This year we celebrate 50 years of studio glassmaking – 50 years of stories of chance, experimentation, and courage.
This past January, we interviewed on camera long-time friends Jim Friant and Paul Stankard together with Lucio Bubacco as part of our oral history interviews at the Rakow Research Library. The three share connections to 1960s glass making and their story illustrates how a chance meeting sparked discoveries that eventually helped influence glass history.
Jim Friant is a glassmaker and researcher who now lives in Corning. Paul Stankard and Lucio Bubacco are internationally known glass artists. Stankard lives in New Jersey; Bubacco in Murano.
Friant and Stankard describe a “sweet memory” from about 1967 or 1968 when the two took a bus from southern New Jersey to Philadelphia. There, in the center court of the department store Wanamaker’s, they saw Lucio Bubacco’s father, Severino Bubacco, creating and selling glass during the holidays. He was an Italian glassmaker working in the United States. He eventually had a glassblowing shop on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City where he demonstrated glassmaking and sold glass figurines, flowers and animals.
With a kiln, a crucible and an 18-inch spoon, Bubacco sprinkled chunks of Baccarat crystal and powdered colored glass into the crucible and waited a few minutes while it softened. Then, he scooped the glass out. In seconds, pinching and pulling the glass, he deftly transformed the gob of molten glass into a dragon! He knocked it off onto the table (without annealing) and put it on a shelf to sell.
Jim and Paul were fascinated – each dragon Bubacco made was a different color.
Seeing Severino Bubacco’s work strengthened Paul Stankard’s desire to “be creative.” Stankard, then a scientific glassblower, trained at vocational school and worked for ten years making lab ware for industry. But he longed to make colorful lampworked vases like John Burton created on his TV program and was inspired by popular New Jersey “Millville Rose” paperweights.
Here was a man blowing glass and selling his work to the public independent of industry. The experience helped inspire Stankard to make the leap to paperweight making full time, developing his signature botanical style over the next 40 years.
Friant brought samples of Bubacco’s father’s work to the interview, as well as photographs of subsequent trips to Italy where he visited the Bubacco family.
Paul Stankard and Lucio Bubacco were in Corning teaching an advanced workshop, “Fiori e Angeli (Flowers and Angels),” sharing their flameworking techniques with students at The Studio of The Corning Museum of Glass – inspiring a new generation of glass artists. A video of their Studio Demonstration is available on the Museum’s YouTube channel:
The full oral history interview will be available to view at the Rakow Research Library.