, when Dick Marquis went to Venice to learn what they were doing there. Lino brought Venice here and then I don’t know how many years its been—10 years?—he created, he brought Venetian glass to the point where I can’t say we make it better than the Venetians, but we know Venetian glass through those people that have studied at…Pilchuck… everywhere.  So what you see. . .  Well for me it was different, I didn’t have any mentors. I started completely by myself in the glass factory – oh, I could go on—working in complete isolation.  And what I would see…

Steve: And you freed it up for people like myself…

Tina: Right.

Steve: You paved the way to allow, I guess, my generation of artists…

Joel: I didn’t see that, it’s funny when you’re just doing things. I can’t say in that sense I was a visionary, in the way I suppose that Harvey Littleton was. I was just happy to meet anyone that was doing glass, and frankly…Everything was different. I mean a student today, I don’t think a wise student, would not go to graduate school. They’ll go to Pilchuck, they’ll go to Northlands in Scotland, they’ll go to school in Sars-Poteries,  they’ll go to Turkey, they’ll go to Haystack, they’ll go everywhere  to learn something from a master. And then they think they’ve got the answer. It’s a matter of technique.  Maybe if they are smart, intelligent and perceptive, they learn more. That’s what the world is like. I mean I often think, “my God, these people don’t know what they have.” Because no one really thinks that way when they have it, they don’t say, I’m grateful because I have it.  It’s here and I’m using it and that’s the way is. I didn’t have a school; I had to go to a local West Virginia blacksmith to make a pair of jacks. I mean we didn’t have tools.  Today you open up a resource catalog, the Glass Art Society resource book is that thick. It’s an industry that’s grown. What’s also happened is that… Who has replaced the American decorative glass, I mean all those factories that went out of business in West Virginia?  Fostoria, Fenton—not Fenton – but a lot of other factories.  These studio glass people, they are the new American Glass industry as such, that kind of industry. They do marvelous work.  So, I mean it’s just fantastic to imagine this scene. . .as you said, I look at the work and I see names and I see good work that nobody ever sees. Because how do you see it all? How do you see it?

Steve: There’s also a lot of bad work that everyone sees!  [laughter]

Tina: It’s usually that way.

Steve: Just because more people are working. . .  and going back to that historical context… they’re learning technique. I personally think. . .  my worst employees that I have employed at my studio are art students, because they come with all the answers because they bought the package and after four years they think they know. The best guys, you know we used to joke; there was this bumper sticker “Glass workers are the truck drivers of the art world!” They’d come in, admit that they knew nothing, and would start ground level and work up. The apprentice system that’s been around since the beginning of time made sense, you learned hands-on, you weren’t given as a gift, it wasn’t an entitlement.  And frankly, except like you say [Joel], you go learn a skill with a skilled craftsman, you go work with Lino, you can make a certain twist. It doesn’t make it deeper work, it doesn’t make it better work.  And when enough people know how to do that they say oh, he worked with Lino. So, I’m not sure that the depth of the work has gotten any better.

Joel: We have to accept what we have.  We have some wonderful young people making work. We should talk more about the work in the sense that a lot of good work doesn’t get seen because galleries don’t exhibit it…there’s a whole issue about…

Tina: You saw some great work in New Glass Review…going through there…

Joel: And none of it is exhibited because of the marketplace.  And what you’re also seeing is a very interesting kind of parallel with what’s happened in clay.  Now, you can’t make a functional object.  I mean you can, literally, you know what I mean.  But you can’t really make one. Because it’s not sculpture.  And there are a lot of good …there are a lot of bad sculptors who should be making good pots!

Steve: Yes!

Joel: And the same thing in glass. [Applause] But anyway…

Tina: Good point! I’d like to open it up some questions to the audience for a few minutes, if anyone has questions for either Steve or Joel.  Yes?

Audience Member 1: Asks question-Inaudible

Tina: The question was…the person who is asking the question would like to hear about more about the switch from pottery to glass that each artist made.

Steve: For me, it was real simple. Ceramics took a lot of time.  All of a sudden you’re standing in front of a hot furnace, you’re looking into hell fire. Every sensation… I’ve got two cataracts already from looking into those furnaces.  It’s all consuming. I just got %%bit%% by the bug. What’s funny is I ended up working with glass in a way that makes it more exciting to watch corn grow than to see me make a piece. Every step takes that long.  You don’t come and see me make a demo.

Joel: Well for me. . .

Tina: Your demos are great! [to Joel].

Joel:  I took on glass thinking of myself as a creative person that could do anything.  And when I think back now, to have that attitude at that time of my life, I never would have believed that that was true of me.  But I simply saw another material with creative potential. I was trained as a designer so I had a background in that sense. I’d been to Denmark, I’d been a little %%bit%% around and I thought, “I know I can design glass.” I’m sure I’ll learn about glass. I’ll study it. I‘ll be there. I was at the factory, I lived in town. I began to understand what I can do, and believe me working in a factory—it depends upon what factory you work in. That makes a big difference; working in Blenko was like working like this…. because of expenses and everything and in any event...there was a lot of possibilities and a lot of things that I discovered in the first few years that I worked I could have never made.

But let me get back to the answer. I thought back over the years about working with clay again in a way that I could combine it with glass in some way.  But I didn’t have the time. I couldn’t teach and run a graduate program and be able to do my own work, which was very, very important to me and do what ever else I had to do at the University, to be able to make it work and I always regret that. The other thing, my body began to break down, my hands particularly began to break down. I could think of myself, and my shoulders, I could hardly wedge the clay anymore.  But I would have. . .   You know its funny, I think about clay people and I think about glass people and very often I think of them in the way of the material.  Glass people are sort of hard. I’m being general…

Steve: Hey, I’m a softy.

Joel: And clay people are soft. I kind of see… there are things about the studio movement at this point of time. I think that we need a better body of literature, that’s what I think.  We need a better. . . maybe it’s a question of more time, maybe we need more time to have a better body of literature.  And I say that because I compare it to the body of literature in ceramics, it’s like this… enormous! I can see more of that but I don’t think that I ever will. I think that it’s a question of difference between people that are sort of action and other people that are more introspective and therefore able to write.

Steve: I think different than you.  If I went back and made clay objects I would work with the purity of the clay and forget about mixing it with glass or even having anything to do even with the vocabulary that I developed as an artist working primarily in glass.

I would go back and use the material, as I believe I do with glass, that I take the best aspects of it and what I can bring to what’s in front of me and resolve whatever issues I bring to that lump of clay in front of me.

Joel: Did we answer your question?

Audience Member 1: Inaudible [Laughter]

Tina: Can we take another question? Yes.

Audience Member 2: Asks question-Inaudible

Tina: Isn’t there an enormous difference between clay and glass, in the sense that with glass you work with light, and with clay that not really as…you know.

Joel: Well, if you’ve seen my work out there, the white pieces and the black pieces?  When I started to develop that body of work, which by the way, I should point out to you that these bodies of work weren’t done in a year or two, they were long ranges things that took a long time to reach a point of development, or an end.  When I made those pieces I was really criticized, because it doesn’t look like glass. But who’s to say what glass looks like? You know, we know it of course traditionally as clear crystal glass, but we know now it’s certainly not that.  It doesn’t have to be that, but it could be that.

Steve: To discount the relationship between light and glass would be asinine, but I think also as Joel says you can make glass that’s not dependent on preconceptions of what it does with light.  And frankly throughout my career, the things that were more glasslike were more financially successful than if you denied those qualities within the piece.  So I think that there are certain expectations of the viewing audience of what glass is supposed to be.

Tina: I think one of the things that certainly makes my job so interesting, and the museum so interesting as a place to visit, is the fact that glass can assume so many different forms.  It can be opaque or translucent or transparent or reflective. There are so many different things that it can be. It’s so versatile. It’s just a wonderful thing to see…the range of expression that you can have with it.

Tina: Thank you very much Joel and Steve, this has been really a pleasure to talk to you, please give them a big round of applause. [Applause]

This has been a “Meet the Artist” videocast by The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, the world’s largest museum devoted to the history, art and science of glass.

The exhibition Masters of %%Studio Glass%%: Joel Philip Myers and Steven I. Weinberg will be on view in Corning through October 19, 2008. The next artist to be represented in the series will be Frantisek Vizner, beginning November 8, 2008.


 


 

Thanks to Laura Mann for help with transcription.